By the grace of God, and with gratitude to you, the Urban Nations core program — Teaching English as a Second Language using the Bible as the text — is well established. In addition to ministering to immigrants in this way at two New York City locations, we have been privileged to assist others in instituting similar programs in Arkansas, California, Minnesota, and Washington. We have also exported the program to Latvia and are exploring the viability of helping committed Christians in Nicaragua and Malaysia to use this means of bringing the gospel to people in these respective locations who are interested in learning English.
We are now expanding the Urban Nations program to include classes to prepare immigrants for American citizenship. Such programs are offered by many organizations, all of whose mouths are firmly latched to the Federal breast. Urban Nations gets its funding from God's people, however, and is therefore free to set up a program which offers something rather unique: the truth!
Federally funded programs prepare immigrants to answer the rather simple questions which comprise the test accepted by the Immigration and Natural Service. Urban Nations' program will do that, too. In fact, we'll guarantee that every student who attends all classes and does the homework assignments will pass the test. But we aim to do a whole lot more. We want our students to know America's Christian history.
Political correctness has resulted in a society-wide case of collective amnesia. Our Christian roots have been pulled out of all public school and college textbooks, and any reference to our beginnings in faith has been utterly banned in popular media.
It has fallen to the church, therefore, to let the facts be known. Thus, we have a grand opportunity to tell America's newest citizens what they will hear from no other source. For where will they learn of the Christian Faith which compelled Christopher Columbus in his journeys? Where will they hear the truth about the Puritans? Where will they learn of the Christian consensus which made possible the following, excerpted from a proclamation of President John Adams on March 23, 1798:1
... the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God.
That he was referring to the Triune God of Scripture is soon made clear:
I have therefore thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next, be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens of these States, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming; that all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching Him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction....
They'll learn from other sources that Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death!" But who will tell them that this five-time governor of Virginia also declared, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here"?
Who will tell our immigrant friends what modern America makes almost unimaginable, that the Supreme Court, in 1892, said, "Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilizations and our institutions are emphatically Christian."
Just a few years ago, when the governor of Mississippi had the temerity to utter the same sentiment, the New York Times and its partners in humanistic elitism went ballistic!
Surely the massive wave of immigration we are witnessing today requires that churches aggressively seek to make those new to our shores aware of our glorious heritage. Therefore, we approach this new phase of our ministry as a solemn obligation, to prepare immigrants not simply to pass a test so as to become citizens, but to see themselves as beneficiaries of an unmatched Christian history, and to take their places, if God be so pleased, as Christian citizens.
Anybody can help them to become citizens. God alone can make them Christian citizens. But they need the truth if that is to come to pass. May God enable us to deliver it to them.
Please, as you continue to support us financially, support us, too, in prayer to God Almighty, that he who has done such wonders for America before would be pleased to raise up from these immigrants a generation that knows, embraces, and exults in our Christian history. Amen.
2662 East 24th Street
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1. My thanks to Garry Moes for bringing this quote to my attention.
- Steve M. Schlissel
Steve Schlissel has served as pastor of Messiah's Congregation in Brooklyn, New York, since 1979. Born and raised in New York City, Schlissel became a Christian by reading the Bible. He and Jeanne homeschooled their five children and also helped raise several foster children (mostly Vietnamese). In 2003, they adopted Anna (who was born in Hong Kong in 1988, but is now a U.S. citizen). They have eight foster grandchildren and fourteen "natural" grandchildren.