What are we going to do about it?
Aliens have invaded the United States! Millions respond with complete apathy. This could very well be a headline of the newspapers in most of the major cities in the United States.
The aliens we are talking about do not have pointy ears and green skin. Often though they are treated as if they do. These aliens are the thousands of immigrants, international students, and refugees the USA receives each year. They are lonely, scared, yet excited and longing to fit into this culture so new to them.
Many of the countries they come from place hospitality as one of their highest values, and as for hospitality to foreigners, it goes without saying - it is essential.
Our Biblical Responsibility
You can imagine their surprise when they arrive in a country like the United States and instead of being treated as visiting royalty, they are ridiculed, insulted, or even worse, ignored.
As Christians we are often guilty of being the very ones who are ignoring the aliens in our land. This goes directly against very clear commands from God in the Bible:
“When the alien lives in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34
“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are alien, for you yourself were aliens in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:18-19
What Is Wrong?
I have spoken across Canada challenging people to go as missionaries overseas. Inevitably someone will stand up and say quite smugly, “Doesn’t missions begin in our own backyard?”
To his surprise, I often shout a loud “Amen!” and say, “Yes, let’s begin with those God directed us not to ignore: the widows, the orphans, the aliens (immigrants, refugees, international students), the homeless, the hungry, and the prisoners.”
If there was uncomfortable shifting in the seats before, the room now sounds like a game of musical chairs. Why the guilt? Because there are no excuses. They are our backyards and we are accountable to God for them. Regretfully, we live in an age when we can piously give to the building fund, sit on a committee for evangelism, and sing in the choir, while ignoring our Pakistani neighbor. There are literally thousands of alienated people waiting for some genuine love and concern.
The Story of Tim
Here’s one example from my experience. One day, while at the University of Alberta, a friend and I decided to go sharing the gospel with some people on campus. We sat down with a young man from Hong Kong named Tim. As the conversation continued, Tim broke into tears.
Sobbing, he told us how glad he was to talk to us. We were the first Canadians that had ever talked to him - he had been in the country two years. Sure he had talked to his professors and to store owners and salesmen, but we were the first ones to talk to him who were not already so obliged.
I went and visited Tim’s home, if you could call it that. It was a room the size of our washroom. A mattress on bare cement, a dresser, a hot plate and a television were all it contained. There were several other Chinese students in the basement who shared his toilet facilities. Tim was not a person given to weeping, but he cried again when we had him over for Christmas dinner. He was so glad to be there! He tried a knife and a fork for the first time, and did a good job. Not only did he enjoy himself, but it was one of the best Christmases our family ever experienced.
Tim also became part of the Bible study I was leading on campus that year. He and Lu, a Ph.D. student from Burma never missed a study. I often wonder how many international students go home every year without meeting an American who really wanted to talk to them and how many go home without hearing the name of Jesus.
“Amen, brother! Missions does begin in our own backyard!” The question is, do you even see the backyard around you?