Sunday, April 08, 2007

Should Christians Emigrate?

Bishop Hwa Yung posted a timely reflection on the moral issue of emigration when the going gets tough... Here is an excerpt from the NECF article:

"Most of the time, we allow the negative circumstances around us to determine the course of action we take in life. Often, we fail to begin with God, with who He is – the Lord of history – and of what He can do through His people who trust Him.

The gospel is indeed the power of God unto salvation to those who believe, as Paul wrote. And this is not just in the narrow sense; God’s salvation will necessarily have socio-economic and political implications for the nation as well.

We need to take our eyes off the negative circumstances around us and recognise that if this is where God has called us to be, then He will also make available to us His power, to proclaim His gospel of salvation, to build His church and to transform the society in which we live into something better. We need grace sufficient to grasp afresh such a vision of God.

If this is the vision that we need, what concrete shape will it take? Dr. Isabelo Magalit, a respected Christian leader in the Philippines once wrote an article entitled, "I have a dream."

In it, he spoke of seeing, coming out from the Christian student world of this present generation in East Asia, men and women who truly know God and His Word and whose lives are fully yielded to Him.

From amongst such men and women, he sees many going into full-time ministry as pastors, evangelists and theologians, labouring to build God’s church in East Asia. Others amongst them would enter the professional fields such as law, business, engineering, politics and government, and journalism, and from within these professions exert a positive and powerful Christian influence in our society in Asia, and turn it towards a more righteous and just and godly direction.

Then he sees Christian homes springing up all over the region shining with the glory and beauty of the gospel in the dark world around them. Finally, he spoke of the pouring forth of the next wave of overseas missionaries from Asia into all the world. Towards the end of Dr. Magalit’s paper, he said, "Share my dream. Take your place in it. Stand up and be counted for Jesus."

This is the sort of vision we all need to recapture today."


Chang said...

Full article is here:

Anonymous said...

"I have a dream.... I dream that from student world of this nation will come a steady stream of men and women, who love nothing more than they love Jesus, and hate nothing more than they hate sin.... Our best men are needed not only in the pulpits and in the seminaries, but also in the universities. That is where the leaders of our nation come from and that is where Christians need to be involved if they are really concerned for this nation."
Quoted from "I Have A Dream" by Dr Isabelo Magalit, Associate General Secretary for East Asia, 1972-1982

"Great changes have taken place during the past fifty years, but basic principles remain and need to be emphasized in every student generation. We begin by reminding ourselves of the overall purpose of God well expressed in the words of Ezekiel, 'Then shall they know that I am Lord so I will show greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations' (Ezek 38:23). God is still making Himself known among the nations."
Quoted from "A Light to The Nations" by Dr David Adeney, Associate General Secretary for East Asia, 1956-1968

"When the movement first started, the original vision was usually quite clear. It was evangelistic (including missionary) and it was to create a clearly Bible based witness. It was double battle.... The word that describes this double battle in a single phrase is "Witness". "Witness combines both elements - witness to God's truth in life as well as word and witness towards those who are either unbelievers or Christians who do not hold an orthodox faith...We are, as student movements, A (CHRIST) WITNESS."
Quoted from "The Battles Today" by Dr Oliver Barclay, Chairman of the IFES Executive Committee, 1971-1979

"One of the great dangers of student work, as of many other aspects of Christian activity, is that it may become an institution in which the vision is lost and new generations continue with the motions but without the spirit of the movement. There is a name, there is financial support, there is a program, but people are not possessed by the same visions of the founders. They simply keep a tradition driven more by inertia than by a fresh of direction and the compulsion of the Spirit of God. Eventually discouragement sets in, impetus is lost, and the movement confronts a crisis or what is worse, extinction."
Quoted from "Vision and Continuity" by Dr Samuel Escobar, General Director of IVCF Canada, 1972-1975

jacksons said...

I have had this debate in my CG before I pointed out to them that this line of reasoning;

“and recognise that if this is where God has called us to be”

Is a little faulty because we also hear of God using immigrants and missionaries who began in one place, and recognized that God called them to be somewhere else. Also, I think we need to start adjusting and adapting to this new global village we will live in, where migration will follow jobs and wealth as a matter of basic utility (I mean, its natural to think that people will want to maximize their returns on the heavy investments they made on their ultra expensive educations with the highest paying jobs they can find). Companies will also be moving us Asian workers around, and in some careers – they will be no other options but to take these kind of globe trotting or migratory jobs.

chang said...

methinks the point of the article is not whether it's morally wrong for christians to take jobs that involve extensive globe trotting, but rather, to ask, "Where's the greatest need for the kingdom work? What is God calling me to do?"

