Chapter 12: The Strangers In Our Midst

Migrant Workers Church

“Bartholomew” and “Titus”

Sunday morning. It is time for church. Our congregation gathers at our place of worship. Hundreds of people are converging from the surrounding neighborhoods. This same thing is happening in congregations all over the city.

But these congregations are different. Our meeting places are on the outskirts of the city, tucked away in crowded slums. Some of our meeting places are at or near the municipal dumps. And technically, our members do not even exist. They are migrant workers, immigrants from the countryside. They are poor, they are struggling, and they are illegal. And they are our mission field.


THE STORY OF OUR country has been turbulent. For decades, our government severely restricted the movement of people within the country.

In the 1980s, this began to change. A concerted campaign to improve the economic condition of the people meant that labor was needed in our major cities. The government began to open up the paths to internal migration.

People from the impoverished countryside began to flood into our major cities, looking to fill this need for labor. They sought to escape economically hopeless environments in their home villages, seeking a better life in the city for themselves and their families.

This migration increased in the subsequent decades. More and more people poured into the cities; by the turn of the century, we had experienced a major urbanization of our country’s population.

Migrants from the country took on the dirty jobs no one else wanted. They served as day laborers, taking the odd jobs that were available. They peddled fruits, meats, and vegetables. And they worked as scavengers, digging through the municipal dumps for recyclable materials to sell.

These migrants helped to fill the need for laborers, but they also generated tensions between themselves and the urban residents. Huge cultural, ethnic, and economic gaps divided these populations. City dwellers resented this tidal wave of what they saw as uneducated, uncouth, and unruly laborers…

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