Archive for the ‘Migration’ Category

Campus ministry is increasingly taking on an international face, in a strategic and opportunistic adaptation to the Global Current of Migration.


Millions of students are traveling to other countries for educational purpose, in dramatic proportions.  China sent more students to America than any other country in 2011– 157,588 of them, for an amazing increase of 23% from 2010.  The number of Chinese foreign students around the world rose from 179,000 in 2008 to 284,000 in 2010. Most of the Chinese students studying abroad are now self-funded by their parents, a 180-degree shift from just a few years ago.   This reflects the dramatic growth of China’s middle class.


The top five countries sending students to study in the US in 2011 were China, India, South Korea, Canada, and Taiwan. Number six was Saudi Arabia, which saw an astonishing 44% jump in one year! Meanwhile, Indians studying in the US declined 1%, reflecting a general trend among Indian nationals who are choosing to return to a more robust economy in their home country. This figure shows just how fluid Migration is these days, with a constantly shifting, back-and-forth flow of people based on countries’ changing economies.  To that point, while 20% of the world’s international students are studying in the United States, in 2001 that figure was 28%. This reflects an emerging proliferation of educational hubs in other countries around the world, and also the struggling US economy.


There are many ministries to international students, but one on which I’m especially bullish is International Students Incorporated.  ISI’s workers have been coming alongside international students for years, helping them with transportation, apartment-hunting, home-cooked meals and friendship.  They’ve exposed their intrigued foreign guests to various aspects of American life, including church and faith communities when appropriate.  In this way the foreign students, even as they’re so focused on rigorous academics, are also finding nourishing friendships and spiritual growth.


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In a recent article entitled, “The Global War Against Baby Girls,” http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-global-war-against-baby-girls Nicholas Eberstadt writes about a “still-growing international predilection for sex-selective abortion.” In simpler words, that means that moms and dads are aborting their babies based upon the child’s gender. More specifically, parents are aborting baby girls… resulting in millions upon millions of missing baby girls.


Over the course of the world’s history, statistics show that 103-106 boys are born for every 100 newborn girls. This “sex ratio at birth” (SRB) is going haywire, though: some Chinese towns now report 123 boys for 100 newborn girls, for an alarming SRB of 123. Since 1979, China’s official one-chid policy has caused mass feticide of girls by parents who want a male child. These super-high SRBs are also enabled by China’s universal and unconditional abortion availability and its widespread and inexpensive obstetric ultrasonography.

Mass feticide is a horrible worldwide trend reflecting shared global values, an example of what I call “Monoculture.” In addition to China, East Asia’s four “Little Dragons” (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan) report troubling SRB increases. Other countries seeing increases are Vietnam, India (SRBs as high as 120), Albania, El Salvador, Philippines, Libya, Serbia, Austria, Cuba, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Portugal and Spain.


And this evil tale gets worse, because of another Global Current — Migration. Because of China’s high SRB, brides are in short supply.  Chinese men look to neighboring countries, therefore, for imported young women. A literal market for women is created, feeding a robust flow of trafficked young girls from Thailand, India, and Burma. “Brokers” in those countries are buying, coercing, and kidnapping girls with promises of jobs and economic opportunity…  only to sell them to husband-buyers.


The world’s population is on the move like never before.  Trafficking –whether for military, brothels, or sweatshops– is the human face of Migration.  Until this pointin history, evils and ills of one country might have stopped at the border–but no more. Now, the global economy, mass marketing, and shared values ensure that both good and bad trends spread.  And, in our age of Monoculture, America is also affected…as trafficking spreads rapidly in cities of all sizes. It’s a small world, after all

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Short-term mission trips are all the rage– whether secular or religious, domestic or international, several days or several months.  The trippers range from middle schoolers to college students.  It’s no wonder that today’s younger generations are so attuned to global justice and mercy, since watched epidemics, tsunamis, cyclones, earthquakes, bombings, and revolutions played out every night on their TV screens.

Christians, too, are increasingly eager to serve others in distant places — to travel there and be Christ’s arms and legs.  This is mostly a positive trend…but there are also some downsides.

