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WELCOMING THE STRANGER: INSIDE IMMIGRATION JENNY YANG & MATTHEW SOERENS.

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Presentation on theme: "WELCOMING THE STRANGER: INSIDE IMMIGRATION JENNY YANG & MATTHEW SOERENS."— Presentation transcript:

1 WELCOMING THE STRANGER: INSIDE IMMIGRATION JENNY YANG & MATTHEW SOERENS

2 A Missional Opportunity The Great Commission compels us to share the gospel with people of every nation – Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. – Immigration brings the nations to our doorsteps – Migration advances God’s Kingdom in multiple directions Those who do not know Jesus—with a nominal faith or even from an entirely unreached people group— understand the gospel for the first time in a new country Those with a vibrant Christian faith bring it with them to their new country, reviving churches and sharing the gospel with those who do not know Christ

3 A Missional Opportunity The movement of people is not an accident, but part of God’s plan to draw people to himself – Acts 17:26-27 (NIV 1984) From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him – But many churches are missing this divinely- appointed missional opportunity, because too many North American Christians see immigration as a threat – Our attitude toward immigrants—whether one of welcome and love or fear and scorn—will impact how the gospel we proclaim is received

4 A Missional Opportunity The total number of international migrants has increased over the last 10 years from an estimated 150 million in to 214 million persons today North America and Europe have received more than half of the newcomers: As of 2010, about a third of all international migrants live in Europe, and nearly a quarter reside in North America.

5 A Missional Opportunity Indeed, among the 159 countries with populations of 1 million or more, the United States ranks 26th in the percentage of residents who were born abroad. By comparison, first-generation (foreign-born) immigrants make up more than 20% of the population in Australia (ranks 12th) and Canada (ranks 13th), two other countries that historically have attracted a large number of immigrants.

6 A Missional Opportunity Over the past ten years, the USA has seen an unprecedented number of immigrants coming to its shores. In 2011, there were of a total of 1,062,040 persons granted legal permanent resident status. 481,948 of them (45.4%) were new arrivals. Although the USA ranks 26 th in the percentage of residents who were born abroad compared to 159 countries (with populations of 1 million or more), in terms of sheer numbers, the USA receives more immigrants than any other country.

7 A Missional Opportunity Many people come to the USA to study. There were 723,277 international students at U.S. colleges and universities during the academic year. The USA also admits humanitarian migrants, and including refugees fleeing. In FY 2011, the USA admitted 56,424 refugees. It’s also estimated that 17,500 people are trafficked

8 A Missional Opportunity “ 86% of the immigrant population in North America are likely to either be Christians or become Christians. That’s far above the national average… The immigrant population actually presents the greatest hope for Christian renewal in North America… This group that we want to keep out is actually the group that we most need for spiritual transformation… We shouldn’t see this as something that threatens us. We should see this as a wonderful opportunity.” - Dr. Timothy Tennent Missiologist & President, Asbury Theological Seminary

9 A Missional Opportunity A Missional Opportunity… that most North American Christians are missing –Just 10% of evangelical churches in the US have any sort of ministry or ministry partnership focused on refugees or other immigrants (Hartford Seminary Faith Communities Today Survey, 2010) –Among churches actively reaching out to immigrants, generally only a small fraction of the congregation is engaged

10 A Missional Opportunity Why are so few North American evangelicals seeing this missional opportunity? – Likely because many have accepted a cultural narrative that sees immigration as a threat Most white evangelicals say immigration “ threatens traditional American customs and values” and that immigrants are “a burden on our country” (Pew Research Survey, 2010) – And few think of immigration from a biblical perspective Just 12% of white evangelicals say that their views on immigration are primarily influenced by their Christian faith

11 A Missional Opportunity Only 16% have ever heard about immigration from their pastor —even though the Scriptures have much to say on the topic Among white evangelicals who have heard immigration discussed by their pastor, more heard a negative message than a positive But among white evangelicals who have heard a positive message, only 26.1% see immigrants as a threat, compared to 50.7% of all white evangelicals (Based on analysis of Pew Research Survey data by Ruth Melkonian-Hoover, Gordon College)

