Are diaspora in (whatever place) reached or unreached?

Dear Justin,
I work with the diaspora in (x place), an unreached group…

Whether a specific diaspora group is ‘reached’ or ‘unreached’ is an interesting question that encapsulates some of the challenges with the definition, and measuring it.

Remember, when we use ‘unreached’ in the technical missiological sense, as defined in the Chicago meeting, it means: ‘a people group lacking a church that can evangelize the group to its borders without cross cultural assistance.’ Or, to boil it down succinctly, a reached group is one where the locals can do the job without outsiders.

‘Reached’ doesn’t mean outsiders are unwelcome, morally shouldn’t be there, or have nothing of value to contribute. It’s strictly a statement about the capacity of the local church.

So, are diaspora peoples reached or unreached?

The first challenge is asking about the people group itself. Take, for example, Somalis in America. Are we to consider them a distinct people group on their own, with their own culture? They share language with Somalis in Somalia. The Somalis in Somalia are clearly unreached. Does that mean the Somalis in America are, too?

One way to answer this is to ask whether the Somalis in America have an indigenous Somali church capable of evangelizing the Somalis-in-America group to its borders without assistance. If not, then the group is ‘unreached.’ If yes, then the group is ‘reached.’

There may be times when the home group is one status and the diaspora group is a different status. For example, many Iranians in the United States are Christians who have fled Iran. I don’t know the specific situation that well, but it’s possible that Iranians in America may be “reached” while the ones at home are “unreached.”

The reverse could also, in certain instances, be true, I suppose–if a group of unbelieving people from a people group that is marginally Christian are found in a place that is very non-Christian – for example, say atheist Americans in Saudi Arabia – who are cut off from any Christian influence because of their language, then its theoretically possible for them to be unreached. That’s more an armchair exercise; I can’t think of any situation (except very small possible pockets) where that might be the case.

A slightly ‘grayer’ area would be diasporas that rotate in and out – for example, international students. A student may only be in the United States for a limited time. Is he ‘reached’ while he’s here, and ‘unreached’ when he returns home? (Saudis studying in the United States spring to mind). And if he is to be ‘reached’ here, how do we do that – how do we plant a church amongst the Saudi students who are here which continues to reach all the Saudi students as they cycle in and out?

That takes thinking outside the box. I’m not sure there’s necessarily a ‘certain’ and ‘correct’ solution. I would more quickly go for the simpler and more obvious solution: Saudi (and all international) students ought to be invited into American homes, befriended, cared for, welcomed, helped. That might not be ‘reached’ in the technical sense, but it would be ‘reached’ in the active sense.

Global Cities: Present and Future 2014 Report

Global Cities, Present and Future
2014 Global Cities index and emerging cities outlook
A. T. Kearney, downloadable PDF, iPad, Kindle.

Important report. But the PDF is only a downloadable summary; it does not include the individual indicators per city.

Top 20 Cities
New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Chicago, Beijing, Singapore, Washington, Brussels, Seoul, Toronto, Sydney, Madrid, Vienna, Moscow, Shanghai, Berlin, Buenos Aires.

Top 10 Emerging Cities
Jakarta, Manila, Addis Ababa, Sao Paulo, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, Mumbai, Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur, Bangalore, Beijing, Johannesburg, Kolkata, Istanbul, Cape Town, Chennai, Tunis, Dhaka, Caracas.

Probably, these are the cities that would form the bulk of an updated Gateway Cities list.

The “Human Capital” index takes into account the size of foreign-born population and so is a measure of diaspora. Business activity looks at among other things the number of top global companies in emerging countries.

Diaspora Scale

Diaspora Scale:
+0 little migration or tourism, expats often “strange” and “unusual”
+1 Some local tourism, resorts, vacations, occasional foreign tourism
+2 Much foreign tourism, semi-permanent internal migrants seeking work
+3 Major border-country/regional traffic hub, diasporas often seen
+4 International (other regions) migration, business, illegals
+5 Top, global destination for migrants, tourists, business

+1 would be for local tourists (and some foreign). +2 is more where foreign tourism begins to get into play, and foreign business. +3 means you’re seeing significant internal migration and migrants from surrounding countries. +4 means that if your in Asia, you’re probably seeing migrants from all over Asia and some other regions (Africa, Europe). +5 is the top of the top, a hub for business, pilgrims, tourists, migrants, the works. +5 probably wouldn’t be assigned to more than about… 1% of cities?