There are many articles about how STMs perpetuate western imperialism, and I think many of them are unfair or overblown. But I’ll list just a few of the more obvious negatives: free labor or products can eliminate jobs that would provide living wages for local workers;  free labor can create (or perpetuate) local dependency on outside support;  and, the artificial, rushed foreigner-local relationships fostered by STMs can perpetuate longstanding, negative stereotypes.

I suggest three simple alignment questions for short-term mission trippers — questions which might help bridge the visitors’ attitudes and methods with the locals’ expectations and needs.

1.  Assume that your STM team is not the first to visit that community.  This assumption prompts visitors to be sensitive to hosts’ past experiences and memories.  In most cases, locals have already been thoroughly exposed to western brands and values.    In some cases, you’ll be following in the steps of much-loved Christians who preceded you…and some times you’ll be following Christians who were culturally insensitive or even despised.  And, the locals will rarely be frank with you about these issues.

2. Remember that you’re providing services and teaching which they can also get from other sources.  This reminder helps visitors to remain realistic about what they attempt, and humble about their impact.  Rarely do STM trips go to places completely unreached by the Gospel, so visitors are often building upon a foundation laid by others.   By God’s grace, your team’s words or deeds may indeed be used to foster conversions or even revival… or you may simply be advancing the cause for others to complete.

3.  Assume that you or your team will be back.  This assumption frees your team from pushing its agenda too hard, and reminds you to be sensitive to the locals’ receptivity.  It is a good reminder for visitors to focus on relationships and not try to force results.

I’m a fan of STMs.  That is why I hope these simple attitude-checks will help to foster richer ministry and better experiences, both for the visiting team and also the locals.

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All too often, churches and mission agencies utilize ministry approaches that are time-tested…but also aging and dated.  The premise of The Meeting of the Waters is that the rapidly changing world demands new and flexible ministry projects.  And, as the world’s rate of change escalates, ministry solutions must be flexible.

Urbanization is one of the profoundest trends today, requiring innovative ministry responses. Fortunately, some of missions’ most storied people and institutions are facing up to this challenge.  This includes organizations with whom I have extensive personal knowledge and great respect, such as Fuller Seminary, International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and InterVarsity.  In “Urban Urgency,” their efforts are described, and Rev. Bob Roberts describes the challenge perfectly:

The world is connected, and what breaks my heart is that we are doing 21st-century missions with an 18th-century mindset and methodology,” said Bob Roberts, pastor of Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, and an advocate for “glocal” ministry. “The heart of the spread of the gospel has always been in cities … since the days of Jerusalem and Antioch and Rome and then London. It has not changed, regardless of where the agencies have focused. Cities are central.

To see the full article quoted above click here:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/august/21.14.html

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When people think about the Global Current of Migration, topics like immigration, linguistics, anthropology, and border crossings come to mind.  The Atlantic magazine provides a different perspective, though, focusing on the trend of Americans moving back into the cities.

This trend involves more than Gen Xers and Millennials rejecting suburban sprawl and seeking a better nightlife.  Atlantic calls is “a structural change” and “a major shift.”  Real estate prices are rising in cities, and developers are beginning to start more construction project.  As cities’ populations and wealth surges, there are strong signs that crime is decreasing, even as some poverty-related problems seem to be leaking into the suburbs.    Interestingly, many suburbs are starting to create more “walkable space” to give their areas a more urban feel.

A structural change is under way in the housing market—a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work. It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes. And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.

As these new Migration patterns takes shape over time, how is the church going to adapt?  Will followers of Christ reach out to cities, or will we continue in (what Rev. Tim Keller identifies as) a longstanding suspicion and distaste for cities?  In 2010, for the first time, more than half the world’s population lives in cities.  Perhaps we should reframe our visions of missionaries to site them in slums, rather than in jungles?  Mission experts like Ray Bakke, Chris Heuertz, and Bob Lupton have long taught about the importance of ministering in urban environments. It’s clear that now, even laypeople like me and suburban churches like mine must get very serious about it.

To view the entire Atlantic article click here:  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/03/the-next-slum/6653/

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