Travel light: Nine responses to immigration

“You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.”
Leviticus 19:34

March 1999: Our family landed in Manila, Philippines, as international Christian workers. Within a few days, we met the Filipinos who would become — and still are — some of our closest friends: language teachers, tutors and members of our local church. They accepted, embraced and loved us, even as we struggled to learn the language and appreciate their culture.

A few years later, we moved to South Korea and a few years after that to Thailand. In every place, local people welcomed us, loved us and helped us figure things out. I determined then that if I ever returned to America I would treat the “foreigners” in our country with the same grace, love and acceptance that I had received. By their example, these friends taught me how to love “the foreigner among us.”

Think about your neighborhood. How has the mix of ethnicities changed in the last 10 years? In 2010 the number of immigrants in the U.S reached a record 40 million people, according to a 2012 report from the Center for Immigration Studies. One in four students in U.S. public schools speaks a language other than English in the home.

These statistics may either frighten you or inspire you. I hope you’ll see these trends for what they are: an unprecedented opportunity to share God’s love with those who may not have heard of Jesus.

Terry Sharp, director and lead strategist for IMB’s urban mobilization strategies, offers nine ways to welcome international students, refugees and immigrants to your community:

  1. Become a host family. Contact your local university or other organizations for information on hosting an international student, refugee or immigrant.
  2. Pick up new immigrants from the airport and help them get settled in their dorms or apartments.
  3. Provide household goods and furniture.
  4. Take them shopping. Show them how to pay bills. Introduce them to garage sales, coupons and discount stores.
  5. Help them find grocery stores that specialize in ethnic food. Ask them to help you prepare food from their country.
  6. Spend time talking with them. Ask about their country and allow them to talk about their ideas, needs and fears over coffee or tea.
  7. Help them complete job applications and give them tips on how to conduct themselves in an interview. Remind them that Americans expect truthful people to make direct eye contact.
  8. Make them part of your family by including them in family holidays and outings. Invite them to church, birthday parties, weddings and ballgames.
  9. Share your faith openly and honestly. Respectfully ask them about theirs. Look for natural opportunities to explain the differences.
Simply put, treat the “foreigners” among you the way you would want those in another country to treat your son or daughter if they were living there.

Make the effort, and you’ll make friends for life.

For more resources on reaching the nations living among you, visit

This week’s reading: Leviticus 19 – Numbers 6
Post #8: Discovering how to live missionally through a chronological reading of God’s Word.



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