A few years ago my wife and I started to learn about the largest humanitarian crisis in our world today, refugees. As we learned more and more about refugees we wanted to get involved in some way, but we didn’t know where to start or what we could do.
Caitlin went to a conference and she learned about an organization called World Relief. They work with refugees, to settle them when they arrive in the U.S. and teach them English among other things. One of the things they do is an airport pick-up. Volunteers pick up refugees from the airport and take them to their apartment which is already furnished and has a meal waiting for them to help them feel comfortable.
When Caitlin came back from this conference she was so excited for this opportunity to finally get involved with refugees. We contacted World Relief and took some training classes so we could start to volunteer. We were so excited and ready to begin.
A couple of months later, Caitlin and I got and email about an airport pick-up we could go on to observe and learn how it all works. We were excited and at the same time nervous about finally volunteering. We didn’t know what to expect. This was a completely new experience for both of us.
We arrived at the World Relief office and rode with the interrupter and another volunteer. We observed and shadowed them so we could soon lead an airport pick-up trip too. Both of them had come to the U.S. from Iran and they had been working with World Relief for a few years now.
After arriving at the airport we went to the arrivals area where the family of three would be coming off the plane. We waited and waited and waited some more. Finally, we saw the mother with her two kids. The mom wasn’t much older than Caitlin and I. We waved and they waved back to us. Then, for the first time, I wondered how I would communicate with them. They were from Syria and didn’t speak any English. We didn’t communicate by audible language, but I expressed my excitement to meet them with a smile.
We helped gather up all their belongings. The mother would point to a bag and motion towards me that it was her’s and then I would get it off the conveyor belt. Everything they owned was stuffed in six suitcases. Once we had everything, we loaded it into the van and were off to their new apartment.
We got to the apartment and brought everything inside and showed them how everything works in the apartment like the oven and the thermostat. Once they got settled in their new home we said our goodbyes and left. It was a crazy, amazing, and unforgettable experience. We drove back to the World Relief office, got in our car and went back to our own apartment.
As Caitlin and I were driving home I realized something, this mother with her two kids wasn’t all that different from me. She’s trying to start something new here, just like I did a few years ago. She has hopes and dreams about her future, just like me.
Jesus tells a parable at the end of the book of Matthew. Today more than ever it’s important to reread these words.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
In Greek the word for stranger is Xenos. Literally translated this is, the foreigner. Someone not from the country or place they are currently residing. As followers of Jesus, we are to welcome and love the stranger.
This is becoming even more important today. Jesus doesn’t say, “Love the stranger, but only if they are legally allowed to be here first.” and He doesn’t say, “Make sure you feel safe and secure.” Jesus doesn’t say anything about making sure the stranger follows the same religion or believes the same things we do.
Jesus says, I was a stranger (illegal immigrant/refugee) and you welcomed me. That’s it. It’s that simple and yet in America today it’s becoming extremely difficult to follow these words of Jesus.
Today Caitlin and I can’t go to the airport and pick up refugees. We are again at a point where it’s difficult to know what to do and how to help this real problem that we are facing. Maybe this is the point? Maybe following Jesus was never meant to be easy and simple. Maybe Jesus knew that the Roman Empire (or America) and Christianity would always be at odds.
So, “Are Jesus’ Words Important?” I don’t know if there has been a more important time than now to realize just what it means to love the stranger, immigrant, and refugee. Are we going to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger?
Caitlin and I are still doing what we can with World Relief. They work all around the country. They have different events to help refugees and raise money for them. You can get involved with World Relief here.
I will continue to…
Welcome. Everyone. Always.
Will you join me?