By Tan Kang San & Loun Ling.
The following is from a recent update by our sister organisation, AsiaCMS.
More people than ever are living abroad. In 2013, 232 million people, or 3.2 per cent of the world’s population, were international migrants, compared to 175 million in 2000 and 154 million in 1990. In 2013, South Asians were the largest group of international migrants living outside of their home region. Of the 36 million international migrants from South Asia, 13.5 million resided in the oil-producing countries in Western Asia. In the UAE, 8 million out of its population of 9 million are migrants.
In the Book of Ruth, Elimelech and his wife Naomi were economic migrants seeking food and better living in the land of Moab. However, similar to the stories of contemporary migrants, Naomi suffered the loss of family and future hope. “Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.” (1:5).
While some migrants are skilled professionals, the majority of migrant labourers are hired to do the 3-D jobs (dirty, difficult and dangerous!). Like Elimelech and Naomi, many left their homes and countries to seek better life, but very few nations instituted legal and social frameworks which ensure just structures in welcoming migrant labourers who are cheated and oppressed in foreign countries.
The Book of Ruth holds out the practice of ḥeseḏ (loving kindness) as the ideal lifestyle for Israel. Christians often ignore their responsibilities toward the growing migrant population in global cities. When addressing the issue of migrant communities, churches often reduce their responsibilities to conducting migrant discipleship classes or worship services.
The Old Testament principle of hesed may be an important and rich biblical ideal that integrates Christian responsibility toward migrant communities as doing good, as addressing issues of injustices and oppression faced by migrants, and to love kindness. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness (hesed), and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Reaching the nations through migrant workers in our midst is a biblical mandate as well as an effective mission strategy. The testimony of Maria below is one of many that bear out this truth.
There are tens of thousands of Asian migrant workers from the Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. One of them could be in our home, our workplace, our church.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
Thank and praise God, about 26 years ago while working in Singapore as domestic helper, I was drawn by the heavenly Father to His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to His saving grace. My employers brought me to Grace (S.C.C) Church and I attended English Congregation, Bible studies and later I decided to join the Foundation of Faith class. I received much encouragement from my employers.
Indeed, God’s truth has set me free from wrong ways/practices of worshipping Him. Truly, God is just and righteous that He delivered me from idolatry. Although He allowed me to experience trials (anticipation of persecution from family members, clan and friends), He gave me victory through His words and encouragement from brothers and sisters in Church. I was baptised in 1989. After baptism I was asked a prayer request and my reply was about the need for evangelism back in my home town. From then I was more eager to study His word in order to prepare myself spiritually to defend my faith in Jesus Christ and be ready to go home.
Every day, I had my devotion before work and while doing my work I memorised Scriptures (written in small pieces of paper stuck near to me) until I decided to take a course at the Singapore Bible College inspite of the language barrier. I attended class once a week at night, with the support of my employers. Finally, God confirmed His call for me to go for full-time theological studies. I left to work in Canada knowing that the work there was only 8 hours a day which would give me time to study. When my church in Singapore knew about my calling and desire to study, they decided to support me.
Eventually I returned to the Philippines. By God’s grace, I was bold to share my faith and gave Bibles to my family and relatives. The Lord opened the door for me to study at Doane Baptist Seminary and I graduated after 2 years with Bachelor of Religious Education.
I volunteered to serve in the church in my home town, Cabatuan Fundamental Baptist Church, during the 2 years of seminary training. After a year I was called to work as Bible woman while staying at home with my parents, brother and sisters. My parents have now gone to be with the Lord together with my eldest brother. Almost all the children and grandchildren of my family members attended our Church Kindergarten.
As a Bible woman of the church, I am also the Sunday School superintendent, teacher, and full-time worker in charge of the various church ministries. These include visiting Elementary Schools and Secondary Schools, hospital, prison, prisoners on parole, pawnshop employees, home Bible studies. The Lord has given me a burden to reach many lost souls. Every summer our house is one of the venues for Children’s Vacation Bible School. Sometimes we even have 15 children attending. With all these ministries, the Lord granted me a desire and opportunity to be further equipped through attending a Master’s class. He enabled me to graduate in December 2010.
In my journey of serving Him, God allowed me to go through many trials and challenges. In May 2012, I was hospitalised and had an operation. For 3 months I was unable to work. Grace Church in Singapore again responded in helping me financially and comforting me. After recovery I was more eager to serve Him. I now have less responsibility at the church but am involved with a government programme to help the poorest of the poor by conducting their Family Development Session. Every month I have the opportunity to minister to more than a thousand people from different barangays or villages. My desire to witness for Christ in the 68 barangays of our town is almost fulfilled. All glory and honour to God!