The Great Hospitality Experiment
[Sandeep Jadhav, his wife, Sunnyu Kim, and their two sons serve in Vancouver, where Jadhav pastors New Life Community Church. Photo by Bern Helge Schnitzer.]
Pastor in multicultural city encourages “reciprocal relationships” as part of church’s mission
Vancouver is one of the least churched cities in North America. For many, that might cause despair.
But Sandeep Jadhav sees Vancouver as an opportunity.
“When people in Vancouver ask me what I do, I don’t even assume they know what a church is or what a pastor is,” says Jadhav. “I say, ‘I’m a pastor—that’s like a priest.’”
Jadhav is pastor at New Life Community Church (RCA) in Burnaby, British Colombia, in metro Vancouver. Jadhav is Indian and his wife, Sunnyu Kim, is Korean, though they have lived in Canada since 2006, when he began his Master of Divinity studies at Regent College.
Vancouver has a high immigrant population, and, as of 2011, 50 percent of Burnaby residents were born outside of Canada. Although New Life is mostly Caucasian, the congregation has a heart for ministry in the multicultural city.
“That’s why I’m excited to be in Vancouver,” says Jadhav. “People have very little knowledge about the church and Christianity, which gives the church a great opportunity to be the church, the community of God. That’s where I imagine our church to be: to catch the vision that they are on the mission field in their workplace, at their school.”
He believes cities with a population like Vancouver’s are critical to drive Christians to take their identity seriously and to commit to each other and to their neighbors. To nurture each other, New Life members participate in weekly small groups. In such gatherings, Jadhav says, “the life of the church is lived out.”
To be hospitable to the community, the church serves lunch each week to neighbors who are without homes or underemployed. And over the past few years, more than one thousand people have “shopped” at New Life’s Free Store, a thrift store whose offerings are free. Now a few church members are dreaming up an English as a Second Language class for immigrants who want to practice English and who are trying to adjust to life in Canada. Other members have invited international students into their homes to experience a Canadian Thanksgiving.
Jadhav insists that this kind of hospitality is more than just Westerners welcoming the international people in their midst; it’s a reciprocal relationship.
“My personal heart is for multicultural expression of the church,” says Jadhav. “How can we see Christ better by seeing through each other’s eyes? What does the Chinese or African or German brother or sister teach me about Christ?”
New Life has lived out this reciprocal learning by teaming up with the Chinese church and the Korean church that also meet in New Life’s building. The three congregations have gathered to celebrate the Lunar New Year and have shared a meal at an end-of-summer picnic. Other gatherings are in the works.
Jadhav has a lightness in his voice as he speaks about living out the gospel in a city where the gospel is so foreign to so many people.
“I see Vancouver as a laboratory to experiment with what church and discipleship will look like,” he says. “And now with the refugee crisis, the greatest mass migration in history is taking place. I feel that we as a church need to be ready. People look at immigration as a threat or concern; I look at it as a great opportunity. God is reshuffling the nations. All we have to do is be hospitable.”