Author: Sam George
Category: Diasporas, Evangelism Among Children
Most Diaspora ministries are focused on host nation Christians reaching immigrants in their respective countries. They have adopted an ethnic specific approaches or the retired missionaries who worked on those regions of the world where the immigrants come from are involved in befriending these new neighbors. But more need to be done and more Christians need to wake up to the changing demographics of the world as a result of migration.
The children of immigrants are one the most overlooked group of people. They are the fastest growing segment in the United States (might be true in other parts of the world). They do not appear on the radars of many western churches or mission strategists. No wonder they are called ‘hidden generation.’ The potential they hold are immense for evangelization of ethnic minorities and reaching host nations as well as future missionary forces are going to come out of these displaced people groups.
There is no doubt that immigrant life is hard, but the life of immigrant children is even harder. Immigrants struggle for survival, finding work, providing for the family, adjusting to the new world etc. But for children of immigrants, the struggle has to do with the notion of their identity, belonging and vocational commitment. They suffer from double marginalization - first on account of their ethnicity, and secondly due to generational differences. They become a minority within a minority in the multiethnic, multicultural world of the West and this acute marginality eats them up from the inside.
Most second generation young adults feel torn between being ethnic and being American, a predicament shaped by their upbringing in an ethnic household and American socialization. Having grown up in a homogenized culture back in their homelands, the first generation is often unaware and insensitive to the struggles of the second generation in discovering their identities in a new land. Their immigrants parents they are getting too westernized and their American peers think they are ethnic. It is painful to be misunderstood by everyone around you as no one really sees who you really are!
Adult children of the immigrant churches are dropping out at record numbers (seen in many Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Hispanic and Asian Indian churches in US and Canada). They are disillusioned by immigrant religiosity and most ethnic ministries ignore them completely. The first generation becomes deeply entrenched in their childhood faith practices for cultural identification and for a sense of community, but the second generation is showing greater openness to the gospel as a result of assimilation. Another interesting reality is that second generation reaching their immigrant parents.
Reaching the next generation with the Gospel is more strategic for another reason – cross-cultural diffusion. As a result of cultural assimilation, they engage scripture more deeply to make sense of for their in-betweenness, They seek identity beyond ethnicity or language and community beyond food or liturgy. They increase translatability factor of the gospel, which has been critical for Christian expansion throughout history.
Some Christian traditions are more focused on preservation of its cultural distinctive and practices. But the history of Christianity shows that it has continually changed as it embraced new frontiers. In scripture we find numerous examples of how minority second generation advancing the Kingdom like Moses or Paul. Immigrant second generation is carving out a new frontier for the evangelization of the world in the 21st century. Will we raise some Moseses and Pauls for the 21st century?
For more about second generation ministry, please look for my book – ‘Understanding the Coconut Generation: Ministry to the Americanized Asian Indians. www.CoconutGeneration.com