Annual event provides encouragement and opportunities for training and networking
For one week in February, the Fuller Missions Fair was held on the Pasadena campus. The annual weeklong event, sponsored by Fuller’s All Seminary Council, is designed to equip students with practical tools, perspective, and encouragement as they journey toward missions work.
The fair officially began on Monday night with an opening address delivered by Dean of the School of Intercultural Studies Doug McConnell, and every morning of the week began with a prayer and worship time focusing on the fair’s theme, “Announcing the Kingdom.” An exhibition hall gave students a chance to connect with several different mission organizations, and lectures and workshops given by Fuller faculty and guest speakers touched on topics such as self-care for mission workers, language learning skills, and serving the persecuted church.
One significant talk held as part of the fair was a lecture and panel discussion entitled “Migration as Mission,” given by Juan Martínez , associate dean of the Center for the Study of Hispanic Church and Community “I want to stir the pot about how we look at migration,” Martínez said in his opening comments. Pointing out that most people usually think of the needs of migrants and how they can be ministered to, he suggested that the important question today is: “How are migrants participating in what God is doing in the world?”
Today’s globalized world has people moving back and forth so that migration is happening more than ever. “The reality is that people move,” stated Martínez, adding with a hint of humor, “Rich people move with visas, and poor people move without visas.” This reality naturally affects the church, making it transnational, with new people and interactions all the time. Martínez’s church is one example—20 percent of the congregation relocates every year. “The church is a pilgrim community in constant movement,” he reflected.
Martínez connected today’s increased migration with the missionary movement and expansion of the church in the first century. In today’s similar situation, “it is the migrants who are moving—voluntarily or forcibly—and sharing the Good News.” He explained that migrant missionaries today are “changing the face of the church” as they are committed to the gospel and to sharing it wherever they go. Using the church in Spain as an example, Martínez said that there are more Latin American evangelicals in Spain than Spanish evangelicals, describing how the country’s recent influx of Latin American immigrants have “revitalized the Catholic church and are turning the Protestant churches on their heads.”
Similar cases are found in many countries and regions, as Martínez observed that where the church is most alive, it is usually immigrant-based or immigrant-led. For Martínez, this is an exciting time for the church as it begins to explore the possibilities of migration as mission. “People are crossing cultural, social, ethnic, and linguistic boundaries,” he stated. “And they are taking the gospel with them.”