Sowing Seeds Among the Sojourner — Part One

A year and half ago a Muslim family walked through my front door. The husband had dark, wavy hair and dark features, his wife’s every inch of skin was covered besides her hands and face, and their daughter was an adorable, brown-eyed ball of mischief. We hadn’t met them until they showed up in our living room. They carved pumpkins with us on a cold, October evening. They later retreated to our kids’ bedroom so they could pray to their god. As we got to know them that evening, we found out they had moved to Peoria three months prior to our meeting. They informed us our conversation with them was their first face-to-face, meaningful conversation they had since moving to the area. We were their first, and only, friends in the U.S.

My husband and I felt a great burden and responsibility placed on us that night. How do you care for people who have no one while you’re still in the midst of your busy, hectic life? How do we engage them in conversations about faith when they appeared to be devout Muslims? Did I need to do business with God for letting people worship an idol in my home? (The Lord quickly reminded me that I had been doing a lot of self-idol worship earlier in the day that I needed to be much more concerned about!)

Despite the questions, we knew the Lord had just dropped an incredible opportunity right on our front steps that night. This family was from a country that is very hostile to the Gospel, where nationals face the death penalty if they are found to have converted to Christianity, where believers cannot meet together in their homes, and where all Christian literature is banned. Therefore, they had little access to the Gospel their entire lives and possibly had never met a genuine follower of Jesus. And into our lives they walked.

Why should we have bothered? There were so many walls to break down: the language barrier, different parenting styles, the differences of our cultures and how we view our world, the tension of our faiths, the list could go on. But God had placed this burden on our hearts for four different reasons:

1. God cares about the sojourner

A survey of God’s references to the sojourner or foreigner in the Bible makes it quite evident that He cares for those who are a stranger in a land that is not their own. In Deuteronomy 10:17-19 Moses is describing the character of God and he illustrates His character through his treatment and concern for the marginalized.

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

The “sojourner” is mentioned 20 times in the book of Deuteronomy, alone, mostly when listed with the widow and the orphan. God was giving specific instructions for how Israel was to live and work. He always had the needs of the poor and powerless in mind. God desired that it would become part of Israel’s intrinsic culture to care for those who had difficulty caring for themselves.

2. Abrahamic covenant

God promised Abraham that his decedents would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. Since we, as adopted believers, are now under the covenant and considered offspring of Abraham we have the privilege to be a blessing to the nations. We are “a people for his own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We have the opportunity to bring the message of a living hope to all the people of the world. What a blessing to be a blessing!

3. We can be missionaries in our backyards

One of Jesus’ final instructions before leaving this earth was calling his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19). Not all of us are called to be missionaries in a foreign land. But with the rise of global migration, the world is coming to us! Currently, the U.S. has the world’s largest number of international migrants. Pew Research Center found that one-in-five (46 million) migrants now live in the U.S. The top three countries sending students to the U.S. to study are China, India, and Saudi Arabia. The largest populations of refugees that arrived in 2016 were from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Burma (Myanmar), Iraq, and Somalia. Nearly half of the refugees are Muslim.

The sending countries with the largest percentage increases in immigrants living in the United States from 2010 to 2014 were Saudi Arabia (up 93 percent), Bangladesh (up 37 percent), Iraq (up 36 percent), Egypt (up 25 percent), and Pakistan, India, and Ethiopia (each up 24 percent).

We all know that it isn’t easy to be a Christian in a Muslim-majority nation. And there are a lot of countries that American missionaries cannot easily get to. So what is the Lord doing? He’s bringing them to us! What a masterful God we have that has brought the nations to our backyards so we may bless them in delivering the message of the Gospel and showing Christ’s love.

4. We are foreigners just passing through this world

Spending time with my international friend, who currently resides within my country but considers herself as a citizen of another country is such a great reminder that I, too, am a citizen of another world. This is my temporary residence, but home is where my Father dwells. This world is our battlefield to fight sin, suffer for Christ’s sake, and live as a set-apart people, but we will soon be returning home, where there is freedom from the effects of sin and unveiled Glory to behold.

Those are some big reasons why we chose to befriend the sojourner among us. But what does it look like to do this practically? And what are some things we can expect? Stay tuned for a follow-up article discussing just that, and to find out what came of those unexpected, new friends.

The author of this article has chosen to remain anonymous in order to protect and maintain the trust she has with her international friends.


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