Gail

When Gail Schlosser (MACCS ’96, DMiss ’12) met with Mr. Hassan,1 she only had a few minutes of his time before his doctor would be in to see him. A 60-year-old Somali man accompanied by his teenage son, Mr. Hassan was one of the patients at Jericho Road Community Health Center in Buffalo, New York, where Gail volunteers as a spiritual care provider.

After a few minutes of conversation, Gail said, “Well, Mr. Hassan, you’re Muslim, I’m Christian, but we both believe in a powerful God. How can I pray for you?” Without hesitation, he replied, holding up his fingers as he listed each petition, “Pray that I have health and strength. Pray that God gives me many years of life. And pray that when I die and stand before God, my sins will be forgiven.”

As Gail tells the story of that exchange, she says, “I just lifted my hand in a blessing, and I said, ‘Mr. Hassan, I do pray that God gives you many years of health and strength, and I pray that he will show you how your sins may be forgiven.’ Then I thought, ‘Okay, God, over to you!’”

When meeting with patients, Gail introduces herself as the “Soul Lady,” there to offer spiritual care on top of the physical care and behavioral health services provided by Jericho Road. With a particular emphasis on serving marginalized communities in Buffalo, very often including many from the city’s migrant and refugee populations, the health center is one of a handful of places where Gail serves. As the missional life pastor at Buffalo Vineyard Church, she has a hand in many areas of ministry in the city, especially those focused on fostering relationships cross-culturally.

Gail’s ministry journey has always been intercultural and missional, and she’s had a particular heart for connecting with and ministering among Muslims. The spark of this calling came when Gail attended InterVarsity’s Urbana Missions Conference in 1984. She served on InterVarsity’s staff on a number of college campuses for the five years after, before she decided to attend Fuller to pursue her MA in Cross Cultural Studies. At Fuller, she dove deep into her study of ministry and missiology but says the relationships she formed proved just as important. She shares about a weekly prayer meeting with other students that focused on cross-cultural and international ministry and also talks about the long friendship she’s had with Dean Emeritus Dudley Woodberry and his wife, Roberta, all these years. She remembers, “There were so many pastors and missionaries from around the world with so many different perspectives.” And her formation during these seasons shaped her well for the eventual 12 years she would serve in England, where she ran a Christian community center that served the local immigrant population, and for her two years in Lebanon, where she focused on outreach to refugees during the height of the Syrian Civil War. In that time, she says, “I learned the power of simply being present and listening with care.”

She served until 2015, when she finally felt it was time to return home. “I literally just said to the Lord, ‘I’d like to settle down a bit, but I don’t want to get comfortable.’” Soon after, she relocated to Buffalo to continue following God’s call on her life.

Jerome Blanco

Jerome Blanco (MDiv ’16), editor in chief of FULLER magazine and Fuller’s senior content editor.

Lindsey Sheets

Lindsey Sheets is video editor, colorist, and photographer for FULLER studio.

When Gail Schlosser (MACCS ’96, DMiss ’12) met with Mr. Hassan,1 she only had a few minutes of his time before his doctor would be in to see him. A 60-year-old Somali man accompanied by his teenage son, Mr. Hassan was one of the patients at Jericho Road Community Health Center in Buffalo, New York, where Gail volunteers as a spiritual care provider.

After a few minutes of conversation, Gail said, “Well, Mr. Hassan, you’re Muslim, I’m Christian, but we both believe in a powerful God. How can I pray for you?” Without hesitation, he replied, holding up his fingers as he listed each petition, “Pray that I have health and strength. Pray that God gives me many years of life. And pray that when I die and stand before God, my sins will be forgiven.”

As Gail tells the story of that exchange, she says, “I just lifted my hand in a blessing, and I said, ‘Mr. Hassan, I do pray that God gives you many years of health and strength, and I pray that he will show you how your sins may be forgiven.’ Then I thought, ‘Okay, God, over to you!’”

When meeting with patients, Gail introduces herself as the “Soul Lady,” there to offer spiritual care on top of the physical care and behavioral health services provided by Jericho Road. With a particular emphasis on serving marginalized communities in Buffalo, very often including many from the city’s migrant and refugee populations, the health center is one of a handful of places where Gail serves. As the missional life pastor at Buffalo Vineyard Church, she has a hand in many areas of ministry in the city, especially those focused on fostering relationships cross-culturally.

