Should I Emigrate? : A Christian Perspective

28 Jan 2014 by Lim Poh Ann –

 

SHOULD I EMIGRATE?

                   
Stay put or emigrate? A biblical perspective of emigration

                

Grass fence
Grass is greener over the fence?

 

Migration is as old as the hills. Hard times had driven our forefathers from distant shores to our nation. Many landed here with just their clothing on their backs. And we are grateful to them that we can find a place under the Malaysian sun.

Today the migratory wave continues, albeit for different reasons. Various push and pull factors have caused Christians to contemplate emigration. Some are unhappy with the way our country is being run while others bemoan the declining standard in schools.

And so these bright professionals, businessmen and entrepreneurs leave the country, thinking that a more comfortable lifestyle and other benefits—social security, better jobs, educational opportunities and healthcare—await them in a foreign land.

Many feel that God has called them to settle in more advanced countries such as Australia, UK and the USA. Why? Is God less compassionate towards poor countries such as Laos or Myanmar?

Though we can serve God anywhere, there must be a reason why God destined us to be born in Malaysia (Acts 17:26). We should be grateful that we live in a multiracial society with a rich culture. Our beaches, hill resorts and delectable array of food draw tourists from all over the world. Seldom hit by major natural disasters and endowed with abundant natural resources, our country is indeed blessed.

Let’s allow scripture to percolate through our minds as we consider the issue of migration.

 

WHY PEOPLE MIGRATE

 

Caravan

 

Migration is a recurring theme in the Bible. Abraham obeyed when he was called to go to a land of promise. By faith, he left home, unsure where he was going. Jacob and his family moved to Egypt because of famine. Joseph fled for safety to Egypt with Mary and the child Jesus, being warned by an angel of Herod’s evil intentions. When Jerusalem fell, Daniel was taken captive to serve the king in Babylon. Persecution caused believers in the early church to be scattered, thus advancing the cause of the Gospel.

Unless relocation is a response to a definite call of God as in Abraham’s case or it has been forced upon us due to famine, persecution or other extreme factors, we really need to think hard before uprooting ourselves.

Are we facing famine like in North Korea? Is our economy in shambles like that of Greece’s? Are we anywhere close to a banana republic or war-torn Syria?

In my opinion, we should maintain the status quo—stay back—until God calls us or extreme factors push us. The question “Should we stay put or emigrate?” should be replaced by something more fundamental: “Do we sense God’s definite calling to relocate?”

 

KINGDOM VALUES

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Turning to the Lord’s Prayer, we find that “Thy kingdom come” precedes “Give us this day our daily bread”. Let’s seek to advance His kingdom first. Let’s commit our fears and anxieties to God for He knows our needs and promises to meet all of them (Matthew 6:33, Proverbs 3:5-6). Why be so anxious about our future?

Isn’t making life choices about honouring God? We have to let God lead. We are no longer in the driver’s seat: “LORD, I know that people's lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

Some believers even advise their children not to return after completing their studies overseas, thinking they have a brighter future there.

When we allow various push (such as crime) and pull (such as educational opportunities) factors to cloud our thinking, we are starting out on the wrong footing. Neither a knee-jerk response to adverse factors nor a desire for greater comfort and security should drive us to emigrate.

 

IS BLESSING EVERYTHING?

 

pathways-report_img_9

 

Though obedience often comes with blessings, the path He would have us tread is not necessarily one marked by blessings. The ultimate determining factor is not blessings but God’s will (Luke 9:23, Luke 12:15).

When Lot surveyed the land, his physical senses told him he should move to a well-watered, productive area (Genesis 13:10). But what seems appealing to the eyes may not reflect the Spirit’s leading. And those led by the Holy Spirit are the sons of God (Romans 8:14, Acts 16: 6-9).

Moses cherished God’s presence—even more than blessings—in all his endeavours. If God’s presence did not go with him, he would not advance towards the Promised Land (Exodus 33:15).

 

PROS AND CONS

 

pros_cons

 

It is wise to discuss the pros and cons of emigration with those who have relocated or returned home after a stint overseas. If possible, spend a month abroad to experience what it means to live in a foreign land where we would have to make new friends and adapt to differences in culture, climate and cuisine.

Problems at home might be replaced by other challenges in the new environment. Do you have any qualms about letting your children watch adult content on TV? Can you live with laws against child abuse which forbid spanking your children? Think you have been unfairly treated at home? Be prepared for discrimination of a different kind. A financial controller in Malaysia had to become a bookkeeper overseas. Are you used to having maids and gardeners at home? Be more self-reliant when you move.  

 

WHERE THE NEED IS GREATER

 

image-27

 

Besides calling, need is another important consideration whenever the issue of relocation crops up. Though a need does not necessarily constitute a call, we should honestly ask ourselves whether the needs are greater at home or the place we intend to relocate.

If we perceive our nation is going downhill, shouldn’t we be part of the solution instead of running away? As agents of change, we can slow down or halt the slide. It’s encouraging to note that many believers have joined NGOs, activist groups and political parties to make a difference in this nation.

Believers who emigrate often hold key leadership positions in church, universities, politics and government. As such, our country will not only be facing a brain drain but a shortfall of leaders. If the dearth of leaders in urban areas is bad, the shortage in rural areas is even more acute.

