Diaspora Mission – An Old-New Phenomenon
by Jeff Ritchie
Almost 2,000 years ago the Apostle Peter wrote a letter to people whom he called “the exiles of the Dispersion” living in what is now Turkey. Who were these “exiles of the Dispersion?” They were Jews living outside their homeland dispersed among the non-Jewish majority population, and so were called by a short-hand word, “the Diaspora.” These Jews had come to believe in Jesus as their Messiah, and they in turn shared their new faith with Gentiles. The churches to whom Peter wrote were born out of mission among the Jewish Diaspora.
Today the phenomenon of Diaspora Mission is once again a major part of God’s mission to build up his kingdom. Koreans who have come to the United States join Koreans from their homeland in cross-cultural missions all around the world. Iranians living in Europe and the U.S. reach out to fellow Iranian immigrants in their new country and to their people still in Iran. Latinos who have come to the United States are joining fellow Latinos in mission in North Africa, the Middle East, and in the major cities of Europe. A mission in Boston, whose constituency reflects many of the peoples of the world, has trained and equipped people from Europe, Africa, and Asia to return to their own countries as missionaries.
I have previously written about the impact of Diaspora from South Sudan on the mission activity of The Outreach Foundation in the home country of this group of new Americans: To Hear the Voices of Peoples Long Silenced. Today I would like to highlight Diaspora missionaries who are part of the Board of Trustees and staff of The Outreach Foundation.
The Rev. Wesley Porto is a Brazilian-American who pastors a church in Orlando, Florida composed mainly of immigrants from Brazil. The church he has served for over 20 years has an extensive missionary outreach in Orlando, and it supports missions in Brazil, other parts of Latin America, and Africa. Almost every month a mission the church supports is featured in the morning worship. Joining our Board of Trustees last year, the Rev. Wesley has energized our board by his presence. He has been a special encouragement to our missionaries in Brazil, the Rev. José Carlos Pezini and Mrs. Odete Pezini, who are also part of the Brazilian Diaspora, but who now have returned to their native land.
Another board member, the Rev. Fakhri Yacoub, is an Egyptian-American in Richmond, Virginia. He pastors a congregation of immigrants from Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. The Arabic Christian Church has a strong connection with Third Church, a primarily Anglo Church, and each church has been blessed by the witness of the other. As trustee, the Rev. Fakhri has supported The Outreach Foundation’s efforts to come alongside the global mission involvement of the Presbyterian Church in Egypt, particularly as we have worked together in South Sudan.
Mrs. Ebralie Mukarusagara Mwizerwa, a survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and former refugee in Kenya, brings a unique perspective to The Outreach Foundation which she has served since 2003 as Projects Coordinator. Her testimony of her family’s miraculous rescue from death makes her one of the most effective speakers in our mission. Ebralie and her husband, William, also serve African refugees in the Nashville area through a resettlement ministry, Legacy Mission Village.
The Rev. Juan Sarmiento, Associate Director for Mission for The Outreach Foundation, caught a global mission vision in his native Venezuela. Following immigration to the United States over twenty years ago, Juan directed the U.S. office of an international Latino mission organization which sends Spanish and Portuguese-speaking missionaries to the Muslim world. With his wide-ranging contacts in the Latin American mission movement, Juan is helping The Outreach Foundation embrace the reality of Diaspora Mission more fully. For example, he recently shared this with a congregation that had asked him to speak on mission: “Increasingly, the global church is not telling the Western church, ‘We need your help.’ Rather it is saying, ‘We are already involved in God’s mission, and we would like you to join us.’”
This word from the global church is worth serious reflection, especially when the “global church” is found around us in new Americans passionately committed to God’s mission. Mission through the Diaspora of many peoples and nations, is as old as the first century AD, and it is strong and vital in the 21st century. The Outreach Foundation is the richer for our Diaspora Missionaries. May their number increase!