Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

SikhsIn an article that appeared in August web-only edition of Christianity Today, Abby Stocker wrote about “The Craziest Statistic You’ll Read About North American Missions.”  Her article opens with this paragraph:

One out of five non-Christians in North America doesn’t know any Christians. That’s not in the fake-Gandhi-quote “I would become a Christian, if I ever met one” sense. It’s new research in Gordon-Conwell’s Center for the Study of Global Christianity’s Christianity in its Global Context, 1970-2020. Missiologist Todd M. Johnson and his team found that 20 percent of non-Christians in North America really do not “personally know” any Christians. That’s 13,447,000 people—about the population of metropolitan Los Angeles or Istanbul—most of them in the United States.

The study shows that it is not the atheists and agnostics clustered together in academia or Hollywood or the liberal unbelieving media whom evangelicals love to hate that make up the majority of those who do not know a Christian.

No, mostly it is the immigrants and those they live among.  Here is the chart that was published with the study:


And although Christians make up one-third of the world’s population, eight out of 10 people in the world do not know a Christian.

Sherrylee and I just went to a wonderful Journey to Generosity retreat and in the opening session, we were confronted with the fact that Americans hoard much of the world’s wealth.

So is it worse to be poor because we hoard our wealth—or to be LOST because we hoard Jesus??  I’m not so sure it is not the same thing if looked at from our side of the equation.

So why do you think that 79% of the Sikhs in North America don’t know any Christians?  It’s not because of a scarcity of Christians; it’s not for lack of churches they could visit?

Well, how many Sikhs do you know?  How many Buddhists from Asia live in your community?  How many Chinese?

Just last week there was a Chinese couple in Wal-mart and I could tell they were searching for something that they couldn’t find, so I asked them if I could help.   They were looking for that kind of ice cream with many flavors in it, so I found the Neapolitan and they were quite pleased.  I wish I had been even friendlier and asked about them and . . . .who knows what might have come from a little conversation about ice cream.

They might already be Christians!!  But I don’t know because I didn’t take the time to even offer to get to know them.  And because of that they may still be one of the many Chinese in our country who don’t know any Christians.

I’ve quoted this verse before in describing the reason for the FriendSpeak program, that we offer churches through the Let’s Start Talking Ministry.  But surely the convicting results of this study should make us question whether we truly believe the verse to be inspired by God—or not!

26 God began by making one man, and from him he made all the different people who live everywhere in the world. He decided exactly when and where they would liveActs 17:26 (ERV)

Immigrants are in North America for the same reason you are—because God decided exactly when and where they would live.  And Paul says the reason that he put people in the same place was so that they could find Him!

It’s not just “foreigners”  who cluster in ghettos.  Christians do too!

What could you do to reduce the number of people who don’t know a Christian?

  • Make a point to speak to people of other origins in public places.
  • Find meaningful service projects to join or to launch in ethnic ghettos.
  • Adopt an international student from a local university!
  • Host a Thanksgiving meal at your church and invite the immigrant community nearest you, specifically!
  • Inquire about beginning a FriendSpeak ministry at your church (www.friendspeak.org)  and volunteer to be a part of it.

What can you add to this list?

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Being afraid of foreign things is part of the Fall, I suspect. I know that we have encountered this same fear in children all over the world.  In Africa, the little children who have never seen a white person run away crying. In Japan, the little children cautiously want to touch our “round” eyes.  The Chinese can’t keep their hands off the blonde hair of some American children.  If we want our children to have a heart for the mission of God, then we have to begin helping them not be afraid or put off by foreign things.

In fact, what would happen if they loved foreign things? God so loved the world . . . which was very foreign, so perhaps learning to love foreign things is learning to be more godly!

Here are a few ideas for you to help your kids (and yourself) love the world—the whole world, not just your small corner of it!

  • Never talk disparagingly about foreigners and foreign things! We all know that prejudice and bigotry are passed on from generation to generation, but sometimes only very subtly.  You don’t have to wear a white cap and robe to teach your children to be racists.  Just your typical racial jokes or stereotyping will suffice. The same with their attitude toward foreigners. What do you say about the men who cut your grass or the teaching assistant that is difficult to understand? What do you say about foreign cars, foreign athletes—even about immigration issues?
  • Expose your young children to foreign foods. Instead of just Happy Meals and hamburgers, take your kids for a gyro sandwich on pita. Some of our grandkids like Sushi (I don’t), but all of them think that the Hibachi steakhouse is the best treat ever for special occasions. Our son’s family found a German deli where they could buy Brötchen and other German things, so we had a very fun German breakfast together one morning!  Take your pick from all the countries of the world and explore their foods. Remember, they are all going to be at the banquet of the Lamb!
  • Encourage your children to start learning other languages as early as possible. I love that Dora the Explorer and other kid shows expose the pre-schoolers to Spanish. Did you know that only about 1/3 of American children take any foreign language in school!  No wonder we are internationally illiterate. I just read that 200 million Chinese children are learning English and only 24,000 American children are learning Chinese.  Who do you think will influence whom in the future?  For us Christians, the question is not political; it is who will share their heart for/against God with whom?
  • Watch foreign movies! (Now I’ve really crossed a line, haven’t I !!) With all the rental possibilities now, you have access to children’s movies from around the world. Yes, they may be subtitled, but unless you make a big deal out of that, your children won’t.  Maybe start with films from England or India in English. There are also cartoons. Sure they are different—that’s what foreignness is!!  You might even try some yourself!
  • Look for schools that offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program! The IB program, which is an internationally recognized curriculum, is gaining some popularity in the U.S,  You do find it in public schools as well as private schools.
  • Give your child an early experience abroad—anywhere! Lots of soccer teams, choirs, bands, etc. are doing international trips. Encourage this. Of course, a mission trip would be even better.
  • The absolutely best thing you can do is to take your children with you overseas—especially on a mission trip. The combination of watching the people they love and admire the most, interacting with foreign people and foreign situations, together with their own unique opportunities to experience foreignness are the best heart-forming experiences hands down!

