Resettlement programme for refugees in Nepal passes 40,000 mark: Missional Reflections

Here's an update on Bhutanese-Nepali refugee resettlement. It appears that we are not quite at the halfway point in the process. Some 34,000 have been resettled in the U.S. alone with more than 50,000 waiting in the camps to be resettled in the U.S. and elsewhere. How many of those in the camps who will be resettled to the U.S. remains to be seen.

Missionally, I believe this update helps us to see a few key points:

1. We are well past the initial, novelty stages of the resettlement of Bhutanese-Nepalis. This cuts both ways in that Americans who are going to get involved with these people are probably already involved in some way. And those who are already involved are likely starting to lose interest in the ministry as the novelty of it wears off. From the perspective of the refugee peoples, they are still coming into strange, new environments, but now those environments have semi-established communities of their friends from Nepal. Their sense of need for American friends will be diminished by this. Now is the time for American Christ-followers to step up their commitment to their new neighbors to demonstrate that they have entered into genuine relationships and not just cross-cultural projects.

2. Existing Bhutanese-Nepali communities will get larger. I don't think that we can say that these communities will double in size (though some may), but they will continue to gradually increase for 2-3 more years. Christ-followers should take a hard and prayerful look at the community they are serving among and consider what should be done now to better care for and make disciples among Bhutanese-Nepalis should the community grow by 25, 50, or even 100%.

3. Bhutanese-Nepali organizations are now being established. Churches, temples, and non-profits are now being established in many places where Bhutanese refugees have been resettled. This trend will likely increase. Christ-followers should be aware that this is not a universally positive phenomenon. While some of these organizations have been a blessing to their communities, others have been divisive and hurtful. In my humble opinion, the establishment of contextualized, Christ-centered churches that unify Bhutanse-Nepalis across traditional caste divisions is the ideal. Contact me if you want help in trying to do this.

4. "Secondary" resettlement has begun and will likely increase. By secondary resettlement, I refer to the growing trend for Bhutanese-Nepalis originally resettled in one city to move to another. The "grass is greener" phenomenon is not at all new to the Bhutanese. All refugee groups eventually do it. That's how we end up with massive numbers of Somalis in Minneapolis and Burmese in Ft. Wayne. Bhutanese haven't collectively decided on a single place that is better than all the others but it might happen. If I were a betting man, I'd say that we could see a bit of a significant migration to Pennsylvania. The news that is traveling around many communities is that Pennsylvania has an abundance of jobs, dirt-cheap rent, and beautiful scenery. Christ-followers must take secondary resettlement very seriously. Often times, the rumors of abundant jobs and cheap rent are unfounded and the result can be a disaster--just ask the many unemployed and impoverished Somalis in the Twin Cities.

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