Mass migration is a concern for many countries today: it is part of both the history and the present of Anabaptist-Mennonites. We have been both those who are migrating and those who are welcoming neighbours to a new home. At Justice on the Journey: Migration and the Anabaptist Mennonite Story in San Rafael de Heredia, Costa Rica, 6 April 2019, presenters from around the world gave testimonies of migration.
“For the LORD is restoring the majesty of Jacob, as well as the majesty of Israel, though ravagers have ravaged them and ruined their branches” (Nahum 2:2).
Relationship is a gift from God, and our God is the God of relationship. God gave us three ways to enjoy this beautiful gift
- By sending his only begotten Son we can enjoy our relationship with God.
- Through the body of Christ, the church.
- Through the human family.
At this juncture I want to focus on family relationships. The family is ordained by God. God has many plans and purposes for each one of us through family.
Unfortunately, the enemy has destroyed and broken families through various strategies like selfishness, lust, materialism and political systems and wars, famine and migration.
No matter what are the ways of the enemy, let us not forget that our God is the God of restoration.
Cooperating with God
We are the people of God. As a church, we are the family of God. It is mandatory to cooperate along with God in the process of restoration.
One good example I can think of is Joseph. His father Jacob was a blessed man of God. Throughout his life, God’s hand was upon him in spite of his faults. God blessed him with 12 sons, and Joseph was the favourite.
We see God’s leading and plans for Joseph at the very early stage of his life to show that God is the God of restoration.
Joseph had to go through a “pit” experience before God lifted him to restore his own family and, through his family, the generation.
In the entire process, we see how wonderfully God used different situations in Joseph’s life to and restore and unite the family.
From the life of Joseph, we learn that caring for strangers and foreigners is a mandatory ministry of every child of God.
Obeying the commandment
It is also the commandment of Jesus in the New Testament. Every church and child of God should obey the same.
The role of the local church is to love and welcome the foreigners in our communities (see Deuteronomy 19:34 and Matthew 25:34–36). Refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people are among the world’s most vulnerable people. God calls us to seek their protection and welfare.
A testimony of family
Here is a story of a refugee who came back to her family through the love and affection of the church.
During the civil war in Sri Lanka between Tamils and Sinhalese, 12-year-old Mala was separated from her family. She was deported to India along with other refugees from Sri Lanka and placed into a refugee camp in Pollachi.
During her stay in the camp, a pastor from nearby church visited this camp to share the gospel. He met Mala who received the gospel. She attended the local church.
In the course of time, the pastor found out that Mala got separated for her family and didn’t know anything about their whereabouts. She grew under the care of the pastor and church for more than 19 years. She got married and has a child.
As she was staying in the church, one of the associate pastors who visited Sri Lanka fortunately met her parents. She was reunited with her family after 19 long years of separation.
Now she is staying with her parents along with her husband and child.
It all happened because of the work of the church. So, it’s the responsibility of the church to show love and affection to displaced people. The church can help to rescue and support many people with stories like Mala’s.
It’s clear that the local churches and leaders have more responsibilities towards this vulnerable community to bring them to the mainstream of society.
—Paul Phinehas is an Asia representative on the Executive Committee of Mennonite World Conference. He is president of Gilgal Mission Trust, an Anabaptist member church in southern India. He spoke at Renewal 2027 – Justice on the journey: Migration and the Anabaptist story – in San Rafael de Heredia, Costa Rica, 6 April 2019. This paper been adapted from his presentation.
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier October 2019.