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Cloverleaf Map by theologian and cartographer Heinrich Bunting. Jerusalem is in the centre of the map surrounded by the three continents.

In a World of Growing International Mobilization, Andrew Lupton Serves the Displaced

On the wall of MTW missionary Andrew Lupton’s office in Bogota, Colombia, there hangs a very old, very strange map of the world. First published in 1581 by German pastor Heinrich Bünting, the Bünting Clover Leaf Map is more artistic analogy than useful scientific instrument. Instead of geographically accurate and proportional continents stretching across the globe, the faded print depicts Europe, Africa, and Asia each as leaves on a clover-shaped world. And there at the center, holding everything together at the geographical intersection point of the world, is Jerusalem—the Holy Land. 

While the map may not be terribly helpful for learning accurate geography, it does manage to uniquely and powerfully express Andrew’s perspective on God’s sovereignty and global missions. The way Andrew sees it, and the way Heinrich Bünting saw it nearly 450 years ago, God could have placed Israel anywhere in the ancient world, but he chose to locate His people right in the middle of everything. Sitting at the geographical axis point between Europe, Africa, and Asia, anyone looking to travel or do business with those on another continent often had to pass right through Israel, experiencing God’s people and the grace of God. 

“That’s by design,” Andrew said. “I think that as we look at the way the world is changing and just how many people are now on the move, the Church has to figure out: ‘What are the strategic intersections of the nations of the next generation?’ And let’s go and set up shop there.

A New Narrative

Traditionally, says Andrew, one of the primary missiological questions was: “Where are the unreached people and how do we reach them?” Missionaries like Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, Amy Carmichael, and many of our own missionaries at MTW, have based their ministries and lives around that question—going and sharing the good news of grace in the far corners of the earth. To be clear, we absolutely still need those people and that approach, but growing trends of globalization and mass migration are changing the very framework of cross-cultural missions for many. 

As of 2021, there 288 million international migrants across the globe. One in every 30 people is living in a country other than that of their birth, and those numbers are growing at an average rate of 5.4% annually. If the entire population of international migrants were to form a country of their own, it would be the fourth largest by population in the world. 

“Back in 1970 we had only around 75 million international migrants, but things have really blossomed, especially over the last 20 years,” Andrew said. “The world is changing before our eyes.” 

According to Andrew, Millennials in particular increasingly view the world as a place without boundaries. Of those between 25–40 years old, 80% want to live and work abroad at some point in their lives—more than any generation prior—and 70% expect to have to use a non-native language in their career. To some, these statistics are scary. To Andrew, they’re exciting—indicators of kingdom opportunities. 

From Amsterdam to Sydney, Dubai to New York, cities across the globe are filling with incredibly diverse international populations more than ever. These are the strategic intersections of the nations—the hubs in which the Church can set up shop and bear much fruit. 

“It is estimated that there are about 1.7 million displaced Venezuelans living in Colombia,” Andrew said. “That’s remarkable. Now, many are living in desperation, many still don’t have documentation, but just imagine for a moment the opportunity that we as missionaries and the local church have to reach out to our Venezuelan friends and neighbors, to plant diaspora churches among these dear brothers and sisters from Venezuela.” 

This exciting, daunting, strange call to engage those he calls “the globally mobile”—those living outside of their places of origin—has captured Andrew’s heart.

Challenges and Opportunities

Today, Andrew pastors an international church in Bogota ministering to an extremely ethnically and culturally diverse congregation. It’s a ministry not without its challenges. 

The way Andrew sees it, church planting among globally mobile people is inherently unstable. He pours into developing key ministry leaders, only to see them move on to their next global destination after just a few years. The church body is constantly changing, with around 20–25% turnover every year. His 9-year-old son has had his best friend move away every year now for five years in a row. 

