When talking about ministry among immigrants, it’s easy to fall into “us” and “them” thinking. Considering differences is not always bad. It’s sometimes really helpful to articulate our differences in cultural preferences, for example, in order to understand each other more.
But when we think of immigrants primarily as “them,” we tend to think of ourselves as engaging in “ministry TO them” and having (consciously or unconsciously) a one-way understanding of giving and relationship, which strips dignity from those with less power.
It has been helpful for me to ponder the many ways in which I am more LIKE immigrant friends than UNLIKE them. I’ve been particularly thinking about this in terms of being a “stranger.”
If you’re an American believer, here is one thing that MAY be true about you, one thing that is LIKELY true about you, and one thing that is CERTAINLY true about you.
Remembering these 3 things will help us cultivate a sense of commonality, which will lead to a sense of mutuality in our ministries.
- You may have spent time in another culture, short-term or long-term, or you may have had an experience of being a minority at an event. Remember how it felt to be disoriented and to have to rely on people to help you understand or do which you understood and knew perfectly well how to do in your own culture? That’s an inkling of how your immigrant friends feel, too.
- Unless you are part of an indigenous group, you likely have immigrant ancestors. Whether they arrived hundreds of years ago or recently, the story is the same: leaving a homeland to build a life in a new land. We are indeed a nation made up of immigrants who have this narrative in common.
- You certainly have experienced being “strangers” in a spiritual sense, “without hope and without God in the world” and then being “brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:12-13). Peter says: Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people” (1 Peter 2:10). As God’s people, we are urged not to focus on our earthly home, because: “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb 13:14). As we long for our heavenly home while living as spiritual sojourners here, we can connect on a heart level with immigrants for whom sojourning is a daily reality.