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The Practice of Loving Strangers (Issue 23)

Scripture doesn’t seem to have a problem with self-love. In fact, it seems to be a given. Jesus told us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. But what about those who are not our ‘neighbour’? Scripture tells us that our love for the ‘stranger’ is to be as strong as our love for ourselves: “Treat the stranger among you as if they were one of you, and you shall love them as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:34). My dear friend, if you’re to look deep within yourself, can you honestly say that you’ve learned to love ‘the stranger’ as yourself? If not, are you willing to do it?

Our story of loving ‘strangers’

The Lord has sent us in New Zealand sojourners who are different to us in race, language, colour and beliefs. He has sent them to us as a Church. In 2001 a vision was given to start a ministry in Christchurch among migrants and refugees from the Middle East. Soon after the ministry was established, it started to serve a large sector of migrants in many areas, helping them settle. Over time we’ve learned much about what it means to love ‘strangers among us.’
We’ve learned that helping and loving others is more valuable than time and that migrants are not ‘clients’ or ‘cases’ but friends and brothers and sisters. We’ve learned that immigration is like an organ transplant. It’s removing a living organ from one body and transplanting it into another. It comes with pain, suffering and sometimes rejection. It is a long process for the new organ to fit into the new body successfully. And above all, practical love is the key to people’s hearts. We’ve learned that others are more willing to hear the Good News if they see God’s love through us as we share with them in their suffering.

I can tell you many stories of individuals I’ve met on this journey who are suffering and in need, people who are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, spouses and children. Like the father who had to leave behind his children, wife and his business to flee for his faith. Or the medical doctor in his mid- 20’s who came to live as Christian leaving behind wealth, a little daughter and his wife – his family gave his wife to another man while he has been in NZ. Or the two girls who were abused by their own family members – when they received Christ they had to leave their country to escape the death penalty.

What does loving a stranger look like? We’ve helped many brothers and sisters who’ve come to Aotearoa for safety. We also have the opportunity to help international students who are coming from Islamic countries for education. After asking the Lord to open a door, a friend who is a taxi driver met one of these students who needed help. He connected that student to us and the next week another 40 students were meeting in our office for cultural activities. Many of them accepted Christ as a Lord and Saviour.

We’ve been able to provide emergency accommodation, financial support, legal aid, friendship, pastoral care. We’ve offered ourselves as a family for them and connected them to godly people who helped them in different areas. We see Christians using their God-given gifts and placement within New Zealand society to help us to love these ‘strangers’ among us.

Many more stories could be told – we have a new one every day. The Lord is doing his work, and we are the tools in his hand. The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. There is much that we can do to love the stranger among us.

Practical suggestions

  • Speak to your pastor or mission team about putting you in contact with someone who is serving in this area or ask them if they know of a ‘stranger’ who needs help.

  • Introduce yourself to a migrant or visitor to your church and consider inviting them for a meal at your home where you can come to know them closer. Perhaps that will open further opportunities to help: assisting them with finding a job, with cultural adjustment, with basic living needs.

  • If you know about a new neighbour, go knock on their door. Introduce yourself, welcome them and invite them over if
    they want.

  • Call a mission organisation or group that is works with migrants or refugees. Offer yourself to share in welcoming and helping ‘strangers.’

  • Commit as a church or small group to regularly pray for the ‘strangers’ in your community. Perhaps this could even become part of your regular church services or small group gatherings?

  • Take time to identify the needs in your local community. What is it that ‘strangers’ are in need of? Is it guidance, cultural-interpretation, friendship, counselling, work skills, housing and furniture? Are there ways your church or small group could start meeting some of these needs?

  • Perhaps most importantly, lift up your heart to God and ask him to open your eyes to see and find those who are in need.


If anyone is interested to learn more about this ministry in Christchurch, please contact office@nzcms.org.nz

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.