That has to be the primary driving concern of the disciple, not just which job pays the most (though admittedly, it's a very powerful 'natural' inclination)...

But again, Kingdom people are naturally supernatural, and supernaturally natural :D

alwyn said...

Actually, I think Hwa Yung does strong imply that it is 'morally wrong' for M'sians to emigrate for security, wealth, future, etc.

"...the question is whether
they constitute a sufficient cause for leaving. I have suggested
that they do not because from the Christian point of view,
leaving for these reasons only solves the problems for myself,
and perhaps, my family
. It does not solve the problem for the
nation, the Malaysian Church, and in particular, for those who
are too poor and unqualified to have the means to leave.

It will mean that in the face of genuine spiritual and socioeconomic needs, which are far greater than those in the West, we turn our backs and walk away like the priest and the Levite
in the story of the Good Samaritan.
By leaving, we leave the country and the Malaysian church in
a state of even greater need than before because often, it is
precisely those who leave who have the training, resources and
ability to alleviate the needs of the country and the Church. If
this is so, then emigration cannot be a viable option for the Christian."

Hwa Yung believes that emigration should be the EXCEPTION, rather than the rule (in God's mind).

Whilst his article is a good reminder to check our motives and priorities, I don't think Hwa Yung means to suggest that our many friends who went over to Singapore and who are now serving faithfully in a S'porean church (and also getting more than twice the real value of an RM salary) has done a 'non-Christian' or oversimplistic thing. I'm sure in a discussion Hwa Yung would be including many more caveats (if only to be less absolute than he sounds in the article). E.g. notice how, in one stroke, he's virtually indicted all the Puritans(!?) - should they have stayed in Britain?

And, as Jackson might no doubt agree, it's not easy to know exactly what a the 'greatest need' for the kingdom is or how 'seeking first the kingdom' plays out in their context (think about it: how would we even RECOGNISE the truth here? In private, let alone publicly)

Nevertheless, Hwa Yung has written a timely - if somewhat overstated -admonition cum conversation stimulant to be good hard isteners and doers of the Word, wherever we are.

Chang said...

Here's an alternative take by Yang Jerng:

Here's something gleaned from the book "Courage and Calling" by Gordon Smith, it has been running in my head...

God has wired us differently and called us to different ministries, and this calling may be discovered by asking ourselves these questions:

1. What are my gifts and abilities?
2. What is the deepest desires in my heart?
3. Where do I personally sense the needs of the world and feel the brokenness in God's creation?
4. What is my unique temperament or personality?

(We may add what does the community says abt our gifts?)

Most of us see the world's needs differently and that is OK... bcos God has planted the burdens in us differently in accordance to what He's calling us to do.

While all of us should evangelise, not everybody is an evangelist who sees the world *mainly in terms of* being spiritually lost and in need of the gospel.

While all of us should help the poor, not everybody is an philantrophist who sees the world *mainly in terms of* being physically suffering and in need of aid.

While all of us should be immersed in God's word, not everybody should be like a teacher-type of person like me who sees the world *mainly in terms of* being fundamentally in need of a biblical worldview?

(Everyone has an objective duty to do all of the above, but not all of us see the needs of the world *mainly in terms of* the same thing)

I think, freedom comes when we recognise this... then we do not compare ourselves with others and feel inferior, or insist that others see the world just as we see it.

This is not to say that we have nothing to learn from each other, but with humility and thankfulness, recognise that God has different callings for different parts of the Body of Christ.

kayanbutter said...

Hmm..dave..our fellow ibridger Jade also post the same post to me for which I replied to her. A little boat shaking email reply to her.,

Interesting article with not very concrete details though as the perspective seems biased towards the author's point of view rather than having a balanced view . Sure the article does point out the highlight of why emigrate but it never really points out the emigrant's perspective.

Here's the reply to suijade.>
Interesting article with quite comprehensive information gathered from a sample but I personally find it a little biased with assumption made on their own rather than interviewing people who migrated.

For instance not everyone who migrated are of rich people status . Many friends I know have to bear the pain of leaving some of their loves ones behind and though they wanted to stay back, it is their parent who send them off , with the intention of allowing them to have a better life elsewhere
I guess it's not fair to see them emigrated to other countries from an outside point of view .We have had yet to see another article from malaysian who have emigrated else where and hear their thoughts about it as moving to another countries having to restart all over again requires a greater faith and trust in God as you have everything to lose and sometimes little to gain.
The author is trying to justify to many people to stay is a little too childish and immature. He sees the number of ppl emigratiing to become a factor of why people stopped serving the Lord, stopped believing in Jesus or have given up Hope on God changing the nation and member drain ,......
Oh well I could be wrong..but I personally felt that was his heartcry seeing so many potential and good christians leaving his church and other churches...
Hehehe just a little critism of the unbalanced view..

michael said...

