Ministry flourishing in New York among South Asians

By February 13, 2015
Photo Credit to IMB

(Photo courtesy IMB)

USA (IMB/MNN) — A Journeyman is a worker who learns a skill from a tradesman. No longer a trainee, the journeyman sharpens those skills that will later allow him or her to take on greater responsibility.

Fitting the portable crib into her small office space isn’t easy, but Camille Samuel needs somewhere for her daughter, Bethany, to nap while she works. She will be tutoring a Muslim woman who will soon take a U.S. citizenship test, checking supplies in the cabinet and meeting with interns–all before 7-month-old Bethany wakes up. Then she’ll strap the baby into her carrier and head to the Tibetan food cart down the street before returning to touch base with new ESL students and walking the two blocks to her apartment.

It’s all in a day’s work for Camille, a former IMB journeyman to South Asia, who has intentionally planted her life among South Asians in Queens, New York. She is the director of the South Asian Center, a ministry of Urban Nations Outreach that seeks to make disciples and plant churches among unreached people groups in New York.

Camille says her calling to share the gospel among those who have never heard didn’t change when her international missions term was complete. Living and ministering in one of the most diverse ZIP codes in the U.S., Camille says she daily meets immigrants who have never heard the name of Christ. At the center, she directs the ministry to immigrants that includes ESL and citizenship classes, children’s programs, and community outreach events. More than 200 people are currently enrolled in classes through the center, and 21 countries are currently represented.

“Because I’ve lived in South Asia,” says Camille, “it’s really helped me to understand where they’re coming from culturally and helps bridge the gaps and break down some barriers.” She says most people are very interested to know that she lived in their country and knows some of their language. She is thankful that she is familiar with the South Asian culture and customs and can identify with them.

“Also, just to know what it is like to be a foreigner in a foreign land, that’s really helped our ministry because I remember what it felt like to be a journeyman in South Asia,” Camille explains. “I want to see [the students] be able to thrive and have a really good experience here. I see that as part of our ministry.”

Camille says she loves the sense of small community she finds in her neighborhood, even though she lives in a megacity. She knows the local storekeepers and restaurant owners. Familiar faces on the street offer greetings or stop her to ask how Bethany is doing. Once when a Tibetan restaurant owner noticed Camille had a cold, the owner went to the kitchen to make a special soup and tea for her. While many are fearful of living in New York City, Camille has found a true sense of home.

Camille’s husband, Jim, is also passionate about living among internationals. An Indian, Jim was raised in the Middle East in a Christian family. He said that he and Camille were very deliberate about choosing to live among South Asians in New York. He works as a bookstore manager and as a campus minister for St. John’s University to support their family and ministry.

“I don’t think we would move for the world,” says Jim. “I have a heart for the people–especially our neighbors who are part of the center–and I really want to see them grow in Christ and grow in the knowledge of the Word.”

Jim and Camille are part of Urban Nations Outreach’s efforts to plant four new churches this year. The Samuels will focus on a church plant among South Asians in their neighborhood.

They understand that South Asians may not readily accept Christ upon first hearing, but Camille explains that they are very open to friendships with Christians and encourages others to reach out to internationals.

“It’s very possible you’ll be the first Christian they’ve ever met, the first person to tell them about Jesus,” Camille says.

“God has brought them to the U.S., to places like New York City and other megacities and even small towns, so that we can finish the Great Commission,” she adds. “If you share with them here, they tell family members back home or they might move back home and the gospel just multiplies from there.”


  • I work amongst South Asians in Rome. i will be visiting New York city briefly in April 2015. I need to be able to enter into contact with Camille or with someone else in the ministry and visit the center itself whilst passing through N Y City.

    Andrew Diprose
    ([email protected] )

  • Ruth Kramer says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Our best suggestion is to start by contacting Craig Martin, Managing Director, Global Communications at the International Mission Board. (804) 219-1000. Reference this story, and talk to him about what you’re trying to do and your desire to connect with Camille Samuel. Hope this helps!

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