We live in a time of unprecedented human mobility. In 2015, according to United Nations estimates, 232 million people migrated from one country to another.
For many years, immigrants located primarily in urban centers. Now in small towns and rural areas we see multiple ethnicities and cultures.
In Lancaster County (Pa.), 1,630 refugees were resettled from 2012 to 2015. In one town, Elizabethtown, 20-30% of the workforce of two businesses, Longenecker’s Hatchery and Groff’s Meats, are recent immigrants. Not far away, 150 people worship at Habecker Mennonite Church, including 120 Karen (kare-iń) people, a persecuted minority from the mountains of Myanmar (Burma).
Increasingly, the world is coming to our neighborhoods, classrooms, workplaces—and, hopefully, into our churches.
Such assimilation is more easily said than done. And not all churches are doing this well. How can churches move beyond tokenism, cross-cultural ineptness, and prejudice to enfold persons of all colors into the community of faith?
Recently, a seminar (available online by Vimeo) aimed to encourage and assist multiethnic households, churches, and ministries. Presenters endeavored to increase awareness of changing demographics, identify stresses in multiethnic community, and provide perspectives and tools to strengthen cross-cultural competencies.
By informed and helpful engagement with migrant neighbors we ourselves can be the change we want to see in the Church. As we make an honest effort, we can move our local church to honor the image of God in persons of all colors, so that everyone feels wanted and safe in multiethnic community.