By Micah McIntyre
On March 22, Wheaton College announced a partnership between the Billy Graham Center (BGC), the Global Diaspora Network (GDN) and Lausanne North America to form the Global Diaspora Institute, an organization committed to equipping the Global Church to engage with mass migration.
According to the World Migration Report, which was released at the end of 2018 by the International Organization for Migration, international migrants comprise about 3.3 percent of the world’s population. The number of displaced people also reached a record high in 2018 with about 40 million internally displaced peoples and over 22 million refugees.
The report’s findings figured prominently into the creation of the global Diaspora institute. BGC Executive Director Ed Stetzer believes that the Church should use this crisis to serve and interact with many unreached people groups across the world.
“We simply cannot deny the enormity of how God used the Diaspora to spread the work and message of the gospel. It’s at the front and center of our Christian history,” Stetzer said in a press release from Wheaton. “With hundreds of millions of people living and working outside their homeland today, many of them Christian, we have the opportunity to unveil creative ways to reach our world for Christ through those from many cultures and backgrounds.”
According to Wheaton’s press release, the Global Diaspora Institute will work to “equip, connect, resource and mobilize missional leaders in diaspora communities in North America and beyond and help churches in North America to engage with the diaspora and the Global Church.” Sam George, an accomplished missions worker, theologian and a Catalyst for Diasporas for the Lausanne Movement will be the program’s director. Through his work in regional and global diaspora consultations, his position as Catalyst for Diasporas facilitates more conversations around this topic.
Chairman of the Global Diaspora Network, T.V. Thomas told the Record that he believes Wheaton College and the BGC are a natural fit for the institute.
“Wheaton College is globally recognized for decades as one of the prominent citadels of evangelicalism I believe the BGC was established to highlight and reinforce the relationship of faith and practice in Christianity,” said Thomas. “Biblical orthodox convictions must undergird and promote the communication of the gospel to all people everywhere. This includes ‘the people on the move’ who are part of the unprecedented global migration from everywhere to everywhere.”
Junior Grace Gantz worked with refugees in Lesvos, Greece last summer. The community center she worked in was about five minutes away from a camp containing about 8,000 refugees. During the week refugee families were invited to play games, talk over tea and participate in Bible studies held for the various people groups that were represented. Gantz said that more than 70 people came to Christ by the time her program ended. She believes that American churches are not ministering to refugees as well as they could and that organizations like the GDI can play a huge role in preparing churches to reach immigrants.
“From what I have seen in America, individuals look at migrants as someone who is lesser than them because of their circumstances,” said Gantz. “There are so many vulnerable refugees in the area so I think if an organization like that did exist, there would be a lot of potential for the refugees to feel as if they belonged.”
Solidarity Cabinet Chair Jonathan Chen also believes that the Church needs to engage the migration crisis head on and hopes that organizations like the GDI can help churches to do so.
“Christians need to be informed about the migration crisis,” said Chen. “Obviously an organization devoted to supporting immigrants and refugees is extremely important because Christians are called to care for the migrant; it is a gospel priority.”