12 A Missional Opportunity White evangelicals who worship alongside immigrants are far less likely (19.6%) than those without relationships (50.7%) to view immigrants as a threat But evangelical churches in the USA are still largely segregated ( 92.5%)

13 A Missional Opportunity This failure to embrace immigration as a missional opportunity is not a uniquely American failure of discipleship – European Christians are more likely than non-religious Europeans to want to restrict immigration (according to European Social Survey), even though many of Europe’s largest & most vibrant churches are led & comprised of immigrants – Costa Rican Christians are often wary of Nicaraguan migrants, whom many see as a threat to public safety, economic wellbeing, and public health – In Kenya, many Christians see the arrival of Muslim Somali refugees as a threat – In the mostly-Christian Mizoram State of India, Chin refugees fleeing from persecution for their faith in Burma are viewed as illegal immigrants

14 A Missional Opportunity Our attitudes and actions toward immigrants has an enormous impact on how immigrants hear the message of the gospel, for the Great Commission. Christ’s command to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19) – is “not just to be assumed or to be taken for granted. It has to be explicitly and constantly reminded. ” – Scattered to Gather

15 The Major Stumbling Blocks Economic Cultural Legal Status 1 John 4:18 (NIV) “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”

16 Economic Worries Biblical Truths – Matthew 6:25, 33 (NIV) “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Luke 10:27 (NIV) “… Love your neighbor as yourself unless it is not in your economic interest to do so.”

17 Economic Worries The Facts – Immigration has a positive impact on the American economy as a whole and on most individual Americans 44 out of 46 economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal said that illegal immigration, in particular, had “been beneficial to the economy” Immigrants bring some economic costs, but they bring more economic benefits, contributing as – Workers (typically in jobs that complement those done by US citizens – Consumers (immigrants are about 13% of the US population) – Taxpayers (75% of undocumented immigrants pay payroll taxes, according to Social Security Administration, and they contributed $12 billion to Social Security in 2007 alone, though ineligible for benefits)

18 Cultural Concerns Biblical Truths – 1 Peter 2:11 (NIV 1984) “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world…” – Philippians 3:20 (NIV) “But our citizenship is in heaven…” – Revelation 7:9 (NIV) “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

19 Cultural Concerns The Facts – Immigrants bring cultural values that most evangelical Christians should celebrate Compared to US citizens overall, for example, Hispanic immigrants, for example, are – More likely to attend church on a weekly basis – More likely to be pro-life Immigrants are known for a strong work ethic – Immigrants are 12.5% of US population but 15.8% of labor force – 96% of undocumented adult males are employed, much higher than for either US citizens or authorized immigrants While it takes some time, almost all contemporary immigrants learn English fluently within a generation – 88% of second-generation Hispanic immigrants speak English fluently

20 Legal Status Issues Biblical Truths – Romans 13:1(NIV) “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” – Romans 12:2 (NIV) “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Leviticus 19:33-34 (CEB) “When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them. Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt.”

21 Legal Status Issues – A slight majority of the undocumented are from Mexico, but there are undocumented immigrants from every country, including: 2 in 9 Korean immigrants 1 in 6 Chinese, Vietnamese, & Filipino immigrants 1 in 7 Indian immigrants

22 Legal Status Issues The Facts – Immigrants enter or overstay unlawfully because, in many cases, there was no lawful possibility for them to enter Until 1882, there was no illegal immigration because there was no federal immigration law There was no need for a visa until the 1920s But now, immigrant visas are available through four basic paths – Family – Employment – Refugee Status – Diversity Visa Lottery Many do not fit into any of these categories… but still find work when they arrive

23 Legal Status Issues The Facts – Immigrants enter or overstay unlawfully because, in many cases, there was no lawful possibility for them to enter Until 1882, there was no illegal immigration because there was no federal immigration law There was no need for a visa until the 1920s But now, immigrant visas are available through four basic paths – Family – Employment – Refugee Status – Diversity Visa Lottery Many do not fit into any of these categories… but still find work when they arrive

