Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ministering Among Nomadic People

“….They agreed that they were no more than foreigners and nomads here on earth.” Hebrews 11:13b

I don’t make a good nomad. There has certainly been a lot of experience living a nomadic lifestyle throughout my life but I like a fixed address, my own bed, my familiar coffee mug, and my favorite swivel chair for my devotions. When we go to a hotel by car you’ll usually see my blanket and pillow in the back seat. According to Webster’s Dictionary a nomad is “any of a people having no permanent home, but moving about constantly, as in search of pasture. A wanderer.” How on earth does one do ministry among people who are either physically, mentally, or spiritually on the move?

We were eating spaghetti and bananas as we chatted about Somalia and the before/after days of President Siad Barre’s rule. Ahmed and Hawa, like thousands of other Somalis, fled to neighboring countries to be safe. Today they are newcomers to Canada. You’d think Ahmed would be focused on getting established in Canada but what he really is primarily focused on is obtaining a Canadian passport so he can visit USA or Somalia. He doesn’t have a job or a car yet nor his citizenship. He appears mentally to already be on the move; like a nomad. It’s hard for nomads to settle down and get established. They are wired to roam and be free and independent. I felt my frustration level rise as I tried to encourage Ahmed to get settled. Here in the west we put our energies into helping newcomers get established and settled – not be on the move. It’s challenging cultivating and maintaining friendships with those who are in a real physical sense planning their next move to another province, state, or country. There’s a sense of urgency in sharing the Good News with physical nomads. Tomorrow they could be gone.

There are people, like Ahmed and Hawa, who are nomadic in a physical sense but then there are spiritual nomads or wanderers also. Fatima wanders about from Islam, to Zoroastrianism, Baha’ism, Sufism, Christianity, Chinese traditional beliefs, New Age, and self-help gurus; always looking for spiritual greener pastures to satisfy her scorched soul. There is an aversion to being spiritually boxed in.

It is not easy for me to minister among physical or spiritual nomads. It’s much easier to share the Good News with Muslims who are settled. In fact, if I pick it up in our conversations that they are in a “wandering state” I’m not sure I want to invest in a relationship. I prefer investing long term knowing a foundation of truth can be built up little by little. It’s taken me decades to be willing to minister to whomever God sends my way, settled or nomadic. I’m still learning to submit, obey, and follow God’s leading. I guess, underneath it all, there’s a faulty belief that God can’t reach nomadic people. How ridiculous, really. God’s Spirit just follows them wherever they go. I can’t follow them, but God can! He's always on the move. So….I will do my part for however long or short that may be.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for the Home you have provided for all people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.