According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, “The Fourth World refers to:
It needs to be understood that tourism is off the menu as an objective. It is often a side-effect of understanding a people and a culture, but it is not the point of the journey. For us to really delve into mission in any location, we have to have eyes that see and ears that hear. My recent journey across multiple countries only reminded me of the growing need for believers to step away from the more common first world reality we all would like to dream of Europe being and into the alleys, behind the museums, just past the theaters and in the shadows of national monuments. There is a fourth world culture that sits in the lap of mother Europe. It doesn’t take the main stage, but it’s there.
While I was informed by missionaries of unemployment rates as high as 50%, government led statistics only revealed a regular 23% average unemployment among those under 30 across much of Europe*, and what appears to be an approximate 11% unemployment rate among Europeans. Still, one must ask questions about how the numbers are gathered, who is polled, and how accurate are the reports compared to what is seen on the streets? Numbers like this have created a sub-culture of struggle for survival common to what many of the already more recognizable third world countries are known for.
The struggle for clean water, food and shelter exist here, if you’re willing to see it.
The masks of cosmopolitan city centers filled with rich history and unparalleled tourism hide what is unfortunately trending upward among European nations as a whole: the fourth world is here. Skopje, Macedonia, for instance, has recently poured millions into a downtown center of absolute luxury and style, like the Las Vegas of the Balkans, but a short walk from there, and you find an abandoned couch five feet from an overflowing dumpster (right), where both food and safe sleep are sought after desperately. (see title picture above)
In London, there is also this growing population of those who are hungry for hope. With little chance of employment, a lack of available housing and the declining ability of local government to aid them, a sub-culture of unreached people are rapidly growing in number. My heart was touched as I walked through the Stratford City mall around nine at night and saw these men and women seeking shelter under the roof of a shopping center (left), surrounded by shops filled with clothing and food. Where these people dream, tourists will shop.
The scavenger/hunter/gatherer has come to Europe not by design and mostly not by choice but more so by dashed hopes of a better way of life. This underlying people group consists of all nations and colors, races, creeds and religions. It is a nation among nations that is crying out for more than tourism can provide it.
However, there is hope. As Jesus asked us to care for the least of these and in so doing to care for Him, many of our GEM church planters and partnership ministries are taking on the direct responsibility over territories, regions of their fourth world, if you will. Brenda, one of our GEMi (Greater Europe Mission Internships) interns in Brighton, UK recently took us to see the ministry they offer that provides the needed nourishment for the body, mind and soul, opening (and completely rearranging) the church facility to welcome and encourage the struggling to enter in. While there is little doubt to the hope of seeing these fellow travelers come to faith in Christ Jesus, there is only an atmosphere of giving and selflessness. Caring for them to the extent of providing a free hair cut, giving people a sense of dignity, then an incredible meal, followed by an available short communication of the Gospel, was more than inspiring. It is one thing to create a center of activity for the down and out somewhere in a city, it is another thing to create that space among yourselves and completely in the midst of your normal place of spiritual activity, i.e. your church.
As more and more of the population of the world trends toward less than enough, it is the responsibility of the ambassadors of God’s Kingdom to instill eternal hope, to enter this fourth world realm. Perhaps God is calling you to do more, to see Europe beyond the tourism, beyond the history, beyond the places that dazzle us and into the place where people only dream of a better way. More and more missionaries heading to Europe are seeing this fourth world population as the country of their calling. It is without borders, has its own culture, and is desperate for the love of God.