Author: Sadiri Joy Tira
I had the pleasure of representing the Jaffray Centre with its Foundations for Global Ministry series in Davao, Philippines from July 13-31, 2012. I taught two courses -- one team-taught with Dr. Charles Cook of Ambrose University College & Seminary at Christian Colleges of Southeast Asia-Alliance Graduate School (CCSA-AGS), and then solo, teaching Issues in 21st Century Christian Mission at Koinonia Theological Seminary (KTS). My hosts while in Davao were members of the Ang family, a Chinese-Filipino family who like me, are Canadian citizens.
The first generation of Angs had left the Philippines at the height of the Marcos Martial Law. Disillusioned by the political situation in their homeland, Mr. & Mrs. Michael Ang Sr. had left their thriving business in the Philippines to settle down in Canada. They quickly set up shop in Canada, and slowly and steadily grew their Canadian business venture. Their children were raised in Western Alberta and were university educated in the Canadian system. Decades after setting roots in Canada, Mr. & Mrs. Ang, along with their grown children, and grandchildren, have embarked on an international missions initiative that crosses Philippine and Canadian borders. They operate in both the Philippines and Canada, simultaneously.
I was encouraged by the Ang’s initiative of providing Filipinos with quality theological education via Canadian theological educators, and hosting visiting professors like myself during their teaching ministries in their Davao City home. I was also quite intrigued by their weekly tradition of hosting Wednesday night dinners for distinguished members of the Davao City community for the purpose of outreach. In the Philippines it is very difficult to reach the upper echelon of society, and the Angs have been hosting hundreds of people weekly, in their own natural way for close to twenty years. The global scope of their missions as a family is most inspiring, and only eternity will reveal the impact of their hospitality.
As you can see, the Ang family is a diaspora family who has come "full circle" -- from leaving the Philippines to returning to their homeland to "make a difference", while all along keeping their Canadian roots. Their missions activity is what I would call transnational, or transcending national borders.
The Angs are members of a growing group of, what my mentor, former International Director of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Dr. Ted Yamamori, refers to as "missional transnationals." In May 2012, while visiting Ukraine for the opening of the Diaspora Centre at the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS), I asked Dr. Yamamori what he meant by the "missional transnationals". His reply was, "I do not know exactly, but if I find some time in the future, I will write about this subject. So why don’t you write about it now?" My response was, " I have no idea if there are people who already are writing about this missional transnationals, but I will attempt to describe what we both mean."
The term "transnationalism" is a term originally used to describe a part of the globalization process in economics, referring to the removal of barriers to free trade and closer integration of national economies (Stiglitz). Geographers, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists were quick to adopt the term. The term developed by social anthropologist, Nina Glick-Schiller, transmigrant referring to "persons who, having migrated from one nation-state to another, live their lives across borders, participating simultaneously in social relations that embed them in more than one nationstate" (2003:105) is in line with what we are discussing in this post. Further refined by sociologists, Luis Eduardo Guarnizo, Alejandro Portes, and William Haller, transnationals are "a new class of immigrants, economic entrepreneurs or political activists who conduct cross-border activities on a regular basis."
Missional transnationals, for us, would then refer to "migrants whose missions initiatives regularly transcend borders." This goes beyond the intermittent short-term missions (STM) trips. This is an ongoing cross-border missions involvement. I am referring specifically to Christians such as the Angs who are simultaneously doing ongoing missions "here" and "there". I have some other friends like them.
Ro and Cecille Euroba immigrated, like the Angs, to Canada in the 1970s. They established themselves in Canada as successful professionals; Ro, a mechanical engineer, and Cecille, a nurse. As they built they developed their Canadian identities, they continued to maintain close cultural ties to the Philippines. They read up on local news, regularly visited the homeland, and supported missions causes when opportunities arose.
After raising their two daughters -- quintessential 2nd Generation Filipino-Canadians, Ro and Cecille celebrated early retirement from their jobs. However, just as soon as they had retired, they embarked on a new transnational ministry. They set up a school in their hometown, and devoted themselves to providing the townsfolk with courses on health, public safety, and evangelism and discipleship. Today, they spend half their year in the Philippines, and half their year in Canada.
The Angs and Eurobas are what I call missional transnationals.
Transnationals are on the rise as Scattered People become established in new lands and return "home" to make a difference. Imagine if we could motivate and mobilise these transnationals to join the missional transnational force?
I want to give you an example of what could be. Despite their geographic proximity (Cuba is approximately 100 miles away from the coast of Florida), Cuba and the United States continue to have strained relations, and free travel between the two countries is still limited. What would happen once the borders between the two countries are opened and the Cuban transmigrants or transnationals flood "back home"? Imagine the massive trans-border movements that will ensue. Can you imagine what opportunities could arise if the Americans of Cuban descent are reached, discipled, and strategically trained in evangelism and discipleship? Imagine their roles in Kingdom building, theological education, leadership development, holistic missions, church planting, and even their roles in the political arena as proponents of transformative legislations. Now think of the Chinese, the South East Asian, the African, the Korean, the Latino, the Japanese, the Slav, the Arab, and the Jewish transnationals, ?
The Lausanne Movement seeks to bring the Whole Gospel to the Whole World, motivating, equipping, and mobilising the Transnationals among the Scattered People to take part.
*Photo from http://jaffrayglobal.com/initiatives -- Ang International Education Exchange, angExchange
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).