Ben Coulter has been the Senior Pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Magnolia since May of 2018 whose passion is knowing Jesus and making disciples.
Magnolia AR – On Wednesday, Nov. 17, Immanuel Baptist Church (IBC) of Magnolia served a Thanksgiving meal in the church fellowship hall to approximately sixty individuals from around the world. These individuals consisted of a Muslim family from Libya, a family from the Philippines, students, faculty, and families from Kenya, Cameroon, England, Germany, Australia, Nigeria, China, Malaysia, Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Brazil, Serbia, and Portugal, in addition to students from across the U.S.
Many around Arkansas would be surprised that the small town of Magnolia would be a strategic location in helping reach the nations for Jesus. Magnolia, a town of roughly 12,000 people, is home to Southern Arkansas University (SAU). SAU is a small university, with 4,434 students, but among the students and faculty over 30 countries are represented. Reaching international students, families, and other internationals in our community has become a key ministry focus for IBC.
In Acts 17:26-27, Paul states, “From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” At IBC, we realize that God has brought internationals to Magnolia so that they may hear the Gospel and come to know Jesus. We take seriously the opportunity God has given us to love the internationals in our midst. An annual Thanksgiving meal is just one way we try to reach others for Jesus. The intent of the meal is to provide a traditional Thanksgiving meal, while gathering the international community together “in the Name of Jesus.” We want people to know that although they are away from family and many friends, we are here to be their friends and help them in any way we can.
During the event, we did not serve anything with pork to ensure that we did not cause our Muslim friends to be placed in an uncomfortable position. We also had a professional photographer in our church, Amanda Pfannenstiel of Three Turtles Photography, take pictures during the event in order to create a memory we hope they cherish. We welcomed everyone “in the Name of Jesus” and prayed in Jesus’s name as well.
The purpose of the event was to build and grow relationships that we hope will lead to Gospel conversations. We are focused on building trust and community with the internationals. We want to be welcoming and transparent while also aiming to make them feel comfortable in our church, homes, and community. We are hoping the trust built during the event will lead to meaningful Gospel conversations in homes over coffee or a meal. Our hope and prayer are that building these relationships through meals will help them experience the love of Jesus.