“Love the foreigner; therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:19
Meet Mariam. Her family came from Syria after traveling by foot many hundreds of miles to find a better and safer place for her family. Her husband was a teacher of English in their hometown and they have three sons and two daughters. The oldest is married with a wife and baby of his own. They used up almost all of their savings to make the trek by hiring smugglers. They left everything behind, bringing with them only what they could carry. They have arrived exhausted and with very little possessions, but they have hope now that they know that their family will remain together. They have seen mass destruction and murder take place by those who call themselves good Muslims. Now they are receiving the help and care of people who call themselves Christians. They are amazed by the loving-kindness of these people who do not know them at all, but who have come alongside them to give them the help they need to start their lives all over again. They are interested in learning more about Christianity and Jesus.
Meet Muhammad. He was falsely accused in Iraq and was facing life in prison. The justice system is not like what we have in the USA, and his wife and son feared for his life. They sought asylum and found refuge. He has always been a good Muslim, but after someone gave him a Bible, He began to ask more questions. He read the book of John and was certain that He wanted to believe in Jesus Christ. His family began going to church and were welcomed into the body of Christ. As a new believer, Muhammad has begun to help other people like him.
Abdul is a man who helped the American soldiers in Afghanistan. Many of his friends have been granted the right to come to America to live. While waiting for his chance, he is living in a migrant camp in the EU. He brought with him photos that were taken while he was in Afghanistan that reveal the atrocities inflicted upon the people by the Taliban, and he has had some of them painted by an artist. The art reveals a heartbreaking scene of an all-girl’s school that was poisoned. There’s also an image of a woman being beaten that leaves the viewer wondering why she would be treated in such a way. The reasons are generally quite trivial. They are difficult to look at, but they expose the hardship that women lived under during the Taliban rule. This man is stuck between home and a new life, and while he is waiting, there are Christians supporting him, helping him to display his artwork and tell his story.
There are many more families like these, many of which are living in Houston right now. According to Global Frontier Missions, there are currently 361 unreached people groups living in the United States today. Many of the people in the world, living in Northern African, the Middle East, or central and southeast Asia have never heard the gospel message. As Christians, we desire that all people of the world have the opportunity to know Jesus Christ, and those unreached people are now coming to us. Houston receives 3,000 to 5,000 refugees a year, and if it were a country, it would be ranked fourth in receiving refugees.
God’s church in Houston has an opportunity like no other to offer hospitality to the foreigner. Jesus taught a parable about a king who threw a wedding banquet. When none of the honored guests showed up, he sent his servants into the street to invite everyone, good and bad (Matthew 22:1-14). Like this king, we also must be willing to go out and extend God’s invitation to all people. These families were in desperate situations, and it was the act of hospitality by God’s church that made them open to hearing the gospel message of love and salvation. As God’s church in Houston, let’s be willing to go out and extend the welcome to those here who are most in need.
*Names have been changed and stories edited.