I Was a Stranger


The Vickery Meadow area of Dallas is often referred to as “the Little United Nations.” On any given day, refugees and immigrants from Burma, Iran and the Congo can be found trying to make ends meet. This community is where Project: Start Refugee Resource Center, supported by Texas Baptists, engages in daily ministry. 

Project: Start Director Leonid Regheta led a workshop Tuesday morning at the 2017 Texas Baptists Annual Meeting, teaching fellow believers about the plight of refugees in the city of Dallas and how they can help “the least of these.”

For Regheta, it is a personal issue. As a child, he and his family fled the Ukraine as religious refugees, making their way across Europe before finally finding a home in the United States. He now pastors a Russian-speaking church in the Dallas area and leads Project: Start.

As he began the workshop, he was adamant that this was “not about politics,” joking that that was above his paygrade.

“Refugee resettlement is not about a number. It is about saving lives,” said Regheta.

Project: Start works to link refugees with the resources they need, whether that be help with immigration papers, medical care, food, education or clothing. If a refugee has a need, Project: Start volunteers seek to connect them with someone who can meet it.

The Dallas area is home to almost 20 percent of the refugee population of Texas. Within a three-mile radius of the Project: Start building, as many as 30 languages are spoken and many of the families in the area are living in poverty and constant fear of deportation.

This extreme need can appear daunting to churches. Most do not know where to begin, how to connect with them or what they even need. Project: Start comes alongside these churches and partners with them, helping them work with ethnic churches who can both translate and coordinate events. By linking ministries and churches together, Project: Start is able to bring about change in the community and build relationships with people of all religious backgrounds.

Regheta also emphasized the unique opportunity that Vickery Meadow provides. Because of the wide variety of people groups, churches can drive just a few minutes across town or a few hours across the state to reach the people of Malaysia and Sudan instead of traveling halfway across the globe.

He told a story of an Afghani family he met three years ago. When they came to the United States, they were devout Muslims with a deep distrust of Christians. Now, through the work of Project: Start, they are Christ-followers. The daughter is even a Sunday School teacher at her local church. 

Project: Start is a part of Texas Baptist Cultural Engagement and is supported by Texas Baptist Mission Foundation and the Mary Hill Davis Offering. To donate or learn more, go to texasbaptists.org/start.

Read more articles in: news, 2017 annual meeting