The greatness—the intellectual, scientific, and spiritual achievements—of one of the world's leading nations, the United States of America, is due primarily to the perennial flow of immigrants from its genesis to the present day. The same, though on a smaller scale, is true of Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and a few other nations. The immigrants have brought to the country of their adoption their way of life, their culture, science, industry, and religion. In the environment of a democratic form of government they have blended their skill and culture, thus helping to make these nations the most progressive and advanced in the world today.
Pastor F. K. Erlecke, of New York City, has obtained a list of the foreign-speaking areas in Greater New York and the northern part of the State of New Jersey. Italians, including the first generation born here who still speak their mother tongue, number 1,633,000. They publish a daily newspaper with a circulation of 70,000. German-speaking people, such as Germans, Austrians, Swiss, and some from the Baltic States, number a little more than 800,000. Next comes the great influx of Spanish-speaking people. There are about 800,000. It is calculated that about 660,000 of these are from Puerto Rico. Two Spanish daily newspapers are published. Those speaking Russian and similar languages number about 350,000. From Poland there are about 320,000 and from Hungary 110,000. The Jewish inhabitants of Greater New York number 2,191,000.
This describes dramatically the cosmopolitan nature of Greater New York. In certain parts of the city you hear the majority of the people speaking Spanish; in another part, German, and so on. Judging the intentions and present policy of the nation's Government and Congress, immigration will continue for many years to come.
The Immigrants: A Challenge
The immigrants present a great challenge to us as Seventh-day Adventists. The servant of the Lord has given us special counsel that we should labor for them in their own languages and that many would accept the message and join the church. This statement has been fulfilled before our own eyes. We have here in America flourishing Spanish churches. In the Greater New York Conference alone there are more than 1,300 members, and on the Pacific Coast are nearly 3,000 Spanish-speaking Adventists. We have some strong German churches that turn into the treasury good tithes and substantial mission offerings.
An Example Worth Imitating
Many other denominations, and especially the Roman Catholic Church, have given great attention to the development of their religious activities among the foreigners. I read recently in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the Catholic Church has set up an organization in Puerto Rico that seeks out those who are going to live in the States, learns their destination, and particulars are sent to the priest of the city or town where they are to settle. As soon as the immigrants arrive the priest visits them and invites them to attend the church services. They are also offered financial help if necessary, as well as assistance in finding employment, and thus the newcomers are integrated into the church activities.
As I read this I thought how fine it would be if, in the larger cities where we have foreign work already established, our ministers, through some agency, could trace the immigrants of their particular nationality who come to the city, and establish a friendship with them in their new country, and thus bring many of them into this great message. People who make a new country their home are usually more susceptible to the gospel than they were in their home countries. The new environment, the foreign language they hear all about them and often do not understand, make them feel somewhat lonesome and lost. If at that crucial time a loving Christian minister comes and offers his help in whatever way he can to make their life more pleasant in the country of their adoption, they are then in a spiritual and emotional mood to give heed to the message.
It has been proved that a person speaking a foreign language can be more easily persuaded to accept the gospel when it is presented in his mother tongue. He may not fully comprehend the Advent message in the new language.
Seventh-day Adventist Immigrants
What about our church members who emigrate from Europe to America and Australia? When in Europe last year, I heard that during the year 1951 more than one thousand Seventh-day Adventists migrated, most of them to the United States and Canada. Some went to South America and Australia. But it is a sad thing that only about half of them came in contact with our churches in those countries. It is a pity that so many hundreds are lost. It would be expedient and beneficial if we could follow a system similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church. When our pastors know that a family is planning to migrate to another country, they should find out exactly where the family is planning to settle and then write direct to the local pastor or conference in the new country, telling of the expected arrival of the church members. Thus the pastor or conference officers would be looking for and waiting to welcome the new family to the church, and help them in the bewildering experience of settling in a new country. This would avoid the tragic loss of church members in the turmoil of immigration.
There are still great opportunities in our country, as well as in other countries that receive immigrants, to foster the work among these people by having ministers with a good command of their language. The results will be surprising. Many will be brought to the knowledge of the truth, and they, full of zeal for their new-found faith, will bring others into the church, thus hastening the day of the triumph of this last message and the appearance of Jesus, our Saviour.