24 Legal Status Issues Many evangelical leaders advocate Immigration Reform that would address these fundamental problems in our visa system and restore the rule of law, which Romans 13 commends to us Comprehensive Immigration Reform would – Make it harder to immigrate unlawfully – Make it easier to immigrate lawfully To meet needs of U.S. labor market and economy To keep families together – Allow the undocumented to come forward, pay a fine for having violated the law, and earn permanent legal status and eventual citizenship over the course of several years

25 Evangelical Immigration Table Paul Cedar, Chair and CEO, Mission America Coalition Jim Daly, President and CEO, Focus on the Family Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association Luis Cortés, President, Esperanza Richard Land, President, Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners George Wood, General Superintendent, General Council of the Assemblies of God Bryant Wright, Former President, Southern Baptist Convention Alec Hill, President and CEO, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA Gregory C.V. Johnson, President and Founder, Standing Together Jim Liske, CEO, Prison Fellowship Ministries Alejandro Mandes, Director of Hispanic Ministries, Evangelical Free Church Jim Mellado, President, Willow Creek Association Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Richard J. Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University Danny Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

26 Two Contrasting Biblical Responses to Immigrants Pharaoh of Joseph’s Time Recognized that an immigrant—Joseph—could bring opportunity and blessing to his land (Genesis 41) Responded with welcome, offering the best of the land (Genesis 47:6) Pharaoh of Moses’ Time Saw immigrants as a threat to be feared (Exodus 1:9) Benefited from immigrants’ labor while despising them as people (Exodus 1:11-14) Eventually decided that some would have to go—instigating a genocide of male Israelite babies (Exodus 1:22) But some of the foreigners subverted the law (Exodus 2) and resorted to deception

27 Two Contrasting Historical Responses to Immigration Why should [immigrants] establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens who will shortly be so numerous as to [change] us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion? — Benjamin Franklin, 1751, referring to the German immigrants “invading” Pennsylvania The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we shall welcome to participate to all of our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the employment. — George Washington, 1783, addressing a group of Irish immigrants

28 Responding to the Missional Opportunity P rayer L earning E ducation A dvocacy S ervice E vangelism

29 Responding to the Missional Opportunity Prayer & Learning – Text “G92” to to learn about the “I Was a Stranger…” Challenge For yourself, for 40 consecutive days, commit to prayer and to reading one Scripture passage per day about God’s heart for immigrants Ask your church to do the same! – Come to tomorrow’s G92 workshop—”Thinking Theologically about Immigration,” with Matthew Soerens and Lisa Sharon Harper—at 2 PM in America’s Center Room

30 Responding to the Missional Opportunity Learning: – Get involved with Organize a G92 on YOUR campus! Visit G92.org & sign up for updates Like “G92 Movement” on on Talk to or Daniel Watts, G92’s coordinator, at for ideas on mobilizing your campus Attend a G92 conference – Spring 2013 conferences in Texas, Minnesota, and Colorado

31 Responding to the Missional Opportunity Education – Mobilize your campus and/or church to join in the “I Was a Stranger…” Challenge Download a toolkit at G92.org – Lead a small group through the “Welcoming the Stranger” Learning group Online at for purchase or free digital download Includes 9 sessions focused Scripture, mission, undocumented immigrants, refugees, and foreign-born victims of human trafficking, among other topics

32 Responding to the Missional Opportunity Advocacy “On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., April 1967)

33 Responding to the Missional Opportunity Advocacy – Contact your Representative, your Senators, and the President to advocate for just policies Visit go.sojo.net/campaign/ccir to find out who they are and send a message in minutes Consider asking for a meeting—and then ask your elected official to also participate in the “I Was a Stranger…” Challenge – Text “G92” to – Receive advocacy s, action alerts

34 Responding to the Missional Opportunity Service & Evangelism – Welcome immigrants into your community Look for opportunities to volunteer with newly-arrived refugees or other immigrants Visit to find a World Relief office near you or visit our exhibit

35 Responding to the Missional Opportunity Go Deeper – Websites G92.org – regularly updated blog, basic info on immigration, films, experiences, conference info & registration, & more – includes 9-session Learning Group guide for free download or purchase – includes an Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform signed by many prominent Christian leaders

36 Responding to the Missional Opportunity Go Deeper – Book Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2009), by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang

37 Q & A Follow World Relief


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