An Inhospitable Place
I had a dream the other night. This isn’t a unique occurrence for me but my dreams usually tend to mirror my conscious fears—something disastrous happening to my children for example. This dream was different.
I dreamed that I was in a strange city. I’ve traveled a lot around the country, so this would normally not mean much. However, this was a foreign city. More specifically, I am guessing that it was a city either in the middle east, north Africa, or the region known as Eurasia. It was predominantly Muslim, and non-English speaking. I knew nothing about where anything was, where my hotel was, or who might know a little English.
The people that I encountered would give me a wary look and then ignore me. No one was openly hostile to my presence, but no one welcomed me either. No one interacted with me positively or negatively other than cautious brief stares. It was an extremely uncomfortable situation especially since I didn’t really know where I was. I moved in and out of large buildings looking for something familiar or a person who would help me. There was no help to be found. I can still remember the fear and anxiety that slowly grew in me throughout the dream. I remember thinking of my children, I was glad that they weren’t with me so I wouldn’t have to worry about their safety while going through this ordeal. The dream eventually ended with me huddled in a doorway, discouraged, despairing, not sure where to go and feeling utterly unwelcome. For lack of a better description, I felt like a non-person in this foreign culture.
Strangers in Our Land
I wonder sometimes if foreigners to our country feel a little bit like this. Think about it; a foreign college student, for example, has had almost no education as to the geography or customs of our land. Their command of basic English might be fairly strong or relatively weak but rarely do even the best educated foreigners have any grasp of local language dialects or idioms. If U.S. citizens from other parts of the country struggle understanding the locals here in Mississippi where I live, you can imagine what a foreigner would deal with.
Beyond the language barriers, it has been said that over seventy five percent of all foreign college students end their time in the United States without having had even one meal in the home of an American family. Not even one meal. If we have kept that kind of distance from these students who are eager to learn about our land and are often very curious about the gospel, what kind of opportunities for cross-cultural impact are we missing out on?
Lastly, apply the impressions from my dream to an outsider, hurting person, or other type of non-Christian that might be visiting your church. Are they being welcomed though they don’t get the lingo? Are they being made to feel like they are valued though they don’t understand what is going on around them? Are you willing to take the time and energy to show them what our worship service is all about and how the gospel is for them as well as yourself? Are they seeing the love that is supposed to define us as the redeemed people of God?
I urge you to consider these things as you interact with foreigners, outsiders, and non-Christians. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and show love and hospitality to the stranger in your midst. Remember that the world is changed one soul at a time and you never know what that soul will look like.