Gail’s ministry journey has always been intercultural and missional, and she’s had a particular heart for connecting with and ministering among Muslims. The spark of this calling came when Gail attended InterVarsity’s Urbana Missions Conference in 1984. She served on InterVarsity’s staff on a number of college campuses for the five years after, before she decided to attend Fuller to pursue her MA in Cross Cultural Studies. At Fuller, she dove deep into her study of ministry and missiology but says the relationships she formed proved just as important. She shares about a weekly prayer meeting with other students that focused on cross-cultural and international ministry and also talks about the long friendship she’s had with Dean Emeritus Dudley Woodberry and his wife, Roberta, all these years. She remembers, “There were so many pastors and missionaries from around the world with so many different perspectives.” And her formation during these seasons shaped her well for the eventual 12 years she would serve in England, where she ran a Christian community center that served the local immigrant population, and for her two years in Lebanon, where she focused on outreach to refugees during the height of the Syrian Civil War. In that time, she says, “I learned the power of simply being present and listening with care.”

She served until 2015, when she finally felt it was time to return home. “I literally just said to the Lord, ‘I’d like to settle down a bit, but I don’t want to get comfortable.’” Soon after, she relocated to Buffalo to continue following God’s call on her life.

Written By

Jerome Blanco (MDiv ’16), editor in chief of FULLER magazine and Fuller’s senior content editor.

Lindsey Sheets is video editor, colorist, and photographer for FULLER studio.

Gail
Gail

A city with large refugee communities, many of whom are Muslims—with populations of Iraqis, Yemenis, Syrians, Afghans, and others—Buffalo had a well-established infrastructure for refugee resettlement and ministry, which made it a natural place for Gail to continue ministering interculturally. Not long after she moved to the city, Gail connected with a woman who served as a consultant for nonprofits in the area, and she says, “I spent an hour on the phone with her and heard about everything going on, and then I chased all those leads and found out what people were doing. And then I asked, ‘Where could I throw in my hat?’” Now, as missional life pastor at Buffalo Vineyard, Gail partners with or is actively involved in many of these areas of ministry around the city.

She’s a teacher and mentor at BUMP (Buffalo Urban Mission Partnership), where they help young adults fresh out of college spend a year in the city working in church, nonprofit, or community development contexts, and where Gail says she “especially relishes the chance to mentor young, single women and help them cultivate rich, joyful, godly lives.” She has also taught ESL classes at Jericho Road, on top of her role of offering spiritual care to folks like Mr. Hassan. Before the pandemic, she hosted an in-person English class for five women from Iraq, Jordan, and Syria, and Gail had the delight of helping one of these women pass her US citizenship exam. Through deepening her networks and being intentional about finding ways to love these neighbors, Gail finds different opportunities to help—often assisting newly arrived families find furniture, sharing dinners with them, and being available to help in other steps in the resettlement process, sometimes by simply offering rides to the store or to doctor’s appointments.

Recently, Gail led a team from Buffalo Vineyard to help settle a family of Afghan evacuees. The Welcome Home Project involved the church finding an apartment, furnishing it, and filling the pantry and fridge for this family—as well as “walking alongside them for the first few months after their arrival,” because, Gail explains, resettlement agency assistance only lasts a few months. Of the many refugees and evacuees who arrive in Buffalo, she says, “these new neighbors need lots of TLC considering the trauma they’ve been through.”

A key role of Gail’s at the church is also to help shape the missional life of its congregation. She teaches and preaches, and she relishes the opportunity to pastor others who are discerning their own particular calls to a life of following Christ. At Buffalo Vineyard, she says, this “is not a hard sell.” She adds, “The interesting thing about our church is there are so many people already involved in missional life in their own vocations.” Many work and contribute in various capacities at Jericho Road or similar organizations around the city that minister to marginalized and underserved communities. And the church itself organizes different ways to serve their neighbors, such as the Welcome Home Project mentioned above, and especially through 5 Loaves Farm, an urban initiative that not only produces sustainable and affordable food for the community but also offers classes and job training.

For Gail, it’s important to “foster a sense that mission is not just a specialized call.” Loving one’s neighbor as a disciple of Christ is everyone’s role. She says, “What you’re doing is kingdom work—as a lawyer, as a teacher, as an architect.” As a pastor, she helps in “resourcing, equipping, and encouraging” others as they live this out.

Gail says none of us can go about this alone; we need one another for the journey.  “Partnership and collaboration are key,” she explains.

She tells the story of the day she moved into her first place in Buffalo. A friend said she would take Gail to her church the next morning, and that church turned out to be Buffalo Vineyard. “I showed up,” Gail recalls, “and I heard them talking about King Jesus. They said, ‘We’re here to regularly encounter God, train each other in the faith, and effectively serve our neighbors.’” Since then, she’s been doing just that—following Jesus and loving her neighbors, in and around her community, with a church and with others committed to doing the same.

  1. His name has been changed for this story.
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