In incredible 13 percent of the population living in the United State are immigrants born in another nation. That’s 41,347,945 (read MILLION) people in total! Within this group includes great ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity. Immigration can enrich a nation’s culture, and simultaneously, challenge it to the core. For the church of Jesus, it provides us with obstacles that when placed in the hands of Christ become God-given opportunities for the Great Commission to be accelerated in a supernatural way across the globe.
When people arrive in a new country to live for the first time, they are often disorientated. Initially, everything that is new is often seen as different but interesting. But soon after arrival, it often changes to being uncomfortable and difficult to manage. Often, new immigrants search for people of their culture or language and live in close proximity to familiar food stores, cultural centers, and place of worship, which remind them of home and make the transition to living in the new country easier. For many places in America, the cultural landscape has transformed within the last few decades. Pastors that were trained to reach a white American culture now find themselves in neighborhoods with a significant percentage of people who see the world differently. There is not only a need to share the Gospel, but also to contextualize it so that it can be understood and accepted. The wonderful news is that a significant portion of immigrants are more open to new ideas, including religious beliefs, than their counterparts who stay in their nation of origin. Moving from one country to another often requires that a person is open to change. Immigrants are often open to the Gospel, so if we can communicate its glorious truth in a way that their cultural filters can understand, many can be reached.
Here in the U.S., there are immigrant populations from some of the hardest places on earth to reach with the Gospel. People in these nations are traditionally closed to Christianity, and the governments in these nations actually prevent evangelism. As these people see the church living their faith in Jesus through loving them, and as they understand their need for Christ, they often give their lives to him. As they are discipled and grow, they become great missionaries to their own people group. Those that live around them can hear in their own language, with informed cultural sensitivity.
Additionally, as these new believers grow, God will call some back to their land of origin. They will not need a visa or language study.
Immigration, forced or voluntary, is nothing new. Jesus in many senses was an immigrant, and the church of Acts grew extensively through forced migration. Today, we hear of the 10/40 window and the barriers to the Gospel. The people living in this window (area where the least reached live) and from other places around the world have come to us. As they are loved and engaged with the Gospel, Jesus saves, restores, and commissions. Individuals, families, and communities will be changed, transforming family trees for generations. Some will then return to that area, and these new believers will be used to break the window.
By Jonathan Morton, One Mission Society missionary, director of Nueva Vida ministry
Editor note: This is the first in a series of blogs on OMS' immigrant or diaspora ministries. In the month of April 2017, we will post new stories weekly.