The African Diaspora (Part 2): What We Can Learn and Biblical Principles
In Part 1, we looked at the African diaspora and four biblical figures from which we can learn. Today, we seek to apply some biblical principles to the reality of the diaspora today.
Stay Close to God
Although Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah were far from their homeland, they were not far from God. They were people of prayer who made sure their relationship with God was fresh and current. Nehemiah and Daniel prayed regularly and before every important decision. Prior to interpreting the king’s dream, Daniel and his friends prayed.
His powerful prayer is recorded in Daniel 2:20-23. Daniel regularly prayed three times a day “giving thanks to his God” (Dan. 6:10). Before Nehemiah approached the king about returning to Jerusalem, he said, “For days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4).
Staying close to God through prayer is vital. When planning to leave your country of origin—whether for an opportunity or because you are forced to do so by circumstances—bathe your decision in prayer, asking for God’s wisdom and protection. The Lord can iron out obstacles and difficulties that could arise at any point of your journey.
One step that will help an immigrant stay close to God is to join a strong, Bible-believing church in the new country. Take the initiative because fellowship with other believers will be a great help. If you are able, connect with Christians of your host community to help you integrate into your new home.
Avoid taking illegal actions, no matter how expeditious or attractive they might be. If you emigrate through illegal means, you will continue to be confronted by situations to justify your residence in your new county that do not honor the Lord. You might be forced to lie or engage in relationships that are built on falsehoods.
Think very carefully and prayerfully before making a decision that could put you in a compromising situation. Be careful who you engage to assist with immigration issues. Many ‘consultants’ use illegal methods and can ruin your ability to travel internationally. Disobeying just laws of a country is disobeying and dishonoring God.
Immigrants Can Bless Their Host Countries
Your host country will be blessed if you have the courage not to make compromises when cultural practices, habits, and values in your host country conflict with your faith. We are to be salt and light in the new land (Matt. 5:13-16). Remember Paul’s advice: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world” (Rom. 12:2). Make your home country proud of you.
Daniel and his friends lived this out in Babylon when they refused to defile themselves with the king’s food (Dan. 1:8-20). Joseph incurred the wrath of his boss’ wife and was imprisoned when he refused to give in to her sexual advances (Gen. 39:6-20). And although the Jewish girl, Esther, had become queen, she remembered her origins and had the courage to confess that she was a Jew.
We also have responsibilities to our new land. We are there to bless a new community as if it were our own. We must work hard, pay our taxes, study hard, and show ourselves worthy to be residents of a community that has offered us help and a new start (Jer. 29:7).
In addition, we have values that we can teach to our host country. Our hospitality and spirit of sharing and community can be an example to those in our host country, especially in those societies marked by individualism and indifference. Our example can be an opportunity to share the power of God, as Daniel’s friends found out (Dan. 3:28-29). Let us not forget that when we see positive, godly values in our host countries, we should recognize them, learn them, and put them into practice. As others can learn from our cultural values, we too can learn from others.
We can be a witness for God in our new land. God wants his people to represent him in the world, speaking the truth (Eph. 4:15), sharing the gospel (Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Peter 3:15-16), standing up for what is right (Hosea 12:6; Matt. 10:18-20; Ephesians 6:13-17), visiting the lonely (Matt. 25:35-36; James 1:27), caring for the needy (James 1:27, 2:15-16), and bringing healing, hope, and love to all (John 15:12, 17; Rom. 12:10; 1 Cor. 13:13-14; 2 John 1:5-6).
When Paul was in Rome, a foreign land, he told the Colossians to “pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ” (Col. 4:3). Certainly, Joseph, Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel all stand as powerful examples of those who both worked to bless their new land and took courageous action, even in the face of death. Like Esther, you may have been placed in a unique situation “for just such a time as this” (Esth. 4:14). When far away from home in a new land, you can be God’s voice to those around you and make a powerful difference for him.
Immigrants Can Bless Their Home Countries
Nehemiah’s story reminds us of an immigrant’s responsibility towards his or her home country. The African diaspora is made up of people with rich and varied skills. If they were to remember their own people, Africa could see great blessing and progress. An African Christian medical doctor, although living and practicing in France, decided to set up a medical center in his home village. The center was opened, and the people from the village now benefit from it. Because of this new medical center, they are able to be treated close to home and no longer have to travel long distances for medical care.
We must learn to play our part in contributing to the development of our native countries. Instead of criticizing our homeland’s leaders, we should think about ways to help. Like Nehemiah, we should be prepared to face opposition, but we can be confident that with patience, determination, and the grace of our Lord, we can succeed. Our joy will be great if, at the end of a project, we can say that we accomplished our work and kept our hands clean of corruption and bribery.
Some of us will be called home to work and bless our native land for the remainder of our years. Are you asking God if, like Nehemiah, the skills and resources you have acquired abroad should now be used for your own people in moving back home?
Ronald, from East Africa, worked as a successful leadership trainer at one of the United States’ leading training centers for business. He learned skills in teaching, organizing, and leadership. He felt called by God to return to his country and start a sports business, training and discipling both nationally known athletes and youth in his home district. This required faith, finances, and hard work, but Ronald’s skills made him an effective and powerful force to influence the future of athletics in his home country.
We Must Avoid Arrogance
At times, people who go overseas return with an arrogant or superior attitude, as if they know more than those who have not travelled. Traveling abroad gives a person greater exposure, but it does not replace the wisdom of Africa, nor does it relieve returning Africans from the need to practice rules of respect and decency. Be careful about coming back with ‘all of the answers’ while ignoring the opinions of those who have remained at home. It is always better to err on the side of humility.
Points to Remember
- God can bring people to distant lands according to his will and purpose. Often, he does this through persecution. God’s ultimate purpose for his people living in a new country is to live out and proclaim his kingdom.
- Many of God’s people through the centuries have remained faithful to God no matter what pressure or persecution they faced in their new land. Stay true to both your Christian and African values. Teach your children to do the same.
- You did not emigrate to fulfil your own wants and desires; you are in a new land to bless and contribute to the society God has placed you in. Learn the language, work or study hard, obey the law, pay taxes, respect the people’s values and culture, and work for the good of the land you are living in. Remember, this new country does not owe you a debt; you owe them a debt for taking you in.
- Work to bless your home country however you can, but do this with a humble and respectful attitude.
Dr. John Jusu, Africa Study Bible Supervising Editor, was born in Sierra Leone. He earned a master’s degree in Christian Education, master’s degree in Philosophy, and PhD in Education. He has served as Dean of the School of Education, Arts, and Social Sciences and teaches in the Educational Studies Department at Africa International University in Kenya. John also works with Overseas Council as the Regional Director for Africa. He and his wife, Tity, have three children, plus 24 children rescued from distressed situations for whom they offer full-time care.