I’ve been privileged to play a small part in the Nepalese Migrant Ministry my church runs. This year I’ve been inspired by what I’ve seen: in their worship, their service, their enthusiasm, their hard work, their communal sharing. Also, I’ve been touched by their giving back to those who’ve blessed them.
Their example cries out to be emulated by other migrant groups in the country.
It hardly needs to be said, but if you’re a migrant worker then you’re an alien in a strange land. This isn’t merely a geo-national fact, it’s also a sociological problem (which Malaysia has of late elevated into an international human rights issue).
You probably don’t speak the national languages very well. You do the jobs the locals don’t want. Because you can’t communicate too good, your learning sputters along. Because your CV will hardly be top-notch (unlike that other kind of ‘migrant-worker’, the expatriate), your future isn’t exactly a shining star.
And you’re far from home. Christmas, under these circumstances, may not feel very Christmas-sy.
This is why the Christmas story, for the migrant worker, may need to be heard (by both migrant and ‘native’) for the hopeful-revolutionary potential it possesses.
Jesus was a heavenly baby of light sent down to embrace, redeem and heal those who would linger in the darkness. To those who didn’t recognise nor receive Him, He was an alien – in a hostile land, sent to be a bringer of hope. We need to inspire our migrant-worker friends to also be hope-healers and peace-makers in this alien-land of Malaysia.
Jesus, like a migrant/exile, was far away from His true home (where His loved ones awaited). We must remind our homesick friends about this!
If, in quiet and kind ways, they consciously seek the welfare cum shalom of the city they live in, migrant workers could start off a sublime coup d’etat of grace. Via hard but creative work, they can be living reminders cum symbols to the locals of the need to embody hope, heal relationships, to forgive. This message can potentially and gradually reverse the sense of under-privileged-ness and hopeless in their hearts, even as it challenges the locals (us!) to ‘see’ them less as “people who need our help” but as “people who, with our help, can heal the nation in a fresh way”.
I recall Tom Hanks’ character in the Steven Spielberg movie, Terminal, an exile in an international airport, bringing new joy and new looks to the people and property. Here was a stranger who sweetened his surroundings. There are many more strangers who could do the same for our country.
This revolution can start (and is probably starting) in the migrant churches we find sprinkled around the cities. The critical thing to do now is to continually remind them of their role as ‘revolutionary exiles’ and equip them with whatever resources they need (spiritual guidance, personal development tools, education, etc.)
We need to help them start a gentle bonfire which they can keep on burning so the country is warmed. The Malaysian community could be enriched and blessed from this most unlikely source. That would be a good Jesus-jab to the powers that be. (It’s also not an unprecedented occurrence, as last year’s news of migrant workers in rural Scotland reports).