Planting an Immigrant Church in America’s Whitest City
Meet the retiree-turned-pastor who’s creating a home for Portland’s Arabic Christians.
Portland, Oregon has a reputation for being liberal, un-churched, and filled to the brim with under-employed hipsters. While the majority of the city may be white, well-educated, and obsessed with pour-over coffee and small-batch pickles, on its edges one finds a diversity of experience, race, class, and culture. It’s in these neighborhoods on the fringe that recently arrived refugees and immigrants often land, looking for affordable housing and employment.
But life is hard in a place where there are little to no nearby services, slow bus lines, and few English classes offered. Most church planters and pastors may focus on reaching the postmodern and the non-religious, but the surrounding suburbs are full of nearly empty churches and thousands of people who are suffering from isolation. Many people are struggling to survive, often outside of the view of the rest of the city.
Pastor John Baskaron understands what it feels like to not belong. A native Egyptian who emigrated to the United States in 1972, Baskaron is the head pastor of Portland’s Arabic Christian Church, which was the first of its kind in all of Oregon. For decades, Baskaron was a successful businessman, and only recently, in his retirement, has he switched into full-time ministry. While most would take this opportunity to rest and enjoy the fruits of their labors, Baskaron seems to only be getting started when it comes to reaching out to his neighbors—many of them Muslim—in the name of Christ.
The Only Arabic Church in Oregon
Born and raised in Egypt, John became a follower of Christ while on a trip to Lebanon in 1970. Then, in 1972, John and his entire family emigrated to southern California, where he threw himself into learning English, …