Newsletter - Winter 2011
I want you to think back….back to a time when you felt very out of place…a situation where you did not know anyone….a place where you just didn’t fit in…a setting in which you felt alone and uncomfortable…
(I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a queasy feeling in my stomach caused by visions of high school youth groups….)
I think that particular feeling defines what it means to be a “stranger” more than any Webster explanation. You don’t have to be in a foreign land or a situation to feel like a stranger. Sometimes we feel like strangers around the very people that we see everyday.
Then there are those times when we truly are in a strange land. Every January my husband and I try to take a vacation, usually to a country where English is not the primary language.
No matter which foreign country any of us might visit, we will always be incredibly grateful to see a menu in English (we have had some close calls here) or hear English instructions in the train station, or encounter an English speaking person on the street to help us find our way.
It is not easy being the stranger.
Judging from the many stories in the Bible, it seems that God has a special heart for the stranger. Some of the most well known Bible words about this might be in Matthew 25. Jesus spoke about a time when he would say, “I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in…” To which the puzzled people would respond that they never did any of those things. Then Jesus will explain, “Whenever you did any of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me — you did it to me.”
It seems to me that God has set the bar pretty high when it comes to His expectations about how we should treat the lost, lonely, and misfit. In reality, I’m not sure how well we all are doing.
During an English For Moms class, Donna (MNM’s Women’s Program Coordinator) began to pass out coupons for free fruit smoothies from a local food stop. Surprisingly, the women refused them, saying that they would never use the coupons.
Assuming that the reason the women would not use them had to do with their lack of English, Donna began to coach them on how and what to order. But the women stopped her explaining that they were just afraid to go into any store or establishment like that because people in those places were not nice to them.
Then there was the time when we invited a few Middle Eastern women to go out for coffee. The women were thrilled. But after arriving at the café they wouldn’t get out of the car. They asked if we would go in, buy the coffee, and bring it back to the car to drink. The women said they did not want to go inside because they were afraid of the unkind attitudes and mean looks they usually received.
Instead of feeling welcome, many refugees and immigrants feel hostility.
A challenge for all of us could be to try to welcome the strangers in our city. The next time we go to the grocery store, McDonalds, or just the corner market, let’s try be aware of the little things we might say or do that could help the stranger right next to us feel a little more comfortable — and not necessarily just those who look and sound different from us, but also those who, perhaps, are exactly like us.
(We LOVED Russia and we are so grateful to all of the wonderful people we met who made us feel like friends and not strangers.)