This week I dropped my kids off at church for middle school small group – just like I do every other Wednesday night. The youth piled into cars and headed off to two different homes of refugee families to hang out and play games. This has been the pattern for over a year. The same kids. The same refugee families. The same volunteers from church arranging these visits to build relationships with newly arrived families.
I mused that my kids are fairly tuned out to the refugee crisis playing out on the world stage. But they are very tuned into two refugee families right here in Minnesota. My heart filled with gratitude for these volunteers from our church who are committed to walking with refugees and demonstrating the love of Christ in meaningful ways.
It would appear that everyone has a take on the way to handle the refugee crisis. I see the arguments. I get the arguments. And I don’t want to jump into the fray with my political opinions on immigration policy. But I would like to share an observation that’s been weighing on my heart.
My job is to engage churches and families in the practice of Biblical hospitality. In Greek this is philoxenia – the love of a stranger. I speak at churches, I meet with pastors and lay leaders, and I talk with large and small group gatherings about the weary widows and orphans in our community who desperately need the church to come alongside them.
I believe in the Christian’s call to love the stranger. I live and preach the call to love the stranger. And I am glad we are talking about caring for the stranger.
But can I just be really honest here?
In my work I have the great joy of seeing families embrace strangers in crisis and welcoming children into their homes, but I also see a lot hesitation. I see people who really like the idea of caring for the stranger but aren’t ready to commit to the reality of caring for the stranger. Even when the stranger comes in the form of a little child.
So when I see all of Facebook feeds full of admonition and scripture and opinions about what to do or how we should care for refugees, widows, and orphans – which I see coming from folks of all religious backgrounds and all sides of the issue – I scratch my head.
Because I have to wonder how many people are willing to actually do it.
How many will welcome the stranger into their homes? Their neighborhoods? Their schools? Their relationships? How many are even giving to causes that are working with refugees?
Those volunteers from our church have been working with refugees without fanfare or fuss for years. They quietly obeyed the call to love the stranger in our midst long before this controversy blew up. And do you know what they will tell you? They will tell you it is a time consuming, relational ministry. They will tell you about the hours they’ve spent with the families and setting up apartments and coordinating tutoring and watching soccer games of the refugee kids. And they’ll tell you there’s plenty for you to do to help right here.
I work closely with families who regularly open their homes to children in crisis. They make room in their homes and their hearts to care for little ones with nowhere else to go. They build relationships with homeless moms facing serious issues. Do you want to know what they will tell you? It’s inconvenient. It’s beautiful. It’s heart wrenching. And they’ll tell you we desperately need more families willing to open their door.
I know this world of opening the home to a stranger. It’s not easy. It’s messy. It requires sacrifice. And few step up to do it.
Perhaps part of the tension we sense as we navigate a refugee crisis, terrorist attacks and political unrest is a realization that we don’t have the luxury of continuing on with life as usual. We increasingly are being brought face to face with people suffering globally and in our own community. And regardless of where you stand on the issues, maybe something more is being asked of you. Of us.
Maybe we should spend more time in sacrificial service and less time pursuing a comfortable life. Perhaps we should worry less about sound bytes and more about those who are already in our midst and desperate for kindness.
Lets pray together for world leaders to make wise choices in the context of the world and for God to show us how to quietly love like Jesus in the context of our community.
Fist shaking, bickering and stepping onto political soapboxes will get us nowhere. But prayer? Serving? Loving others and sharing the gospel of Christ? Those actions can move mountains. Those actions can bring light into darkness.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7
If you truly have a heart for the refugee or are burdened by world events, may this crisis be a catalyst that drives you to your knees in prayer and to the streets in service. Because the world needs more people willing to roll up their sleeves, make space in their schedules, and act. Not another pile of opinions.