“God began by making one person, and from him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided exactly when and where they must live. God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us.”
—Acts 17:26-27, NCV
Have you ever been forced to leave your home in secret? Under duress? With only the slimmest hope of one day returning? Did you have to pay someone exorbitant fees to get out of your country, to transit another nation (or more than one) as you tried to get into a Western nation? Have you dragged your children internationally in tow, confused, fearful, even hungry? Or maybe not something quite so dramatic. Perhaps you slogged through endless forms, appointments, telephone calls, emails, and hunted down numerous documents, proofs of your story, educational certificates and degrees in order to apply to come to Canada. And then you waited. Hoping. Despairing.
My wife, Conny, often quotes her father, “Do you know you’re holding in your hand a golden ticket?” referring to a Canadian or U.S. passport. He would know. He very well remembered surviving the Second World War as a child, fleeing the two-room house where he and generations before him were born. One fateful day, his dad rushed home, ordered his wife to pile everything of value in the house onto the cart, and leave. In less than one hour. Pulled by a horse. Never to return. Children too small to walk far piled on top. At the end of his life, one of Dad’s prized possessions held in a display case was a brick, old and worn. A number of the 10 children born there returned some years ago and found the old farmhouse in what was formerly West Prussia. Someone smuggled that brick (and maybe more) back to Canada in their luggage. Conny’s mom, too, was dragged in tow from Yugoslavia to live as a refugee for several years in Austria. Her family were finally resettled in Southern Germany. And, unlike her gregarious husband, she seldom spoke of the terrors of those years. Many immigrants today share the same kinds of stories, memories, and feelings. Some talk. But some are still silent.
Canada not only reached its target in 2021 of welcoming more than 401,000 permanent residents, but as a country we surpassed the previous record from 1913 for the most newcomers in a year in Canada’s history.1
Plans for 2022 are set at receiving 411,000 newcomers, with another 421,000 in 2023.2
Let’s be reminded of the obvious: we need skilled immigrants to continue to grow—not just in population, but to sustain and grow our economy. Canada cannot survive without immigration.
Where is God in the midst of all this? And where is the church? More on that in a minute. First, think of this …
Immigrants believe it’s worth using every available dollar to come to Canada. Some sell everything. Others don’t have that luxury, abandoning family homesteads and heirlooms. Even if they have to beg and borrow money from family or from loan sharks—shudder—they do. Fortunately, due to our wide oceans, our borders see fewer life-threatening attempts at entry than other countries. And all of this begs the question for us as Canadians: if they’re willing to sacrifice for Canada, are we? What do we sacrifice for Canada? You might say “Taxes!” yet what we pay in taxes are by and large entirely for our own benefit: health care, roads, schools, etc. Thus, taxes aren’t really sacrifices we make for Canada. And biblically, we’re to pay them too.3
What is God doing with all these people movements across the earth? “Why do they have to come here?” some of our less gracious neighbours moan. What is God doing? Much like what He’s done even with our own lives: the Spirit of our Father God plucked us up like refugees trapped in the dark nation of spiritual death, and with love has granted us His visa by grace alone, transiting us across the border into the kingdom of the Son He loves! (Colossians 1:13).
Why? Because of love. God loves. So He moves people. He moved you and me. And He’s still moving people. He has been doing this since the beginning of time when He moved Adam and Eve out of the garden. And it hasn’t stopped. Paul recognized this and spoke it to the Greek philosophers in the Areopagus. The God of all things, the Creator and Sustainer, He is the One who has marked out boundaries we call nations. He is the One who appointed their times and places. Do you hear the motion in His words? God has been moving people around since the beginning—all for His own purpose. For God does nothing without purpose. “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27). God’s purpose has always been the same—that people find Him.
God’s purpose for us, His church, is still the same too—to find and make disciples of every nation. So God is helping us by moving people our way. Must be He has an agenda and a timeline to meet—His own!
What does this mean for the church in Canada? Immigration is the future of Canada. Immigration is also the future of the church in Canada.
So we ask the question: “Is Canada worth it?” The obvious answer is “Yes!” Yet the kingdom question coming from God’s own heart is even greater: Are immigrants worth it? Yes, they are. They are very much a part of the future of the Canadian church and Christ’s kingdom expansion.
Are you purposely reaching out to those who are new to our nation? How are you intentionally engaging those who are moving into your community? Kingdom growth includes opening our arms, hearts, and homes in practical and caring ways—ways that show God’s love and give opportunity to share the reason for the hope within us.
Charles Hermelink is the ministry development specialist and personnel co-ordinator for Mission Canada, as well as the co-ordinator for its Cultural Language Groups and Neighbours and Newcomers Network.
- Kareem El-Assal and Shelby Thevenot, “Canada breaks all-time immigration record by landing 401,000 immigrants in 2021,” CIC News, December 23, 2021, last updated January 21, 2022, accessed February 8, 2022, https://www.cicnews.com/2021/12/canada-breaks-all-time-immigration-record-by-landing-401000-immigrants-in-2021-1220461.html#gs.obibbw.
- Kareem El-Assal, “Canadian immigration in 2022: A preview of the year ahead,” CIC News, January 4, 2022, last updated January 21, 2022, accessed February 8, 2022, https://www.cicnews.com/2022/01/canadian-immigration-in-2022-a-preview-of-the-year-ahead-0120148.html#gs.obmg8k.
- Matthew 17:24-27; 22:15-22; Romans 13:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:12.
This article appeared in the April/May/June 2022 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2022 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos © istockphoto.com.