Reaching the Diaspora: how mission to the nations among us fits the big picture

The nations are coming to us. Some are coming to escape oppression at home, some for work, some to study, some to take advantage of opportunity, some to move their money. In this incredible wave of migration, individuals from some previously staunchly unreached peoples have moved right into the same neighborhood as Western churches.

Obviously, we need to reach out to them, and encourage others to reach out to them as well. But we need to hold some things firmly in view as we do. This week, I hope to explore some of these issues, and look forward to your feedback.

1. Just because they come from an “unreached” country doesn’t mean they are non-Christians. In fact, the fact that they moved to a more-Christian region may mean better odds that they are less like their homeland. For example, there has been a mass exodus of Christians and more liberal, secularized people from the Middle East. The Iranian down the street from you may in fact be a Christian, not a Muslim.

2. Different segments of the Diaspora have different positions in society, and may only be here a limited time. Strategies ought to take this into account. Consider the different categories: visiting professionals, students, entrepreneurs, migrant workers, asylum-seekers, illegals, and the trafficked. Each of these are in significantly different situations which require different approaches. These different types may equally have different levels of influence or connectedness back to their home culture.

3. Multiple generations of a diaspora acclimate to be more like the culture around them, requiring different strategies. You’ve probably had the experience: you hear Indian parents talking, and they sound like Indians; but then their children start talking to you–and they have the same accent as your kids. The first generation (who immigrated in) will have one set of cultural ideals (perhaps a large family, or trouble specking your language, for example); but their children and their grand children change, adopting the local language and cultural norms. Reaching the older generations will likely require a completely different strategy than reaching the youngers.

4. Reaching the diaspora requires some training in cross-cultural ministry. You would not go to the foreign mission field without some level of training and preparation. Understanding worldview and culture is as important to reaching the diaspora as it is to reaching the least reached in their home countries.

5. Reaching the diaspora “here” does not automatically mean impacting their home culture.Think of the Persians of America and the Persians of Iran. Reaching Persians in America may lead to some connections to their families in Iran–or maybe not. It’s not an automatic given that the Gospel will flow over that distance. It may be more likely with students and other itinerant workers who return home. Another situation is the person who goes to a foreign country, builds a business, gets rich, and then has influence back home.

6. Reaching diaspora peoples in Christian countries can be good training–provided the community you are engaging is similar to the one you’ll be working with in their homeland. Reaching a 5th or 6th generation Korean American, for example, may be little different from reaching any other American, and tell you next to nothing about reaching Koreans in North Korea. (Do they even speak Korean?) Obviously, there are communities where life is lived mostly like the culture they left behind.

7. Reaching the diaspora does not solve the problem of the unreached. There are over 200 million first generation migrants in the world (see this Economist article). There are over 2 billion unevangelized individuals who have no access to the Gospel. Even if all the diaspora were unevangelized (and they’re obviously not, see #1 above), they would only represent 10% of the challenge (and the easiest 10% at that).

We obviously should reach the diaspora among us. And it would be very strategic to not only reach them and disciple them, but equip them to be disciple makers if and when they should return home. But we need to keep in mind that diaspora ministries are only one of the strategies in our ministry toolbox.

Additional Resources

International migration 2013 statistics. From the United Nations. 213 million migrants worldwide. Includes wallchart, Excel tables, graphs.

EthnicEmbraceUSA.net
. Focused on the USA, it is nevertheless a model for mapping and mobilizing to reach diaspora peoples. The site features links to a variety of resources.

REACHDFW.net
– Dallas, TX: a citywide collaborative model for diaspora mission.

CityReaching Diaspora Initiative
: Diaspora information is posted regularly at this Facebook page.

Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration and Mission.” J. D. Payne. Explores the trend of global migration and suggests practical guidelines for ministry.

Gather: Embracing the Global Trend of Diaspora.” J. D. Payne. PDF download.

Lausanne – http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/home/diaspora

IJFM 30:3, Dancing with Diaspora
. 4 articles in this issue.

Reaching the Nations in your Community
. Mission Frontiers, December 2012.