Author: Stanley John
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A response to Sadiri Joy Tira’s "The Diaspora Dollar"
The life of a Christian migrant worker is deeply connected to the church in the diaspora. These churches become the center for maintaining social and cultural connections within the diaspora. Migrants in the diaspora church are also deeply connected to the churches in the homeland. The ethnic church in the diaspora maintains transnational ecclesial ties with the parent denomination in the homeland. In many cases the denominational leadership in the home country provides the oversight and appoints the clergy to the congregation in the diaspora.
The transnational ecclesial connection is maintained by evangelists and denominational leaders who travel between the homeland and the diaspora. Along with their ministry of preaching, they update the diaspora congregations on the religious climate and mission efforts of the churches in the homeland. In so doing, the migrant workers are challenged to participate in the mission efforts in the homeland through their prayers and financial contribution.
Many migrants are eager to contribute to the work of the ministry. Often times they see their employment in the diaspora as a blessing from God, even making vows to donate their first salary to the ministries back home. They recognize their visa and employment as an answer to prayer by their home church and family. Thus, they feel a responsibility to contribute to the ministries in the home country. Through their prayers and financial gifts, migrants are able to vicariously participate in the mission efforts of their churches in the homeland.
The visiting pastors and denominational leaders are invited not only to the churches, but also to the homes of the church members. The visit by senior leaders of the church to a member’s home is received with great honor. Growing up in Kuwait, I recall my mother making her special fish biriyani in honor of the visiting pastors from India. I would take my place as the server and would ensure that the guests were well fed. It was considered a special honor to serve seconds to the pastors. The guests were always sent off with a financial gift for their ministries. There was a steady stream of visiting pastors coming from the homeland to the diaspora throughout the year to raise money for various mission efforts. These were very formative experiences for the second generation growing up in the diaspora as it cultivated a missional vision of the homeland.
Dr. Tira has aptly identified the necessity to steward the resources in the diaspora for mission. He calls for an effort to equip the diaspora with principles of stewardship, a missional vision, an evangelistic attitude, and long-term partnerships in mission. Teaching on missional stewardship will equip the diaspora church to invest in the work of the ministry. The guest pastors and leaders can instill a missional vision not only for the homeland but also for their local and global context. Regular prayers for the homeland both at home s well as in the church will instill a great commission mindset in the believers. Lastly, partnership with ministries in the homeland will allow members of the diaspora to cultivate long-term relationships in which they can together enjoy the fruits of the ministry.
Stanley John is a member of the Indian diaspora born and raised in Kuwait. He is enrolled in a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. His research focuses on holistic mission by Kerala Pentecostal churches in the diaspora. He is an adjunct faculty member at the Institute for Diaspora Studies at Alliance Graduate School of Theology in Manila, Philippines.