Welcoming the Foreigner is a Deeply Biblical Practice
Heidi, an American single mother of two teenagers, worked a full-time job and lived in a suburb of a city in America. After she caught God’s heart for the nations on a short-term trip, she looked around to see how she could reach the world right where she lived. She contacted the local refugee resettlement branch in her area, filled out a volunteer application, and attended training on welcoming refugees. Then Heidi met with her church leaders and invited the church, as well as her coworkers, to join her in welcoming a refugee family. Some said yes. Some said no. Most of them felt uncertain about the unknown.
At the same time, Jamilah, a young mother from Somalia with two small children, received the good news that she won the “refugee lottery”. She packed her few things and said her goodbyes to fellow refugees, She would be part of the 1% of the refugees chosen to resettle in a third country, America. She shuddered remembering her husband’s murder because of their ethnic minority heritage, and her flight on foot to seek asylum in a nearby country. In doing so, she joined the invisible country of 65 million internally displaced peoples in the world, those forced to flee their home country because of war, persecution or violence.
Doing Love as a Team
Back in America, Genie, a practical, get-it-done person who heard about Heidi’s plans at church, started collecting donated items to furnish an apartment for a family who would come soon. Genie’s garage filled up quickly with a bunk bed, mattresses, a couch set, a dining-room table, kitchen appliances, and children’s toys.
In a few weeks, the phone rang, and the volunteer coordinator at the refugee resettlement agency called Heidi and said, “We have a single mother with two small children scheduled to arrive from Somalia this Thursday at 7:15 p.m. Can you have the apartment ready by then and meet them at the airport?” Yes!
Heidi and her team members cleared their schedules and met at the apartment where the refugee resettlement agency would house the new family. The group spent the evening moving furniture, and Heidi returned the next day with her teenage daughter to hang curtains and pictures. Another family offered to buy enough groceries to stock the kitchen for a week. They visited an ethnic grocery store for the first time to buy food for their new Muslim friends.
Everybody Likes an Airport Welcome
That’s how the group ended up on a Thursday night at the airport with welcome signs, balloons, and treats to greet Jamilah and her children. An Arabic-speaking social worker from the refugee resettlement agency translated as the group greeted the travel-weary but grateful Jamilah, as the group showered her with smiles and welcome.
They picked up two duffel bags from baggage claim—everything she owned in the world—and drove to the furnished apartment. The group showed Jamilah how to operate the stove, the micro- wave, and even the thermostat—all new things to her. Eventually, they lured the young children out from hiding behind their mother’s skirt with a few Matchbox cars. Heidi asked if she could pray a blessing over the new home and the family, and Jamilah lifted her hands, palms up, to God. The whole group crowded into the tiny kitchen to give thanks and joined Jamilah with palms up, eyes looking to the heavens. Her journey wasn’t over though. It was just beginning. She needed these new friends to practically show her the value God places on protecting and loving the most vulnerable, the foreigner in a new country.
A Deeply Biblical Practice
Welcoming people from other countries, much as Heidi and her friends did for Jamilah, is a deeply biblical practice. Jesus says, “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger [also translated “foreigner”], and you invited me into your home” (Matt. 25:35). Jesus himself was a refugee. Joseph and Mary fled with baby Jesus to seek asylum in Egypt from Roman oppression (Matt. 2:13).
Numerous references in the Old Testament also highlight God’s concern for foreigners living under Israel’s protection (Lev. 19:9–10, 33–34; Jer. 7:5–7; and dozens more). Moses said that God “shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and cloth- ing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners” (Deut. 10:18–19). In the same breath that the Lord expressed concern for the oppression of widows, orphans, and the poor, he also expressed concern for the oppression of foreigners (Zech. 7:10). Ruth found favor as a foreigner (Ruth 2:11) and ended up being in the family line of Jesus.
Lord, give us a compassionate heart like yours. Please come to the rescue of little children, men, and women forced to flee their homes and countries. We pray for your justice, your shelter, and your protection over them. As they cry to you for help, please answer them. And if part of that answer includes me, please show me who I can advocate for, where I can give, and how I can welcome and love them right where I am.
by Jeannie Marie
Get inspired to change the world right where you live…and it may lead you around the world! A fun read with lots of tools, try-it sections, and crafted prayers, Jeannie Marie will gently guide us by the hand to grow spiritually deep friendships with people from other countries, wherever we happen to be.