I do need to warn you that loving foreign things is not very American—to our own shame! I do believe, however, that it is very Christian.  Perhaps we should take Paul’s words more seriously when searching our own hearts to discern our attitudes toward foreigners:

“Remember that at that time you were separate . . . excluded from citizenship  . . . and foreigners . . . But now you who once were far away  have been brought near through the blood of Christ . . . .Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people!” (Ephesians 2:12-19).

As God loved us foreigners, so we should love other foreigners—and teach our kids to do so also. By doing so, we will certainly see a heart for the mission of God grow in them.

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I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have heard someone say the equivalent of, “Don’t we have enough to do at home? Why do we need to go overseas? Shouldn’t we take care of our neighborhood first?”

When Sherrylee and I were newly married and committed to going to Germany with our newly-formed mission team, I asked a very prominent preacher whom I knew for help raising support. Without thinking about what the implications were, he said, “Man, if only you weren’t going overseas!” I mistakenly took this as criticism back then, but I know now that what he really was saying was that American Christians prefer to support local over foreign outreach.  Bad decision!

Remember how God allowed persecution on the earliest church in Jerusalem and “scattered” people, forcing them into other countries, even to the Gentiles (Acts 8:1,4,19-20). I don’t think He used the same technique with American Christians—although WWII was the real beginning (not the earliest) of foreign outreach in churches of Christ—but I do believe that He has worked in time and space in our day to wipe away our tepid excuses for not sharing the Good News with people different from us.

Look at this snippet from Wikipedia about U.S. Immigration:

As of 2006, the United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined. Since the liberalization of immigration policy in 1965, the number of first-generation immigrants living in the United States has quadrupled, from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 38 million in 2007. 1,046,539 persons were naturalized as U.S. citizens in 2008.

If Christians hesitate to “go into all the world,” then why shouldn’t God bring all the world into our neighborhood?  It’s not punishment—it’s who we are and what we are about!!

Let’s Start Talking is best known probably for its short-term, overseas mission programs, but as early as 1990, LST was also training Americans to reach out to international students, immigrants, and non-English speakers in our universities and neighborhoods.  FriendSpeak is LST’s program for training churches to reach out cross-culturally in their own communities—and it is huge!

Rather than tell you about it, I want to give you a link to the Christian Chronicle which just ran an online article and asked for feedback from those who might have used FriendSpeak in their churches. Just click this link and you will see firsthand what can be done here at home for the whole world:


Local versus Foreign—not even a legitimate argument anymore—if it ever was. There is only, “Who can I talk to today—and who can I talk to tomorrow—and who will talk with those people over there?  Sure, I will.”

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American highways are remarkably free from roadkill! Yesterday we drove 934 miles and I don’t remember seeing anything dead on the road at all. Did you know that most of the roadkill in Australia are kangaroos! And you see a  lot. In fact, many people have those big cowcatchers—I don’t know what else to call them—on the front of their vehicles because hitting roos on the roads is so common.

You’ll remember from yesterday that Sherrylee and I decided at the last minute to drive to California to help with an LST YoungFriends project at the North County Church of Christ in Escondido, just north of San Diego. You can read about the first 446 miles in yesterday’s posting—but you can start here also. The great thing about journeys is that they have an official starting place, of course, but today’s start is just as much of a start as yesterday’s start.  There must be a sermon there somewhere!

After a quick stop at the ubiquitous Wal-Mart in Pecos, Texas, we got on the road again. Sherry enjoys reading aloud while I drive, so she suggested reading the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, we are pretty weird, but don’t worry, we balanced it with a Robert Ludlum novel later in the day.

We have been reading and talking about Roman Catholicism for some time, since her brother recently became a Catholic priest.  Yesterday, most of our reading and conversation was on sacramentalism, but that is a topic for another blog.

The amazing thing about driving in Texas is that when you get to El Paso, your halfway to California. Of course you have to speed past the sand dunes in Monahans, the Davis Mountains and Fort Davis, McDonald Observatory near Alpine, and the many great Tex-Mex restaurants along the way or you will just turn around and say, “Why would I ever want to leave Texas!!”

The only thing I really found interesting in New Mexico was driving through Lordsburg.  Who knows what classic journey film has Lordsburg as the stagecoach’s final destination?

Now Arizona has Tombstone and Yuma, but we missed the 3:10 train. I forgot about the time zone change! We didn’t stop, but if we go back that way, I’m planning to try to stop and sightsee.

At some stop, we balanced our morning catechesis with an audiobook from Cracker Barrel (where else?) called The Bourne Deception—the full 17.5 hour/15 disc version. Pretty good deal for $3.50!  It was so good that we skipped supper. Our only interruptions were the Border Patrol control points—something we had never seen before.

The Board Patrol check Points reminded me of the Arizona controversy. We were waved through easily, but I couldn’t help but think about it being a different story if we had been Latino—either of us.  I’m all for controlling our borders better to prevent illegal aliens from entering, but if you have ever been a foreigner in a foreign country (stranger in a strange land is the biblical phrase) and been discriminated against, you would know how humiliating and offensive any form of profiling or discrimination is.

When Sherrylee and I lived in Germany and were looking for an apartment, we would occasionally call about one that looked great to us, only to be hung up on because we were aliens with an accent. That was almost as bad as the people who used the less formal language forms when talking to us as if we were either children or stupid. Well, you can see that I am sympathetic with aliens from my own experience of being one.

You have time to think about many things on a road trip!

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