Seasonal Migrants: Temporary Contract Workers

Seasonal Migrants:  Temporary Contract Workers

 Sadiri Joy Tira (D.Min., D.Miss.)

Today I went to a quiet park (in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) to observe and take pictures of migratory birds.  This park is a nesting and breeding ground for birds coming from south of the Canadian border, as far away as Central America.  They fly thousands of miles to reach their destinations, descending on Canadian fields and woodlands, during spring and summer months, but they are only seasonal.  By late autumn, these visiting fowl fly back to their warmer “homes”.

I went to the park to watch seasonal birds, and I ended up speaking to and interviewing two seasonal migrant workers — Miguel from Honduras and Arturo from Costa Rica.

Miguel and Arturo came to this park armed with large hedge trimmers and diesel lawnmowers.  They are from two different countries, but both speak Spanish and “broken” English.  They are both married and have children still attending elementary schools.  According to them, there are about 300 seasonal workers from Latin America “scattered” in several Edmonton parks.  They work from 0800-2000 hours – from sunrise to sunset.  Back home, these workers are employed in haciendas of wealthy countrymen.

After engaging Miguel and Arturo for a brief talk, I noticed they had lunch boxes, so I asked if I could join them for their half-hour lunch break.  I went to the nearest Subway outlet and bought three 12” tuna subs and three bottled waters.  Then I returned to share lunch with my new acquaintances.

The next thirty minutes were more revealing.  Each one took turns to share their stories, struggles, and hopes.  Both wanted to buy their own properties “back home”, so they would not be separated from family “again.”  Specifically, Arturo expressed a desire to open a cyber-internet business in his barrio.

Then we talked about hobbies.  Arturo asked me if I liked the Canadian sport of hockey.  He also asked me if my son plays soccer.  I asked if they had any days off.  They said only on Sunday.  “What do you do on Sundays?” I asked.   They said that when they first arrived in Edmonton, they would attend church, but they said they didn’t understand the homilies, because the homilies were in English.  Now, instead of going to church, Miguel and Arturo spent their little earnings to call their families, because they both are “very lonely in Canada.”

After 30 minutes, Arturo told Miguel:  “Let’s go back to work or our boss will find out that we are talking to “a stranger”.”  I noted that they were under strict supervision.

I suggested that we meet again the following week.  They said, “Yes, good.  But we do not know if we are assigned to work in this same park again.”  “Oh,” I replied, “here is my mobile number.  Call me Miguel and Arturo.  Call me any time.”

As my new friends walked away, I thought, “Jesus loves them and their families back home.”  Miguel returned to ask me.  “Hey amigo – you are Filipino living in Canada?  Do you like “Manny Pacquiao?  Good Filipino boxer!  He is now a born-again Christian?”  My reply was “Yes, I am a Manny Pacquiao fan!  Like Pacquiao, I am also a Christian.  Next time, I will tell you more about Pacquiao and his best friend, Senior Jesus Cristo.”  He gave me two thumbs up.

Miguel is interested about the world renowned Filipino Boxer – Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao?  Perhaps, I will ask a local church to sponsor a boxing night to watch the Pacquiao vs. Marquez epic bout.  What follows is important:  invite a Christian athlete from the Athletes in Action to share his personal testimony and journey to the Kingdom.   There is also an idea in my head about reaching out on the soccer fields.

From this experience, I noted the following:

  1. Who is the “stranger”?  Natives see migrants as “strangers”.  However, migrants also perceive people in host countries to be “strangers”.   Paradox!  We are, indeed, all strangers to each other.
  2. Seasonal migrants are lonely and longing to be welcomed.  Let us not be afraid to smile, talk and even buy them lunch.  The entrance to the Kingdome of God begins in dialogue.  Jesus engaged Nicodemus, Zacheus, Matthew, the Samaritan Woman, etc.
  3. Contextual evangelism is more of contextual communication.  (Missiologists spend so much time debating this “Gospel into context”).  What is the context of these two gardeners?
  4. It seems, in North American evangelical circles, there is a greater emphasis on evangelizing the people coming from the “10-40 Window” and who represent the traditional “Unreached People Groups” (UPGs) (e.g. ethnic Muslims, ethnic Hindus).  However, in our “borderless” world of mass migration and borderless communication, we must not underestimate borderless “ripple effects”!  These older missions strategies were designated for a time of limited travel, and while they are still relevant (i.e. while millions are moving, millions are not.  Read Dr. Miyon Chung’s response to my post on “Regions Beyond —, we must read the times and respond to new open doors – the wide access granted by communication and travel.
  5. Anyways, who is a priority of the Gospel?  The Lausanne Movement’s motto is: “The Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World”.  Everywhere, anybody who is not a follower of Jesus Christ must be the subject of evangelism by the Whole Church.  The priority of Christian missions is to bring people, regardless of their ethnicity and/or religious background into the Kingdom.  It doesn’t matter where they come.  It is relevant that we pour resources into reaching the multitudes of Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhist, but what about the people like Arturo and Miguel?  Are they not a priority too?

Watching migratory bids can become a meeting of strangers on the move:  Arturo, Miguel, and Joy Tira.  To be theologically on track:  only the Holy Spirit can orchestrate such a divine appointment.

Recently, I was travelling from Toronto.  Eighty percent of the passengers on the Air Canada flight were seasonal migrants.   What would happen in their distant homes, in their haciendas, and in their homelands if they were to befriend strangers who ultimately introduced them to Jesus Christ?  Just imagine if many of Canada’s seasonal gardeners came to know Christ who is the most tender and loving gardener?

Last thought.  I just gave my private phone number to two strangers?  Is that a great security issue?  Can I trust God to protect my interests for his highest glory?

 Sadiri Joy Tira (D.Min., D.Miss.) is the LCWE Senior Associate for Diasporas; Vice President for Diaspora Missions at Advancing Indigenous Missions (AIM); Director of the Institute of Diaspora Missiology at Alliance Graduate School (Philippines); and Diaspora Missiology Specialist at the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University College (Canada).

**This article was originally posted by the Lausanne Movement’s Global Conversation in May 2013.

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