When you think Houston, Texas, you likely think of cowboy hats and big trucks and oil. That’s all I ever thought about when I was still a no-good Yankee from Missouri.
Then I moved here.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of hats and Friday night lights and jacked-up trucks to go around. Texas bravado abounds. That’s just not all that is prevalent.
Houston is diversifying rapidly, and is already the most diverse city in the United States. There are over 350 people groups in the Houston region, with well over 1 million people who live here that weren’t born here. I know what you’re thinking — they’re all from Latin America. But increasingly, the Houston area boasts an enormous Asian population. After English and Spanish, Vietnamese is the most popular language spoken. Houston has one of the largest China Towns in the U.S. In fact, about 20% of non-native residents come from the continent of Asia. Anecdotally, it’s said that Sugar Land, a Houston suburb, is more well known in India and Pakistan that it is the United States as a prime place to move.
A picture from my church’s Missions Sunday, with members sporting flags and traditional dress from their native countries.
When you think of Texas, you may think of a church on every corner. Increasingly, there’s a mosque or temple on every corner, too. I know that this leads some people to often conclude, “God help us!” And I agree.
But when you read the data, you can view it one of two ways.
God Help Us Avoid the Inconveniences of Living Side By Side With Foreigners
There’s a lot of global mistrust out there toward people not like us. We are suspicious and afraid of non-Americans and non-Christians. Some of that suspicion is deserved. Our enemies are not imaginary, and there are those who mean to do us harm. I’m not talking about that mistrust. I’m talking about the kind many of us carry just because we prefer everyone to be like us. We forget we used to be those folks, coming over on boats for a better shot at life. Most of our grandparents weren’t from here. I’m sure the native Americans weren’t stoked to see the boats rolling into port any more than the waves of immigrants coming to American now inspire enthusiasm among many American-loving Christians.
But I am more and more convinced that we should welcome people who are not like us to this country. I’m not suggesting it should be unregulated, or that their shouldn’t be policies and procedures in place. This isn’t meant to be a political argument. Rather, it’s a spiritual one. And when I read stats like the ones I cited above — with the latinos and the Asians and the mosques and all that — I do think “God help us!”
But I think it in a different way.
A shopping center in Houston’s International District.
God Help Us Fulfill the Great Commission
When Jesus first said, “Go into all the world and make disciples…” spreading the Gospel meant, you know, going into all the world. But now, especially in places like where I live, the world is coming to us.
Every mosque is an opportunity, every changing neighborhood a gift. I once walked through an apartment complex in Houston filled with Nepalese refugees. Not a single one spoke English. We prayed a lot, and as we left I thought about how I’d never met anyone from Nepal, nor prayed for them, nor been to Nepal. But I just had. I also went to Pakistan that day, and Vietnam, and China.
Houston is that kind of place.
If you’re a Christian — whether you’re in Houston or another urban center, a small college town, or a rural area — our nation is changing whether you like it or not. And whether or not you like it is really a secondary issue. Primary is how you should react as a follower of Jesus.
With a mission field inching closer to your doorstep with each passing year, now is not the time to run away.
It’s time to open your arms.