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"A Wandering Aramean Was My Father"
Migrants As Theologians
Welcome to my newsletter, “Global Witness, Globally Reimagined,” where I dream about mission in a postcolonial world. Every week, I share one thought that has spoken to me in the week, a resource I trust will be helpful to you, and three exciting quotes about mission. I pray one of these will energise you in the coming week.
1. Thought I Can’t Shake Off
Deut. 26:5 wouldn’t let me go this week. A wandering Aramean about to perish was my father. The wandering Aramean (or Syrian) here is Jacob, but the text could also speak of the patriarchs, including Abraham and Isaac. All followers of Christ are—in the faith—sons and daughters of these perishing fugitives. There is no other route. God’s call to Abraham set him out on a journey that hardly ever came to an end. He spent his life looking “for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). In this process of wandering, he became the friend of God. Both Isaac and Jacob experienced their own displacements and dislocations to get to know God. Jacob, especially, met God twice, while away from the familiar contexts of home. Israel itself, as a nation, was born in the context of displacement. As it happens, God wants Israel to always remember that they were once strangers in a foreign land, (Ex. 22:20; Ex. 23:9; Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:19; Deut 23:8; Deut. 24:22). Of course, the story of Israel’s migrations forms the skeleton upon which the story of the entire Bible hangs. In the New Testament, Christ’s disciples are called strangers and sojourners (1 Pe. 2:11), perpetually decentred, waiting for the city. This got me wondering: Why is migration so critical to the story of God’s love for humanity? What if we really experience God in the context of our decentredness, dislocatedness and marginality? What if, indeed, God draws people on the move into a friendship with God? Would our understanding of God shift if we paid attention to the narratives of migrants? Could migrants be theologians? What does it mean to talk about the Migrant God (of the Immigrant) in the current context of the 21st-century world of walls? I have in mind here the many migrant Christians, Africans, Asians, who traverse the world bearing testimonies of God’s greatness but never get avenues to share them with others. What if, indeed, God often speaks to us through the stranger? Too many questions, I know.
2. Resources I am Enjoying
In this conversation that brings together the subjects of migration and mission, the Old Testament professor, Daniel Carroll, helps us reflect on how we can respond to the strangers in our midst and the possible missional lessons we can learn from that interaction. The scholar reiterates the reality of the missional migration of people who once resided in regions receiving Western missionaries in the 19th and 20th Century, and how these migrants are now redefining missions in a constantly changing world and global village. As Carroll suggests, by “getting to know people,” the host community can learn a lot of missional lessons from these migrants. Indeed, a mutually enriching relationship, even from a missional perspective, is possible, where we all affirm one another and God’s revelation within our diverse contexts.
3. Quotes I am Pondering
If mission means moving outwards with the intention of cultivating the gospel message where it is non-existent, migrants are especially well placed to carry out this task. — Asonzeh Ukah.
Mission is God’s, but we are also participants. Our role is to do everything that the church is sent into the world to do: preaching of the Gospel, healing of the sick, caring for the poor, teaching the children, improving international and interracial relations, and attacking injustice. — Faith K. Lugazia
Abraham’s migration has a missionary aspect. It is to be a universal blessing, with benefits reaching far beyond his kin. — Andrew Walls.
I pray that you have a missionally faithful week.