America is changing. I know this statement sounds clichéd, but think about it for a second. The U.S. population more than tripled during the 20th century. In fact, a report in August 2008 from the U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2042 non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up the majority of the population. This is a revision of earlier projections that this would occur in 2050. The new global face of America is a bi-racial man (President Obama). America is changing—and FAST!
In the midst of all of the changes swirling around us in our great nation, there is a huge opportunity for Kingdom expansion—if we’re willing to look at our ministry methods and make the necessary adjustments. Millions of immigrants representing literally every nation on Earth have moved into American Cities, suburbs, and rural areas in pursuit of a better future for their families. As the immigration population continues to expand and grow, what are some practical ways that God’s people can engage these new communities for the Kingdom? Here are a few ideas:
1. Learn. No, seriously. Get on the Census Bureau Web site and find out who the new people in your city or town are. Once you know who they are, click over to Wikipedia and really find out about them. What is their homeland like? What are their values? What about their culture could cause their transition to America to be a challenge (maybe language barriers, or a different view of women and/or children than ours)? Knowing your audience is critical.
2. Revisit God’s word. God’s Word is full of stories of immigrants. Abraham, Moses, David, Mary, and even Jesus were all immigrants at some point in their lifetimes. God is deeply concerned about the “foreigners” (immigrants), and he gives us specific instructions about how God’s people are to embrace them. After you know your new neighbors, see what God’s word says about them.
3. Introduce yourself (and your family if you have one). It is intimidating enough moving into a new community where you’re in the minority. Add language barriers, cultural differences, and other differentiating factors to the mix, and the thought of talking to strangers could cause anxiety or panic. So be the first to extend God’s love through a “hello.” It’s a huge first step.
4. Educate your neighbors, youth group, and church. This is hard work, but you can actually have a huge influence on how a whole community accepts immigrants by simply sharing what you’re learning and experiencing with those in your sphere of influence. You may even become the local “go to” girl or guy in your community.
5. Stay engaged. There may be awkward moments. Immigrants sometimes learn about American culture the hard way (by making very visible mistakes). Be gracious. Be forgiving. Don’t judge; help! Stay in the relationship with your new neighbors. A little grace goes a long way!