by Sadiri Joy Tira
In many traditionally “resistant” parts of the world (where we must keep our missionary work discreet), it is indigenous diaspora kingdom workers who are reaching other indigenous diaspora workers who in turn reach out to their “resistant” hosts, and it is they who are returning to their own countries as “reverse migrants.”
Global Missions Today
Editor’s note: As we celebrate fifty years as a publication committed to equipping and encouraging those in mission, we continue to take seriously the issues we face today. We asked top mission leaders around the world to reflect on missions from their respective vantage points. We pray that God will use their thoughts to challenge, inspire, instruct, and correct us all.
This article was contributed by Sadiri Joy Tira.
LIKE AN AVALANCHE FROM the highest point of Nepal are the Himalayans cascading down to the Arabian deserts. These people, mostly men, have descended by the thousands in recent years to countries like the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The economic decline in Nepal has “pushed” these people outside their homeland, while the mass production and oil exportation from the oil rich region of the Arabian Peninsula to the rest of the world has “pulled” in Nepalese contract workers.
In 2002, I was first introduced to a group of twenty Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), Korean businessmen, and Nepali construction workers when I preached during their worship gathering inside a small warehouse owned by a Korean businessman.
These men had initially met when three Nepali Christians arrived in Qatar with a longing for the word of God and a desire to explore Christianity in the context of community. A Korean man offered them his small room in an industrial area for fellowship. Soon, the group had grown to eight and QICM, a Christian community composed of nearly seventy percent Filipinos, adopted them, committing to train them in evangelism and discipleship and support them in practical ways (e.g., allowing them to use an adjacent venue for worship). They later took the name “QICM Nepal Chapter” and became an official ministry of QICM.
Who could initiate and maintain such “church growth” but only the Lord of the Church? In the growing global cities, in the rural landscapes, and in the solitude of thousands of homes, migrant workers play specific roles in nation building. They toil away at erecting skyscrapers, building hotels, constructing roads, harvesting produce, and raising babies. However, in God’s sovereignty and providence, they are also there for kingdom building.
When I ponder the challenges and opportunities presented to us today and are predicted for the next decade, I think of the Father of Modern-day Missions, William Carey. He lived in a time of tumultuous change—a pivotal time in world history during which paradigm shifts forever transformed the minds of people. Despite the changes in his world, I doubt that as Carey sailed from London to India with his family in the spring of 1793 he could have imagined a future of “flying ships” that would transport people from the “regions beyond” to their own neighborhood in a matter of hours.
Today, people from the 10/40 Window are scattered all over the world. The Chinese and the South Asian diasporas are two of the largest in the world. Who would have predicted the recent political explosion in North Africa, driving Egyptians, Tunisians, Syrians, and Libyans into exile? The refugee situations of recent months are staggering—not to mention the millions of Jewish people, Africans, Armenians, and Palestinians who have been scattered for centuries. All of these people are from the 10/40 Window, the area on the map that was known in early Protestant missions as the “regions beyond.”
These days, we often look to traditionally Christian countries (e.g., Australia, Canada, England, and USA) as receivers of people from the regions beyond. But let us shift our focus to places such as Qatar. In many traditionally “resistant” parts of the world (where we must keep our missionary work discreet), it is indigenous diaspora kingdom workers who are reaching other indigenous diaspora workers who in turn reach out to their “resistant” hosts, and it is they who are returning to their own countries as “reverse migrants.”
We live in an increasingly borderless world—with transnationalism, decentralization, and deterritorialization.
Remember our Nepali, Korean, and Filipino brethren? There are many others Ukrainian business leaders, Vietnamese factory workers, Iranian-American English teachers, Ethiopian doctors, Japanese-German artists meeting Jesus, living life, sharing faith with people from everywhere. And they are doing this while they are away from their respective countries of origin.
Our world is vastly different from Carey’s. We live in an increasingly borderless world—with transnationalism, decentralization, and deterritorialization. Almost 220 years after Carey’s overseas journey, we are living in an era of mind-boggling shifts and shakes. Today, not only are we going “there” to the mission field, but “they” are moving—our mission fields are ever-changing. Also, advances in technology have allowed people to live as though they were both “here” and “there” simultaneously. Furthermore, strides in evangelizing many indigenous (i.e., native) groups have changed the face of missions.
Everywhere I go, I see people who come from diverse regions who do not know Jesus Christ. Providentially, God has brought these people within my reach. It was he who “determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live…so that [they] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).
Missions is on the move. People from the regions beyond are now around us, and migration is predicted to accelerate over the next decade. Just like Carey, millions of Christ’s ambassadors are boarding ships (i.e., ships on the sea, ships in the air) to reach other migrants.
In Nagaland, India, I encouraged predominantly Christ-following Nagas to partner with traditional mission initiatives to reach the religious giants of their region—the Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists who immediately surround them. I also encouraged them to systematically organize, strategize, and train to reach beyond their region, as the Naga kingdom builders launch as foreign workers and international students into our borderless world.
I am reminded of my own countrymen, the Filipinos who are leaving our homeland in droves. In August 2007, Dr. Mary Wilder of Western Seminary said of the Filipinos, “… 100 years ago, the Filipinos were a mission field. Now, they are moving out to take their place in missions, reaching around the world in very creative ways” Thank God for our missionary heroes who have gone before to plant the seeds in the regions beyond. Thank God, too, for the opportunities given to reach the world in alternative and creative ways. What will the mission field look like in ten or one hundred years? These are exciting times. Every person (from everywhere) who is outside the kingdom is our priority. Alongside traditional mission strategies, let us use diaspora missiology strategies to creatively take the whole gospel to the whole world.
Sadiri Joy Tira serves as senior associate for diasporas for the Lausanne Movement and as chair of the Global Diaspora Network. He is also vice president for Diaspora Missions for Advancing Indigenous Missions (AIM). In 2011, Joy joined the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University College and Seminary (AUCS) in Canada as a diaspora missiology specialist.
EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 398-400. Copyright © 2014 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.