If it is God that calls you out, then go.

If not, then stay. And make good.

Anything else, is putting our interest above kingdom interest.

Perhaps this is over simplisistic.

alwyn said...

Michael, it's not oversimplistic, just hard to know or be sure of i.e. how can we be certain that God has 'called' not just us, but others who are thinking of leaving? With Abraham and Paul (two examples Hwa Yung cites), it was relatively 'easy'...

michael said...

alwyn, I agree totally with you.

Could it be because we do not have an intimate enough relationship with God, and couldn't hear his voice? Or our lives is not kingdom-aligned enough to see our where we are called?

Joh 14:21 "Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. My Father will love those who love me; I too will love them and reveal myself to them."

I am quite envious at how Brother Yun gets his instructions so clear and unmistaken.

Chang said...


"Hearing god's voice" sometimes seem like a mysterious privilege of only an elite group of super Christians...

I've learnt something tat demystifies this a bit and make it more accessible to mere mortals like us.

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." Buechner

If our whole lives are part of God's providence, then it wud appear that God is already at work in shaping us according to plan

1. What are my gifts and abilities?

2. What is the deepest desires in my heart?

3. Where do I personally sense the needs of the world and feel the brokenness in God's creation?

4. What is my unique temperament or personality?

We may add what does the community (trusted frens and family) says abt our gifts?

God has planted the burdens in us differently in accordance to what He's calling us to do.

learner said...

We could see that God worked differently in two extremes on early Christians in first centuries. For the same purpose: to spread the Gospel

(1) When first Christians settled down in Jerusalem, God sent persecutions so that the scattered everywhere. And where ever they went, the Gospel were preached.

(2) But the Christianity really expanded exponentially after the following event.
When a major plaque struck the city of Rome, all healthy people abandon the city. Leaving the most vulnerable ones, the sick and the poor ( widows, children, etc). Christians are the ones who stayed, exposed themselves to the disease, to take care of them. Many became sick and died too. Such sacrifices fuel the expansion on Christianity.

I recalled one sermon: "Your Identity in Christ: you are a soldier"
When there is danger people will run away from it.
But a real soldier (one who understand his/her identity) is the one who runs into the danger, so that others could run away from it.

jedi said...

[April 20 2007 Edition]

"So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive what is due them for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."
(2 Corinthians 5:9-10)

Commentary: To Go or To Stay?

There was a time when I would be angry at Malaysian Christians who chose to emigrate or who refused to return to Malaysia after their education abroad. Islam was the official religion of Malaysia. It was increasingly difficult for non Malaysian missionaries to enter the country. Surely it was God's will that Christians in Malaysia remain in the country to fulfill the Great Commission. Those who chose to leave were cop outs. I received many invitations to remain in Canada to minister after my theological studies there. The needs there were real. But I had been called to minister the Word in Malaysia. I came home.

I am glad to report that I am no longer that condemning angry young man. (I also need to disclose that I am residing in Singapore at the moment.) I have changed for two reasons. One is my growing conviction that the New Testament is totally against any form of legalism. I now use the preface "you must" very reluctantly apart from clear biblical commands. Secondly I have come to terms with the sheer diversity of God's dealings with His children. His journies for each of us are so different. I repent of any attempt to use my own journey as a bench mark for anyone else. What I need to do is to be true to my own calling.

I have also come to appreciate the many ironies of life. I am a Malaysian because my forefathers chose to emigrate from China in pursuit of a better life. My Christian life had been nurtured by key missionaries and lay leaders who were themselves immigrants from other countries. In the Scriptures I note that most Christian fled Jerusalem when a great persecution broke out while the apostles stayed behind (Acts 8:1b-4). I note that God used both those who had fled and the apostles who stayed behind for His purposes. Life is not that neat and tidy.

Still the question remains: Is there a Christian perspective on emigration? This continues to be a hot topic both sides of the Causeway. Some believe that our default position should be to remain in our own county and to see emigration as an exception to the norm. Some give their own biblical rationale for emigrating. Some do not even bother, believing that emigration is an amoral issue especially in a global world where national boundaries no longer hold the same significance as before.

