I had the privilege to deliver one of the key messages at a mission’s conference…somewhere earlier this year. I had been asked to do this over a year ago so this is something I had lots of time to pray and think over. The Lord laid on my heart to declare America a new mission field! Since I was speaking to missiologists1 I put it in terms they could understand.
There are five mission fields in the EFCA divided up by the continents in which we have missionaries. I was declaring America to be the sixth mission field. If you added all the first generation immigrants together in America they would constitute the 32nd largest country in the world…more or less. I called this mission field Samerica. It is what happens when Samaria will not stay put but comes to America: America + Samaria = Samerica, the lost and marginalized in this country that desperately need to know the love of Christ. I appealed to these pastors and missions workers on the basis of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment: love the lost to reach them and reach them because you love them.
The message was well received, but one week later I received a letter with 20 questions, the first of which asked if I was “legal.” One of the others asked if I worked for Obama. You can imagine how wounded I was to hear how they missed the whole point of my message. I started to wonder if maybe he had mistaken my message for another.
Rather than write back, God put it in my heart to set up a phone call with each of us inviting another observer. By the end of the call we were together and on the same page. Essentially he had quit listening as soon as I said we must reach all immigrants. My new friend missed my comments about the gospel, the mission, admitting that some of these immigrants were here illegally and that ministry to the undocumented must be within the bounds of the law. He made an a priori judgments about what I was saying. I made a new friend and we had good time of reconciliation and prayer.
Friends, I know I have talked when I should have been listening. I think it is a plague that is running rampant right now in America like an uncontrolled virus. Let’s double down in our efforts to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. God is at work and we must work where He is working. He must be the first person that sets the grid about how we think about a matter. I would encourage all of us to take the Peace and Civility Pledge published by Jim Wallis in 2011.
I hold Samerica up to you as a mission field that is among us. We are commissioned missionaries to reach them. We don’t need to send people, money or programs over there; they are already here among us. We must quit being like the older brother of the story of the prodigal son. The older brother pointed out his obedience and chafed at the father’s mercy on the errant son. Some of these recent immigrants are errant. While America does have a right to define and defend it borders, that does not excuse us from spurning God grace to them. Maybe we can be God’s instrument to help them get it right with God and Cesar.
Friends, for me this is a great opportunity to share the grace of God to all people in a strange land. A little love, compassion and the respectful way we use our words can be the most articulate theological apologetic for the salvation of God.
I’m an American and I work for Jesus
1Missiologists: Those who study the church’s mission and missionary activity. (Mirriam-Webster)