Between 2010 and 2014, the number of immigrants in America rose from 40 million to 42.4 million. Currently 13.3 percent of the U.S. population is foreign born.* These are people who have left their homelands for a number of reasons. This doesn't count the number of international students in your community or people working here on a temporary visa.
An incredible opportunity
We tend to think of Jesus' command to "go and make disciples of all nations" in purely mission-oriented terms. We see fulfilling this commission as heading off to foreign and exotic places to share what Christ has accomplished. And while that’s definitely important, it's exciting to look in our own neighborhoods and see how Jesus is bringing the nations to us.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation are common for transplants to new countries. Even if they can speak the common language, they still struggle with gaps in communication. They have little to no idea where to go for necessities like regular health care or many common things we take for granted. Churches and individuals don’t have to work too hard to build a rapport and friendship with these new members of our communities.
Sending the gospel out
God's plan to pour his Spirit out in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (the Jewish Festival of Weeks) was very strategic (Acts 2). This was one of the most well-attended feasts because the travel conditions were ideal. And exposing Jews from all over the world to this startling move of God would send them home with a story to tell.
Pentecost was the first major Christian missionary movement, and it was about exposing visitors to God at work.
We have the same opportunity in our own neighborhoods. By introducing our transplanted neighbors to the gospel, we're sharing the gospel with their friends and families abroad. And all it requires is that we make room in our lives for them.
It doesn't have to be difficult
At first glance, it might be overwhelming to know where to start in building a relationship with the foreign-born citizens in your city. The reason it feels so immense is because we think about it as one large project instead of as a series of small successive steps.
Does your church have anyone who speaks the language of the people you’re trying to reach? If not, can you find someone willing to do some interpreting? Can your church begin to identify some of the common needs in this community? What little things can you put together to meet those needs? Meals? Laundry services? ESL lessons?
By the way, did you know the "JESUS" film has been translated into more 1,500 languages? We recently created a 24 language "JESUS" DVD which includes the languages spoken at home by 99% of the U.S. population. Offer a "JESUS" DVD to immigrants you meet and see their positive reaction to receiving the film in their language. Reach out to recent immigrants with a "JESUS" DVD, or other Jesus Film Project® resources, in a care package with local phone numbers for various agencies and other helpful goods. These simple acts of kindness can introduce them to the gospel and begin a dialogue about our Savior with these families.
Jesus wants us to remember that "the fields are ripe for harvest." We have an opportunity like never before to introduce the gospel to the nations that God is bringing to our doors. If you or your church has come up with interesting ways to share the gospel with those new to your world, leave us a comment and share it with us!
*Additional statistics and more information can be found at the Migration Policy Institute website.