Author: Dr Sadiri Joy Tira
William Carey lived in a time of tumultuous change; a pivotal time in world history during which paradigms shifted, forever transforming the minds of people. Despite the changes in his world, I doubt that William Carey imagined a future of “flying ships” that would transport people from the “Regions Beyond” to their neighborhood in a matter of hours, as he sailed from London for India with his family in the spring of 1793.
Almost 219 years later, we are living in an era of mind-boggling shifts and shakes! Today, not only are we going "there" to the mission field, but "they"- our mission field are coming here. Also, advances in technology have allowed people to live as though they were both here and there simultaneously. Furthermore, strides in evangelising many indigenous (i.e. native) groups have changed the face of missions.
I love the stories of our missionary heroes. Of William Carey – the Father of Modern Day Missions. I admire him for his faith, courage, and sacrifice, to leave his home and cross the globe for the “regions beyond” to live among the Indian people.
I also hold Ralph Winter, many a missiologists’ distant mentor, in highest regard for his missions mathematics. Dr. Winter, claimed that it is possible to reach the world if we see them as “Unreached People Groups”. Thank you to him and the others who worked tirelessly to define UPGs for us. Their strategy for missions and evangelism was timely and was applied by many organisations.
My journey with Dr. Winter has been three-decades long. I met Winter through his books and articles as a missiology student in the early 1980s. For two decades I embraced his formulations, until some denominations started pulling out their personnel from my homeland, the Philippines, claiming that the Philippines was already reached (according to their measurements). Their personnel were recalled to North America. Others were redeployed to UPGs in the “least evangelized countries”. I began to question the priority of missions as suggested by Winter. So, my disagreement with Winter is – every person (from everywhere) outside the Kingdom is our priority.
Luis Bush coined the term “10/40 Window”. In this "window", we find an estimated 4.49 billion people and the major religious blocks (i.e. Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism). Luis is to be credited for his geographical missions as he studied this part of the world. Today, people from the 10/40 Window are scattered all over the world. Luis Bush’s country of Argentina, for example, is home to over 115,000 Arabic-speaking Arab-Argentines.
Today, the Chinese and the South Asian Diaspora are two of the largest in the world. And who would have predicted the recent political explosion in North Africa, driving Egyptians, Tunisians, and Libyans into exile? The Syrian refugee situation of recent months is staggering. Not to mention the millions of Jews, Africans, Armenians, and Palestinians who have been scattered for centuries, and decades! All of these people are from the 10/40 Window, the area on the map that was known in early Protestant missions as the Regions Beyond.
Many of the diaspora people from these regions are still listed as UPGs, and despite the reality that millions are now living in mega-cities where access to the Gospel is possible, if not probable, many still have not heard of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Just consult the Finishing the Task website at http://www.finishingthetask.com/. Finishing the Task observes “As a group, the individuals resettle in a new place, retaining connections to each other’s culture and their homeland. Unlike some migrants, members of a diaspora retain cultural and religious traditions and attempt to preserve their culture.”
It is key to take into account, according to Finishing the Task, that 30% of the remaining unengaged people groups over 25,000 in population are diaspora groups. Almost all of these groups have an established church in their native homeland. Therefore, there may be evangelical believers who can go to the diaspora group that has been “scattered” to a new location. It is acknowledged that in many of the original homelands, the church is very new and may be struggling for survival.
At the time of Cape Town 2010, Finishing the Task reported that there were more than 60 UPGs in the United States.  More startling is their research indicating that 462,941 Diaspora people representing UPG communities live in the United States -- live near churches, Christian schools, and near Christian neighbours, but with no “one church, no one missions agency... [and] no full-time Christian workers attempting to do evangelism and church planting” among them.
It makes me ask: are we taking a hard enough look at UPGs in today’s reality of motion and change? The fact of the matter is that in 2012, they are over here as well as over there! Are the ones living in the 10/40 Window more a priority than the ones who have found themselves in our reached lands? Are they urgent subjects of evangelism and missions? Are we going to continue debating over the definition of “missionary” that some organisations still insist are “people who must cross cultural borders and geographical lines, and who acquire local languages”?
To shift the focus from traditionally Christian lands. I want to tell you that in many traditionally "resistant" parts of the world (where we have to keep our missionary work discreet) it is diaspora Kingdom Workers who are reaching other diaspora workers who in turn reach out to their "resistant" hosts. We’re talking about Nepalis witnessing to Chinese, and Chinese reaching Indians, Brazilians introducing Japanese to Jesus, Vietnamese and Koreans sharing the Gospel with Indonesians and Slovaks, and Filipinos reaching Americans and Italians. All this while they are away from their respective countries of origin.
In the 20th Century, language and cultural training schools have but several hundreds of “missionaries” or “international workers” enrolled. Yet, community schools offering ESL courses have become lucrative businesses. The point is: diaspora people outnumber missionaries learning new languages and taking cultural adoption courses.
I will write more about this issue, but for now, my summary is: though our times of change are similar, our world is vastly different from William Carey’s. We live now in an increasingly "borderless" world -- with transnationalism, and decentralization, and deterritorialization. We don’t just find Indians in India; Indians – thousands of them, have come to my home – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
I see people from everywhere who do not know the Lord and who are not disciples of Christ. Providentially, God has brought these people within my reach. It was he who “determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live… so that [they] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26,27)
People are still boarding ships. But now the population movements are unprecedented, and the thoughts and ideas that emerge are being passed around both by word of mouth, and by pixels in boxes round the clock, almost instantaneously, leaving no nation untouched. The world has changed. Not only are people on the move but borrowing Samuel Escobar’s phrase, "mission fields are on the move".
Missions is also on the move. Just like Carey, millions of Christ’s ambassadors are boarding ships (i.e. ships on the sea, ships in the air) -- only now it is multi-directional. Last summer I was in Nagaland, India motivating the predominantly Christ-following Nagas to reach their religious giants – Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists, who immediately surround them. I also encouraged them to systematically organise and strategise and train to reach beyond as the Naga Kingdom Builders move beyond their borders as workers and students in our "borderless" world. They reminded me so much of my own countrymen, the Filipinos who are leaving our homeland in droves. In August 2007, Dr. Mary Wilder of Western Seminary said of the Filipinos, “… 100 years ago, the Filipinos were a mission field. Now, they are moving out to take their place in missions, reaching around the world in very creative ways!” Thank God for the "traditional" missionaries who planted the seeds in the foreign lands of India and the Philippines. Thank God too, for the times and places, and the opportunities now given to reach the world through alternate and creative ways. These are exciting times!
Alongside “traditional” Modern Missions strategies, let us go beyond the geographical 10/40 Window to creatively take the Whole Gospel to the Whole World.
 The Joshua Project, “Arab Argentine”, accessed on January 19, 2012 at http://www.joshuaproject.net/people-profile.php?peo3=10375&rog3=AR
 Finishing the Task, “312 DIASPORA PEOPLES WITHOUT A CHURCH: Populations over 25,000”, 9 October 2010.
 Also see Joshua Project, “United States of America”, accessed January 19, 2012 at http://www.joshuaproject.net/countries.php.
Several Christian leaders have been asked to continue the conversation by responding to this lead article. Read their responses and share your own thoughts:
Sadiri Joy Tira (D.Min., D.Miss.) is the LCWE Senior Associate for Diasporas; Vice President for Diaspora Missions at Advancing Indigenous Missions (AIM); Director of the Institute of Diaspora Missiology at Alliance Graduate School (Philippines); and Diaspora Missiology Specialist at the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University College (Canada).