“While we must continue to send missionaries throughout the world, we must also recognize the Great Commission Opportunity that is present in Western nations. Something is missionally malignant when we are willing to send people across the oceans, risking life and limb and spending enormous amounts of money, but we are not willing to walk next door and minister to the strangers living there.” (Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration, and Mission, InterVarsity Press, 2012, page 33)
A previous post of mine was entitled: Ignoring the mission field at our doorstep. In it and another post, I focus on international students and how working with them is an under-valued and neglected ministry option. Ditto, for reaching out to the immigrants and refugees among us.
However, this isn’t only about mission work. We don’t want to be mercenaries with an agenda to convert people. We should care for people simply because they are made in the image of God – regardless of whether they are open to spiritual concerns. Our Christian faith should lead us to welcome the stranger, offer hospitality, extend friendship, and give practical assistance. Imagine being alone in another country – no matter the reason – whether you came to study or immigrated or fled tragedy and upheaval in your homeland.
The above quote makes a challenging and convicting point that I can relate to personally…and in frustration. People are willing to go on short term mission trips, but are not willing to interact with the international person in their neighborhood. Huh?
Maybe because a mission trip will only inconvenience you for a week or two, but befriending someone locally or bringing them into your home will require on-going inconvenience? Maybe because it is “exciting” to go overseas, but just too ordinary or routine to stay here and reach out to internationals?
In many years of attending mission Sundays or mission conferences or other mission related things, I have never – not even one time – seen a ministry highlighted that was about working with internationals here in our own country. How can this be? I’ve seen churches give accolades to members who go on mission trips, but never to those who work with internationals here. This is not about pitting one way of serving over another, but just pointing out an inconsistency.
An article in Christianity Today about reaching out to internationals in our midst refers to “the apparent apathy among Christians about befriending non-Christians” and one researcher stated: “I don’t know how many more million Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews need to come to this country before it becomes a priority.”
Maybe our “thinking” has just not caught up to the times. Years ago there were not many internationals here, and mission work truly involved having to go to another country. But our society has significantly changed and many internationals are among us.
I recently came across the “I was a stranger” challenge. Take the challenge! Challenge…yourself, your church, your campus, your legislatures.
A brief video here, featuring a variety of evangelical leaders:<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/57162315″>I Was A Stranger</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/g92″>G92</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>