A long time ago a man called Jonah was sent by God to a city called Nineveh. After much procrastination he finally made it to the city, and preached the word of God to the inhabitants. The people repented. Since that time there have been communities of devout God-followers living in the Chaldean region of Nineveh, now in modern Kurdistan, Iraq. Those communities have seen empires come and go and have maintained their tradition of liturgical and sacramental worship. Sadly, since the fall of Saddam Hussein they have experienced much persecution from Muslims.
I recently met a woman who was born in Baghdad to a family with origins in Nineveh. Her first language is Aramaic. She and her Egyptian husband have used their respective professional qualifications to serve as Christian missionaries for many years. They served for a decade in a nation on the Arabian peninsula before being excluded from that nation on the basis of their ‘religious’ activities. They have more recently settled in my hometown of Luton, in England.
The church in the United Kingdom has a long tradition of sending Christian missionaries into the nations. I know several whose roots are in my own hometown. Some of the greatest missionary initiatives of the modern era have their origins in the British church. So, it is with some surprise, and yet at the same time, encouragement, that I contemplate the arrival of more and more missionaries from “The Global South” to serve in the West. Some are coming to pastor immigrant Christian congregations. Luton has an international church (http://www.luton-intl-church.org/) which is a spiritual home to peoples from Africa, South Asia and Europe. The pastor was born in Pakistan. At the same time Richmond, where I now live, is home to congregations that serve Arab, Brazilian, Cambodian, Chinese, Hispanic, Indian, Korean, Russian, Sudanese and Vietnamese communities with outreach to many more ethnic minorities. The lady who I recently met, together with her husband minister to Arabic and Middle-Eastern Muslim communities across the United Kingdom.
The church needs to understand this global shift. The migration of peoples is fragmenting communities. At the same time it is giving incredible opportunities for Christians to reach out to the minority, the displaced, the refugee and the newly arrived with the love of God. Missions is a global initiative. There is still a great need for those who are called to go to a people and a place where the name of Jesus remains unknown – at least 180 identified Muslim people groups with populations exceeding 100,000, to name just one of the challenges. At the same time there are growing needs for those who are willing to serve in the post-modern, post-Christian communities of Europe.
The challenges of secularism, relativism and Islamic migration have, in some places, paralyzed the impact of the church in Europe. Marginalized and disregarded by society the community of God’s people now has the opportunity to respond with the proclamation of the good news to communities who once knew the true God but have somehow lost sight of Him in the modern era. May there be many more called from the places that once walked in darkness to come and proclaim the light where darkness has recently fallen. May there be many more Ninevites in our backyards!
 http://www.frontiers.org.uk/thehub/pray/unengaged.php – accessed May 2013 and revised downward with information from IMB.
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