I spend a decent amount of time looking for news and trends on people groups here in North America, but rarely do I find an article as great as this one.
This week, the Houston Chronicle published a story about a family of missionaries who fled from Kazakhstan because of intense persecution and landed in Houston. Now, after two years of government vetting and paperwork, this family has been granted asylum.
The article is a great read, and by the end, you find yourself cheering for this family. Originally Baptist missionaries of Korean decent to Kazakhstan, they are the Lim family and now reside in Houston as missionaries there, reaching Russian-speaking peoples by doing small group Bible studies as a mission of their local church. Just take a moment to let all of those details sink in. In addition to its heart-warming nature, the article is an excellent display of several things we talk about regularly with the Peoples Next Door project.
The Lim’s were missionaries to an area of the world with little-to-no gospel access.
Kazakhstan is a severely closed country. Government-led persecution of believers is harsh and thorough. They actively seek out anyone who may be Christian and shut down operations, often jailing people for their faith. Much of the world’s population exists in these circumstances. These people have little hope of hearing the only news that brings life.
Persecution may have forced them out of country, but it did not force them out of the mission.
While the Lims were forced out of Kazakhstan by the government, that did not take away their passion for the Great Commission. This is so often the case of Christians who suffer real persecution. Many in America would expect that getting into such trouble for trying to share Christ would shut them up. In fact, that is precisely what these governments bank on. They believe that persecution will silence Christian witness. The Lims (along with countless untold stories around the world) prove otherwise. They had a location change, but they did not have a vocation change. “I wish to make something fruitful from my life,” he said. “I want to help make disciples for Jesus.”
The Lims landed in Houston, a US city that is a global mission field.
The article states, “Lim and his family came to Houston - a magnet for immigrants and refugees - on tourist visas in 2014… At the time of the family’s arrival, almost a fourth of the Houston metro area’s population was foreign born. By some estimates, 30 of every 1,000 refugees resettled by the United Nations came to Houston. If Houston were a nation, it would be the world’s fourth-biggest haven for UN-processed refugees.”
That is big news, and while Houston may be at the top of the list for working with people groups in North America, this is true across the country. Global immigration brings these same people from areas where there is no gospel access and places them in the same zip code as your church. They are free to hear the gospel without fear of being jailed, and you are free to share it. The Lims wasted no time reaching out to Russian-speakers here, and we could learn a lesson from them.
Millions of immigrants are here and more are coming. This is a Great Commission opportunity.
The United States is the number one destination for global immigration. There are over 40 million immigrants here now, and there are many more to come. This provides unprecedented opportunities for the Great Commission. However, this article unwittingly highlights a very important point. Many of those who come are already faithful believers. The Lims were not just Christians, they were missionaries who had move to Kazakhstan from Uzbekistan for the sake of making disciples and starting churches. So many of the people coming here are, in fact, already believers and many will have a vibrant faith. This is also an opportunity for the Great Commission. It is a gift from God that we can now work alongside these brothers and sisters for the spread of the gospel. Your local church and my local church should take real steps to do so.
But everyone coming is not a Christian. Notice that the Lims are now working with Russian speakers here in the States, many of which come from areas with little gospel access. There is great need for churches to reach out to these growing populations of unreached peoples. The least-reached are now in arms reach. The Lims are doing their part in their new home to make new disciples among those who had no gospel access. The real question this article poses is whether or not our churches will do the same.