The Migrant Couple
The Unique Challenges and Opportunities for Migrant Christian Couples
Migration can be a life-changing event that presents both difficulties and opportunities for couples. For Christian couples, navigating these changes is not just about logistics or finances; it is about maintaining spiritual unity and embodying the principles of faith in a new environment. This introductory section aims to set the stage for an in-depth exploration of these unique challenges and opportunities.
Migrant Christian couples often face heightened strains—cultural barriers, language difficulties, and a lack of social support can all take their toll. On the flip side, the experience can also deepen a couple’s faith and resilience, providing a unique setting for spiritual growth. Whether it’s discovering a new Christian community, finding innovative ways to minister, or experiencing God’s provision in unexpected ways, migration can become an opportunity for growth.
This chapter will delve into these facets, offering biblical insights, practical tips, and communal strategies for navigating the unique paths of Christian couples who have migrated. We will explore how couples can cultivate a spirit of unity and mutual support as they adjust to new cultural landscapes, all while keeping their faith and relationship with God and each other intact.
2. Biblical Perspectives on Migration
Understanding Migration and Its Effects Through a Christian Lens
Migration is a recurring theme in the Bible, providing today’s Christian migrants with valuable insights and guidance. From Abraham’s journey from Ur to Canaan, as commanded by God in Genesis 12:1—”Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you”—to the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, guided by Moses, there are numerous biblical narratives that deal with the topic of migration.
In the New Testament, the Holy Family itself becomes a symbol of migration when Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus flee to Egypt to escape King Herod, as recounted in Matthew 2:13-14: “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.”
For Christian migrants, these stories offer not only solace but also concrete lessons. Migration can be viewed as a spiritual journey, an opportunity for growth in faith, or even a divinely-ordained mission. Additionally, the Bible emphasizes virtues that are highly relevant to the migrant experience, such as hospitality and love for one’s neighbor. The Apostle Paul speaks to this in Romans 12:13, saying, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
By understanding the biblical teachings on migration, Christian couples can better navigate the complexities and challenges of moving to a new place. The scriptures provide both a comforting narrative and a spiritual toolkit to help Christian migrants stay rooted in their faith while adapting to new environments.
3. Cultural Barriers and Integration
Navigating New Societal Norms and Beliefs
The challenge of integrating into a new culture while preserving one’s own beliefs and values can be an arduous task for migrant Christian couples. Adaptation is not merely a matter of language or geography; it’s often a deeper, more nuanced process of understanding and becoming part of a new set of social norms, values, and traditions. While Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:22–“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some”–encourage adaptability, they do not advocate compromising one’s faith.
The Challenge of Assimilation vs. Isolation
The dilemma often lies between assimilation and isolation. Assimilating too much could risk losing one’s identity and spiritual foundation. On the other hand, complete isolation prevents effective engagement with the host community, which could lead to a stagnant life and unfulfilled potential. Ephesians 4:14-15 warns against being “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching,” encouraging instead to “grow up” in every way into Christ.
The Role of the Local Church
Integration can be significantly assisted through participation in a local church. The church can act as a bridge, not just between individuals and God but also between an individual and a foreign culture. Church communities are often microcosms of the larger society and can provide safe spaces for migrants to learn about their new environment without feeling overwhelmed or judged. Hebrews 10:25 speaks to the importance of community in stating, “Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The Importance of Open Dialogue
Maintaining an open line of communication between spouses is crucial during this time. Decisions about what cultural elements to embrace or avoid should be a joint decision, guided by prayer and open, honest dialogue. James 1:5 advises, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Dealing with Prejudice and Discrimination
Another challenge that can’t be ignored is the possible encounter with prejudice and discrimination. The Bible teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). By responding to hate with love, and ignorance with patience, migrant couples can be witnesses to the Christian faith, turning challenges into opportunities for spiritual growth.
Language is one of the most immediate cultural barriers that many migrants face. The inability to effectively communicate can lead to misunderstandings and, in some cases, conflict. While learning a new language is daunting, it’s also an important step towards integration. The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9 serves as a cautionary tale about the power and potential division caused by language but also suggests that with God, communication and understanding are always possible.
By recognizing these various challenges and leaning on scriptural wisdom, migrant Christian couples can navigate the complexities of integrating into a new culture without losing their own identity or compromising their faith. The process is neither quick nor easy, but with prayer, patience, and a supportive community, it is more than possible.
4. Language Barriers and Communication
Overcoming Language Differences for Effective Communication
Language is often at the core of effective communication, and any gap in this area can have cascading effects on every aspect of a relationship. For migrant couples, the language barrier is not just a logistical issue; it’s an emotional and sometimes even spiritual hurdle.
The Struggle with Miscommunication
The lack of a common language can lead to misunderstandings that affect not just everyday decisions but also emotional intimacy. Words have power, and Proverbs 18:21 emphasizes this: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” In this context, the inability to accurately express oneself can feel like a type of ‘death’ in communication within the marriage.
The Gift of Tongues and the Spirit
Interestingly, the Bible speaks to the issue of language barriers in the concept of the ‘gift of tongues.’ While not everyone may possess this gift as described in 1 Corinthians 14, the message is clear: communication is so crucial that it is considered a divine gift.
The Importance of Learning and Adapting
One of the most practical steps for overcoming language barriers is for both spouses to make a genuine effort to learn the other’s language. While this is a challenging undertaking, it is one that reaps immense benefits. As Colossians 3:23 advises, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
This is an except from the book “Till Divorce Do Us Part”