African festivals like this one in Harlem are increasingly common across the United States. Photo credit: James Nova on Flickr
As part of our ongoing conversation concerning the Peoples Next Door project, I am starting a new series on the blog called, “In the News.” In this series, I will draw attention to articles and research that relates to global migration. Every few days, I run across some article discussing the movements of peoples groups. Most are written from a secular perspective, but the information can help us as we look for ways to reach the unreached.
On July 11, The Economist ran a story entitled, “Building Afromerica.” The piece focuses in on Washington, DC as it highlights the rapid increase in migration from Africa to the United States. Groups from African countries such as: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Nigeria, and West African countries are settling in the United States and many are coming from unreached people groups.
- Washington, DC is the “it” city for Africans: “With roughly 170,000 African residents, Washington and its surrounding suburbs have, proportionately, the largest African-born population of any large city in America.” (I would add that these statistic appears to be pulling from census information, which is almost always low concerning foreign-born populations in my own experience.)
- African migration to the US is skyrocketing: “Between 2000 and 2013 – the latest available figures – the number of people from Sub-Saharan Africa in the United States more than doubled, from 690,000 to 1.5m. Since 1980 it has increased more than tenfold.”
- Few foreign-born Africans are illegal immigrants: Many come as refugees from war-torn countries or persecuted areas.
- They are also more educated than the average American: According to the article, in 2013, 35% of African immigrants to the US had a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 30% of the general American population.
Great Commission takeaways:
- These developing African communities should be a priority for church planting: African people groups are strategically moving to the United States and forming enclaves or communities for their society. I spent a year in DC researching this phenomenon, and it bodes well for gospel proclamation. A few months ago, I witnessed a whole “village” from Ghana set up in Columbus, OH. People groups, particularly African peoples, frequently (but not exclusively) form communities that allow them to continue their tradition and culture. These communities result in associations and tight-knit networks. Specific church planting strategies can effectively reach in to these communities, and then the gospel can flow along the connections in the network.
- If your church is engaging an unreached African people group, consider working with them in the US: And perhaps you should start in Washington, DC. With the increase of African people groups in the US, strategies can now be developed for church planting among these groups in the US. They are easier and cheaper to access, and for many churches, they are right around the corner. A church strategy that in includes missionary work in Africa can also include work with those peoples in the US. This opens up many new doors for strategy. Believers can be trained and sent back home, or they can become a welcoming community for others arriving from their country.
- Many are already Christians and need to be seen as partners: While many of the groups are unreached, a large portion of the African peoples coming to the United States are from Christian groups. In fact, many of these groups are establishing churches in urban and suburban centers. While most of these new churches are directed toward reaching their specific group of people, they must be seen as partners. If you live in an urban center in the US, your church should be looking for these African Christians in order to develop relationships with the like-minded groups in order to reach others.