My husband, Keith, and I have had the privilege of leading several international mission trips with students. We love learning about new cultures, even struggling with a new language. We’ve worked with refugees in southern Europe, university students in the U.K., and church planters in Ecuador. These trips have opened our eyes to the needs in our world, as well as the work God is doing through His church to reach the nations.
Here in Nashville, we’ve watched the demographics shift in our neighborhood and community. God has awakened us to the opportunities to reach the nations right here at home. We’ve begun a friendship with our Nigerian neighbors. And I’m hoping to learn some gardening tips from our Vietnamese neighbor this spring.
Recently, Keith and I were challenged to become intentional in serving those new to our nation. We decided to take part in a program run by a local university. The program pairs international students with American families, seeking to build friendships across cultures. The American family plays host to the student during their first year.
We were paired with two students from China. We’ve had a great time sharing meals and introducing them to our city. They are curious about our culture and hungry for community. Simply inviting them to join in our holiday celebrations has allowed us to talk about our faith.
In this issue of Facts & Trends, we look at how global migration is giving the Church an unprecedented opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the world. In our cover story, World Relief’s Jenny Yang breaks down the numbers for us and explains how immigrants can be both a mission field and agents of mission. LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer describes how a church in Georgia is reaching internationals. And our executive editor Ed Stetzer challenges Christian leaders to remember the missiological implications of global migration.
We also interviewed Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, about what Latino immigration means for U.S. churches.
Ministry to internationals doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as tutoring students in their schoolwork, teaching adults to read, or taking someone to the grocery story. Befriending those new to your city and helping them in practical ways can open doors for sharing the gospel.
As we settle into 2016, immigration will continue to be a topic discussed by the media and debated during the presidential race. It’s an important, yet complex, issue. As Christians, I pray our discussions are filled with biblical truth and grace. God has commissioned us to reach the nations, and the nations are coming to us. Our calling is to love others like Christ loved us, point them toward the Savior, and help them follow Him.
When the Nations Come to Us — Jenny Yang
The migration of people, whether forced or voluntary, should be viewed not as accidental but as part of God’s sovereign plan. Scripture tells us God determines the times and places people live “so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him” (Acts 17:27).
As believers we are called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19); with immigration, the nations show up on our doorstep. The mission field has crossed our borders and settled into our communities as our co-workers and neighbors.
For Christians committed to reaching the nations for Christ, this should be exciting news. Immigrants are not only open to hearing the gospel but are themselves transforming the Christian landscape in America.