SARAH Lewis | January 8, 2022
Most of the time when we talk to people about diaspora ministry they are equally excited for it and confused by it. “What is diaspora ministry?” they usually ask. To be fair, the word diaspora is obscure and has changed quite a bit over the centuries. Originally it referred to Jewish people who were living outside their homelands. You can sort of hear the word dispersed in there, right? These Jewish people were dispersed (often forced) to live in foreign cultures. Then it was used to talk about early Christians who were persecuted and scattered. Eventually it became a broad term referring to ethnic and religious minorities that live outside their countries of origin.
So in our context, diaspora refers to the millions of refugees, immigrants, international students, and businessmen who live as foreigners here in America. And despite many our of own opinions, from a biblical standpoint they aren’t here by happenstance. They live in America because God has strategically dispersed them here:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Acts 17:24-27
I’m not sure if you caught it in there, but God is the One who determines a people’s boundaries. He decides their dwelling places. That means that no matter what persecution, or political upheaval, or dangers; no matter what hopes, or aspirations, or ambitions result in immigration, there is a God behind the movement of people around the globe.
And we even get to know why He does it: so that they would seek Him and find Him. I don’t fully understand the correlation between migration and spiritual receptivity, but there’s something about being a foreigner in a foreign land that launches a person on a journey toward knowing Jesus. Psalm 107 gives us a little glimpse of how that might work:
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Being dispersed can tend to shake a person out of the stupor of familiarity. Being displaced can bring people to the point of crying out to God. But whatever the correlation, there is a Divine intentionality. God lifts people out of their homelands and puts them in a position of vulnerability as foreigners so they will encounter Him. That is the hinge-pin on which diaspora ministry hangs.
People from all around the world land on our shores looking for a new start, a place to belong and a way to thrive. They are often met with either the promise of the American dream, or a cold shoulder. But what if they encountered real hope instead? What if their new start came through a new life in Jesus? What if they found belonging as adopted sons and daughters? And what if they learned what true human flourishing meant?
Diaspora ministry seeks to join God is what He is doing through global migration. It is an exciting way for us to bring the gospel to the ends of the Earth as we recognize that the ends of the Earth are coming to us.