BY CHRISTY MESAROS-WINCKLES
Four years ago, Shane and Lona Lakatos took their children to play at a park in Toledo, Ohio. As they played, another family approached them because they noticed the Lakatoses speaking Arabic. As the two families chatted, the Lakatoses realized their new friends needed help.
This wasn’t a one-time occurrence. The Lakatoses began meeting many more Toledo residents who speak Arabic. Per capita, Toledo has the largest Arab-American population in Ohio. Immigrants are drawn to the city because of its strong Arab community, but they often face heartbreaking challenges and difficult living situations.
When the Lakatoses moved to Toledo, they had no idea what God had planned. The casual conversations at the park, grocery store and McDonald’s soon made it apparent that immigrant families in northwest Ohio needed help.
“Our passion is serving immigrants and refugees. God tells us to welcome the foreigner to show Christ’s love. Hospitality communicates so much in the Arab culture,” Lona Lakatos said.
Faith in Action
In September 2012, Social Services for the Arab Community (SSFAC) became a nonprofit organization. SSFAC focuses on five areas of need — translation and interpretation, emergency resources, family welfare, employment and
training, and health services.
SSFAC helps immigrant families become self-sufficient and adjust to life in the United States. The organization serves Arab immigrants from all religious backgrounds and without any expectations or conditions. Volunteers are intentional in showing Christ’s love through their work, allowing their actions to speak before their words.
Their service has made an impact. SSFAC now serves 95 families (300 individuals), and the caseload continues to grow.
“There is such a huge need. We haven’t begun to scratch the surface,” Shane Lakatos explained.
The mission of SSFAC is supported by two Free Methodist congregations, Crossroads Community Church in
Ottawa Lake, Mich., and Holland FMC in Holland, Ohio. Additional support and resources come from the local Christian community and from Muslims who share SSFAC’s vision.
“We support the work of Shane and Lona because they are helping meet specific, personal needs of immigrants in our community,” said Keith Simpson, the senior pastor at Holland FMC. “They are expressing the love of Christ in tangible ways.”
Both congregations also help SSFAC by providing desperately needed manpower to the new nonprofit. Last fall, SSFAC raised funds and organized a drive to send a shipping container filled with 35,000 pounds of clothing to Syrian refugees in Jordan’s Al Zaatari refugee camp. Holland FMC served as a drop site for the drive, and both Crossroads and Holland coordinated volunteers to help collect the clothing and load the container.
“Our passion is to help others realize there is a population of people who are foreigners, and, in keeping with scriptures, we want to offer them hospitality, love and support,” said Jamie Rye, the pastor of missions and congregational care at Crossroads and the president of SSFAC’s board of directors.
For more information, visit SSFAC’s Facebook page at facebook.com/ssfactoledo.