International migration is on the increase. Between 2000 and 2017, number of international migrants increased by almost 50 per cent to 250 million people. And in the next two decades this figure is expected to double to half a billion.
Today out of every 100 people in the world, three of them are migrants. And out of every five international migrants, two are from Asia.(1)
But what does this mean for missions today?
From Genesis to Revelation and in our own day we can see how God has used mass migration movements to achieve his purposes:
1) God’s purposes and migration
God has moved people around the world so they can get to know him and so they can tell others about him. In the beginning, Adam and Eve were commanded to fill the earth. But when the nations did not obey and gathered together to build the tower of Babel, God judged them by scattering them.
Abraham, a nomad, followed God’s command and became a blessing for all the nations even in his wanderings.
Joseph, Daniel, Esther and Ruth were all used by God in different situations where they moved around the ancient world. The example of Ruth is especially interesting, since she felt a hunger for God at home in Moab, but got to know him better in Israel as God’s people loved her.(2)
The New Testament is also full of stories of how God used migrants: the unknown evangelists who took the gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch, Timothy from Lystra, Apollos from Alexandria, and Barnabas from Cyprus. The list goes on.
And, of course, Jesus himself left heaven to serve us. He was born in Bethlehem, fled to Egypt, showed compassion to a Roman centurion and crossed ethnic divides to speak with a Samaritan woman.
2) Old Testament Laws and migration
In the Old Testament, we also see that God loves and cares for people on the move. He even enacted special laws to protect foreigners among his people Israel. God’s intention was that through the Israelites, the foreigners among them could know his love and goodness.
What about us? How do we treat the foreigners among us? Can they see God’s glory through us?
3) God’s church and migration
Today, as people from many nations and different social backgrounds are becoming neighbours there is potential for conflict and division. But part of the good news of Jesus is that the gospel can reconcile diverse peoples with one another as well as with God. This is great news for our time. One young Asian accidentally joined an international worship service and saw this deep unity in Jesus. He wondered aloud: ‘What a great God this must be, that people from Africa, America, Europe, China and all over the world worship him together!’
4) God’s heart for the migrants and ours
God’s heart for the nations has always drawn migrants to himself. He has always used migrants to be witnesses to his great love among all the nations and cultures. God is moving so many people around the globe so that they can get to know him. How can we get involved?
Diaspora Steering Group
- Migration Report 2017 Highlights PDF
- For more on this topic of migration in the Old Testament, see M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas), “Diaspora and Mission in the Old Testament”, in Sadiri Joy Tira and Tetsunao Yamamori (Eds.) Scattered and Gathered: A global compendium of Diaspora Missiology, p.100–17.
Will you pray?
- Give thanks for the opportunities for the gospel presented by global migration.
- Pray for local churches, OMF and other organizations to be able to make the most of this window of opportunity
- Could you pray about how you could get involved practically in sharing God’s love with peoples from all nations?