However, this doesn’t necessarily imply that believers aren’t called to relocate to more advanced countries. A nuclear physicist interested in research may have to emigrate because of lack of career opportunities at home. A missionary might be burdened to share the Good News in developed but spiritually dark nations.

 

FLOURISH WHERE PLANTED

 

Wheat Crop.

 

The grass often seems greener on the other side of the fence. Truth be told, the grass is greener wherever we choose to water it.

“If it is to be, it is up to me.” We can make it good in life wherever we are. Just take root and flourish wherever we are planted. Remember the Malaysian CEO whose catchy company tagline is “Now everyone can fly”?

But then again, if we believe we are strangers and exiles on this earth, we are not just thinking how we can be high fliers. Our thoughts are primarily focused on a heavenly city—rather than a far flung man-made city where life is perceived to more secure and comfortable (Colossians 3:1-2, Hebrews 11:13-16). 

 

The above article was first published in Asian Beacon magazine, December 2013, issue 45.6

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Article Source: http://limpohann.blogspot.com/2013/12/should-i-emigrate.html

 

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SHOULD CHRISTIANS EMIGRATE?

By Bishop Rev. Dr Hwa Yung.

http://www.necf.org.my/newsmaster.cfm?&menuid=2&action=view&retrieveid=822

 

                                    —————————————————

 

QUOTES RELATED TO MIGRATION

 

"Firstly we have to realise that our security in this life can only come from God."

"The second thing to realise is that life’s final fulfillment is not found in material comfort."

"The third and most important thing to grasp is the question of God’s will in our lives."

Rev Dr Hwa Yung,

Former Bishop of the Methodist Church, Malaysia.

 

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"Migration is symptomatic

of lack of trust in God who has

placed us in this country for good

and not for evil. Barring a sovereign

word, every migration speaks of our

unhappiness with our lot in life in

the country God has placed us in.

We worship our happiness rather

than obey the will of God."

Rev Eu Hong Seng,

Chairman, NECF Malaysia.

 

                                     —————————————————–

 

“The most important thing to consider is not having the best quality of life on earth but to fulfill God’s desire.”

Dr Choong Yee Fong, consultant ophthalmic surgeon who gave up a flourishing career in UK to return to Malaysia.

 

                                     —————————————————–

 

“If I leave Malaysia, it will not be because of worsened circumstances or for money. I will only leave if I sense a bigger calling such as impacting lives at an international level.”

Yeo Bee Yin

State assemblywoman for Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya.

 

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Unless relocation is a response to a definite call of God (as in Abraham’s case) or it has been forced upon us due to famine, persecution or other extreme factors, we really need to think hard before uprooting ourselves. 

The question “Should we stay put or emigrate?” should be replaced by something more fundamental: “Do we sense God’s definite calling to relocate?” Neither a knee-jerk response to adverse factors nor a desire for greater comfort and security should drive us to emigrate.

However, this doesn’t necessarily imply that believers aren’t called to relocate to more advanced countries. A nuclear physicist interested in research may have to emigrate because of lack of career opportunities at home. A missionary might be burdened to share the Good News in developed but spiritually dark nations.

Dr Lim Poh Ann

Former editor, Asian Beacon magazine

 

Note: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (December 2008 – October 2011). He can be reached at his blog, Porridge for the Soul: http://limpohann.blogspot.com/

 

 

Share the Good News

 

References for pictures

http://impressivemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/airport_crowd.jpg

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_b0FYjmYr_CM/TI2WTVTkb0I/AAAAAAAAAt0/MbpNpyPX1Jk/s1600/Caravan.jpg

http://stepout.trlong.com/wp-content/uploads/core-values/cross-banner-for-core-values.jpg

https://craigspoems.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/pathways-report_img_9.jpg

http://mpadegree.org/files/2011/12/pros_cons.gif

http://coffeebeachdays.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/image-27.jpeg

http://blog.tifwe.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Flourishing.jpg

 

3 Comments

  1. Appreciate your insight. A great article and eye opener. I was a victim of migration thinking that the grass is greener on the other side. A heavy price I had to pay.

  2. the section on pros and cons..i have been living europe, east and now north Europe..18 years as a missionary ! The challenges we face here is not on a small scale! The so called freedom the west is famous for is not the freedom we hope for ! Parents, be ready to give up your parental rights and even traditional values! Think again about schools..you will have to be prepared to let your children be exposed to stuff (that you would die to protect them from), all in the name of healthy, well rounded education system, social skills, self discovery and etc ! Christians are not having it easy over here either..as the author writes..'are you ready for other discriminations?' It is going to be a new ball game, a new war…flourish where you are planted! But those that have a definite call..be prepared and get going, fear not.

     

     

  3. Thanks Rev Jai for the feedback. 

     

    The purpose of this article is to present a biblical perspective of emigration, especially with respect to those who are Malaysians.

    Its aim is to help Christians think through various issues that are related to emigration. It is not my primary intention to please anyone, make anyone feel guilty or make one party feel superior to another. It is not the stance of those who have chosen to stay behind or those who have emigrated. It is simply a biblical perspective on emigration based on the whole counsel of the Word.

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