My own take on this question is to begin with three of Paul's convictions as found in 2 Corinthians 5: 6 - 15:

"Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive what is due them for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade people. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are "out of our mind," as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (TNIV)

1. First is the principle of accountability. We live life knowing that everything we do in this life will be audited at the judgment seat of Christ. (v.5)

2. Next is the principle of gratitude. Because Paul understands the great love that Christ has shown him (v.14) he now lives his life as a big thank you to Him, living not for himself but for the Christ who saved him (v. 12), indeed making his goal in life the desire to please His Lord (v.9). We are called to do the same.

3. Third is the principle of faith. We are to live by faith and not on the basis of the obvious circumstances of life (v.7). Surely this includes choosing not to run away from difficult circumstances because we know the real help that comes from the presence of the risen Christ and the assurance of the ultimate triumph of God's purposes.

Hence any decision in life, and that includes the decision to emigrate or not, must take these principles seriously.

Firstly I do not make the decision as an independent being. I do not belong to myself. I belong to the Lord who created me and who saved me and who will one day ask me to give an account of my life. So I must approach the question of emigration from the perspective of His desire not mine.

Next I struggle with what choice will best please Him. This includes making decisions on the basis of faith and not on the basis of fear.

I know that discerning the Lord's will is more art than science and an art that seems to take a life time to master. And I still believe that God calls different people to do different things at different points of their lives. Therefore we are not to judge others (James 4:11-12) especially on matters that are not covered by direct biblical commands.

What we should do is to encourage one another to be true to the Lord. We are to struggle to discover what we believe is God's will for our own lives and seek to be true to our own callings. And we are to take seriously Jesus' teaching in Matthew 6:25-34:

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (TNIV)

Maybe emigration is not the real issue. The real issue is the issue of faith. Do we really believe Jesus' promises? What does it mean to seek first the kingdom and its righteousness? For ourselves? For our children?
If we have some clarity as to the answers to these questions then we should be able to begin to answer the other questions of life including the question of whether we should emigrate or not.

Your brother,
Soo-Inn Tan

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Rachel Loo said...

I believe what Hwa Yung has failed to elaborate is whether these Christians who migrate are those called by God to be in the mission or those in the marketplace or even those called to serve the church in M'sia. He did make it sound like he has lumped everybody into one category!!!

I used to think it was very selfish and self-centred as Christians to migrate and only think of themselves but I have since changed my mind for a number of reasons :-

1. Just like the prophets of yesteryear, there may come a time where we may all need to migrate somewhere else in order to see God more clearly ( especially with the current Islamisation of M'sia )

2. I do not see anything wrong in migrating if you are called by God to do so for various reasons - Abraham to find the Promised Land, the Israelites to Egypt to avoid the famine and later to return to the Promised Land from slavery

3. History has shown us that not only christians has fled when there are persecutions, war, famine, natural disasters, etc

4. Leaving for another country whether it is for better job opportunities or our children's education is a personal matter between the individual christian and God. Hey, remenber the founder of CK Tang of Singapoer. He came to Singapore from China with only a Bible in his luggage and God told him to buy up the land where CK Tang is today - at Orchard Road. At that time it was a graveyard!!!!

I personally know many M'sian Christians who have migrated overseas. The current principle of Singapore Bible College is an ex-M'sian. So did of course our very own Bro Ong !!!! Hee Hee Hee :-)

Chang Wei Hao said...

while i agree we cant be legalistic about emigration, i believe Bishop Hwa's point is not directed to the practice per se, but the motivations for us to do so ie self-centered ones, instead of God-mission-centered ones. Bro Ong and the SBC principal probably took these factors into consideration rather than just for a 'better life' elsewhere.

On the "persecution" reason, B.H. addressed it like this: "But do these historical facts of “religious persecution” necessarily justify the emigration
movement involving Malaysian Christians today?" Not all of us are in the situation of Joy. So it's not that bad la, still generally got freedom of religion ma.. so he argued:

"we should certainly pray and work through all lawful means to help create a social climate in this nation so that the forces of extremism seeking to remove such constitutional safeguards would be held in check or removed altogether."

I believe in the article, he mentioned that very few people he knew move bcos of missional reasons, most do so bcos of Better life in the West, Personal Fulfillment, Racial factors (NEP), No confidence in govt etc.

Rachel Loo said...

moving for better life - why not ? If God opens the door....

I want to migrate too but I am still waiting for my turn. The Lord says : John 14: 1-4

Chang said...

Perhaps there are other considerations involved in taking up the cross that need to be factored in besides "a better life"? :)

Hannah Yocheved said...

Dear Rachel,
That's a very out-of-context and mangled interpretation of John 14. Jesus was talking to His disciples, and we're there on the night before His death. There's nothing about emigration in there; Jesus (God the Son) is talking about going to God the Father and preparing a place for the disciples. It is only them who follow Him who get this treatment. Are we following Him and in Him?