Have you noticed how many people from other countries are living in your city? J.D. Payne thinks this is part of God’s providential work that creates great opportunities for mission if his people will have eyes to see it. My city, Columbus, Ohio, has the second largest Somali population in the U.S. with over 40,000 residing in our city. A whole network of shops, restaurants, places of worship (mostly Islamic) and businesses have developed in consequence.
People are moving for all sorts of reasons from country to country and Payne chronicles this movement with both stories and charts of data. There are refugees, migrants seeking better economic opportunities, students enrolling in our universities. And this is not just the case in the U.S. It is the case on every continent.
Payne has one simple contention and that is that those who come from a particular country, especially those not easily open to western missions, may make the best people to take the gospel back to these countries and plant churches. The basic issue is whether believing people in host countries will recognize the opportunity and respond.
Payne suggests a simple four part strategy consisting of Reach, Equip, Partner, and Send. One of the things he warns against is that without an intentional focus on sending, many will simply assimilate into a host culture and host believing communities. Contrary to some, he believes in real partnerships and that what Western churches have to offer is not all bad, even though paternalism in various guises is to be watched for. What he does observe is that Western partners with returning immigrants have much more access to the immigrant’s culture than they would on their own.
What I like about this book is that it refocuses the discussion on immigration from national policy debates to the kingdom implications of the immigration that is taking place. While the policy debates do matter and Christians should be involved in pursuing justice and mercy that welcomes the stranger we should also be wondering what is God up to in these global dispersions and how we might co-operate with God in what He is doing.