Strangers & Aliens

“‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.
Leviticus 25:34-36

“I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger… no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler.”
Job 29:15-17; Job 31:31-33

Job never ceases to amaze me. A righteous man living in a pagan society (most scholars think Job lived outside Israel during the time of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob), Job lived a life that honored the Lord his God. He was wealthy but he gave that wealth to those who had nothing. He counted his steps and guarded his words and… now… ? He was afflicted by Satan and wanted to know what he did wrong! The short answer: nothing. This is a divine testing (God allowed it, but did not cause it) that is to prove Job’s faith. But just because Job was a man of faith didn’t mean he had no questions. It doesn’t mean he never doubted. Anyway, I digress.

Back to the topic at hand.

God is honored when his people take care of the alien and stranger. When the alien (foreigner, not necessarily a little green guy) comes into your land from, say, Mexico or Morocco or, in my case, Texas, He takes a special interest. Why? I think it has to do with situation and ministry. A foreigner doesn’t know the language (usually) and many times has no friends or family to rely on for support. I am all alone on this first leg of my trip. And away from the touristy areas, there aren’t many who speak my language, much less know who I am. The tendency is to isolate oneself because you feel trepidation and, well, isolation. It took me two days to muster up the courage to order a meal. Finally, the manager at a hotel (who spoke no English) offered me breakfast and I took her up on her offer. Foreigners can’t easily support themselves — they are strangers! And so it is up to the followers of God to show the love of God to the stranger and foreigner.

I can’t tell you how valuable such ministry is to this world. In fact, if more people were interested in helping the foreigner where they are rather than exposing them and sending them back, we might be more in line with the will of God! For God loves the stranger and foreigner — the alien, the fatherless and the widow.

Tonight I am staying at a place called The Norton House in Brussels, Belgium. I am a stranger and a foreigner. This place is an old five-story building in a very international city owned by Belgium Evangelism Mission (BEM) and used for housing missionaries, church folk, and people from out of town needing a place to stay. The managers, a lovely couple from South Africa — strangers themselves when they arrived in Brussels 20 years ago — have accepted this gift of hospitality and, as Barry told me this evening, they quite enjoy having a household of people to talk to and fellowship with.

I have often longed to be part of such a ministry. I’d love to have a place where foreigners and strangers of all sorts can stay and feel love and acceptance inside the gift of hospitality. Maybe when I’m 64.

In a few days a family in The Hague, Netherlands has offered up their home to me for shelter. I needed a place to stay and these believers have warmly accepted me.

It’s funny how our open societies have created new types of strangers and aliens. Here, in this Belgian neighborhood, my hosts probably feel like strangers once again. The area is filled with Arab, North African and African immigrants. They are on every street corner, these strangers and foreigners in a strange land. In America, it is largely the same. Before you call the INS, think “How can I minister to these people in the name of Jesus and help them transition to this culture?”

In Glasgow, Scotland, a sizable population of Persian asylum seekers has grown in recent years and Mosaic Church, a CA church plant, has heard God calling them to connect with these strangers. So they not only invite them to church services but they also teach an English as a second language class. This not only helps the Persians, but other foreigners as they interact with society.

Anyway, the theme of strangers and foreigners is on my mind this trip. I’m experiencing a lot of things head-on this trip that I have never faced before. Always I have had someone with me to talk English with and share my experiences. But I’m alone in Europe and haven’t had an English conversation with a soul until this evening with my hosts. I’ve talked to myself a lot, but that doesn’t count, does it?

Live from Belgium,

— Jean