In addition, the very mobility and displacement that is presenting an opportunity for ministry is also a pressure cooker for the family system. Many international immigrants are separated from their families. Many feel the pressure of culture shock, and the stresses of living in an unfamiliar place often expose relational, addiction, and family issues. Divorce rates are high and cross-cultural conflict is frequent. Some, knowing their stay is temporary, interact with church as consumers of convenience, but never put down roots or invest. For others, the pain that inevitably results from seeing so many friends come and go renders them relationally cold—reluctant to open themselves up to a new friend, mentor, or disciple, fearing they will just be hurt again. 

Engaging in such a ministry is a tough sell, but the blessings far outweigh the challenges. 

“Diversity is a beautiful opportunity,” Andrew said. “We get to experience the full kaleidoscope of God’s family and benefit from that. I get to experience God’s people from all over the world with experiences very different from mine, and as a monocultural, conservative Presbyterian, that’s really good for me!

Thirsty for Discipleship

On top of that, the very crisis of belonging that causes so much pain renders many open to and thirsty for discipleship. Torn from the familiar, global nomads are often far more open to the gospel when abroad and out of their depth than when at home and in their comfort zone. 

“I kid you not, we have lost count of the number of people who have converted to Christianity in our ministry,” Andrew said. “When someone is uprooted, they’re asking questions of belonging, and you can leverage that moment.”

Andrew tells the story of a young Iranian man named Faisel,* who he met in Bogota. Faisel had been kicked out of Iran after speaking out against the government and landed in Colombia as a refugee. Looking for somewhere to belong in the wake of his traumatic experience with radical Islamists and rejection from his country of birth, he found his way into Andrew’s church, attracted to the Christian value system. 

One day, Faisel told Andrew, “My own country doesn’t like me. I’ll probably never see my family again. I’m not sure that I belong anywhere.” 

Hearing this, Andrew talked with Faisel through his whole story of suffering and loss. In the end, he told him: “I think those were actually the fingerprints of God. I think God wants you to be a part of His family.” 

Faisel crumpled, overcome by the grace and love of Christ. 

We get to have these beautiful moments when things are disrupted to say: “You know what isn’t disrupted? Jesus and His love for you. Welcome to the family,” said Andrew. “When you work with globally mobile people, you get so many stories like that. It’s a challenge, but we see some beautiful things.” 

With the church in Bogota well-established and stable, Andrew and his family are now moving on to follow God’s call to plant a like-minded church in a new location—Oslo, Norway. A staggering 30–35% of Oslo’s population is international, making it a key, strategic intersection of the nations and the perfect place to plant to meet and minister to the globally mobile. 

“We’d love to fan the flame for these sorts of churches all over the world and see missions agencies sending their people to strengthen and start more international churches,” Andrew said. 

The kingdom opportunities presented by globalization and mass migration are enormous. For Andrew Lupton, and for so many others, the journey is just beginning. 

Andrew and Laura Kate Lupton serve with MTW in Bogota, Colombia. 

*Name changed for privacy and security reasons

Andrew Shaughnessy, Bogota Medellin Colombia Jan 25, 2022
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Pray for church-planting work to increase and bear much fruit in strategic cities around the world that are filling with diverse international populations.

Give thanks for the church leaders that God has been raising up in Bogota, Colombia. Pray that this growth will continue. 

Pray for a Chinese man who recently came to faith in Colombia and will be moving to China with his family.

Pray for the city of Medellin, Colombia, and for the new church-planting work beginning there.

Pray for the MTW/RUF ministry among college students in Bogota, Colombia. 

Pray for a small group men's study in the Middle East as men seek to learn truth Scripture while wrestling with the realities of what ISIS has taken from them.

Pray for church planting efforts in Cusco, Peru, where many know about Christ, but few know Him personally.

Please pray for the students involved in the MTW/RUF-Global campus ministry in Bogota, Colombia, that they would develop a deep walk with Christ. 

Give thanks for women finding faith through a recent book club in Bogota. Pray for these women as they grow in their knowledge of Christ. 

Pray for two missionary couples who have recently transitioned to the field in Bogota, Colombia, as they build relationships and share the gospel with university students, neighbors, and friends, that the Lord would use them mightily to expand His kingdom.

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