Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Open Arms

Kristen Tropf, Volunteer, Spain
The Call, July-September 2016

It’s said you never truly understand someone until you walk a mile in his shoes. I never imagined I’d experience life as an immigrant, but several years ago God led me to live in a foreign country in order to work with immigrants. An immigrant living alongside immigrants. I didn’t expect it to be easy living in a foreign country, but it was much harder than I expected. Between language learning, government paperwork, culture shock, learning how to do simple tasks in a different context, and being far from family, sometimes just getting through the day was a victory!

As I adjusted to life in a foreign country and got to know my students and listen to their stories, I got a close-up view of their difficulties. Many came here in search of a better life or more opportunities but have only been disappointed with the outcome. Others feel alone and isolated—far away from loved ones and at odds with the new culture. At times they feel unaccepted and unwelcome in this new land. 

It’s here in this vulnerable state, far from all that is familiar, that God gives us the precious opportunity to be Jesus in the flesh to them. We have the privilege to show His acceptance, love, and grace. We can welcome them with open arms. God has always had a soft spot in His heart for the marginalized—the foreigner, the widow, the orphan, the poor. He longs for us, His redeemed people, to also share His heart of compassion.

Here are a few practical suggestions for ways we can reach out to immigrants or those new to our country:
  • Invite someone from another country to your home for a meal
  • Offer to practice English conversation with them
  • Learn about their culture and worldview—they have rich experiences to share
  • Make yourself available to assist with healthcare processes or enrolling children in school
May we remember that we also are foreigners here, awaiting our permanent home, our true country. And then may we bring a part of that kingdom here to earth by loving those who are far from home.
ACT: Kristen offers some very practical ways to welcome immigrants with open arms. Sometimes it’s easier to make new friends alongside someone else. This month, grab a trusted friend and ask them to help you intentionally befriend someone from another culture, using one of Kristen’s suggestions. 
PrayPRAY: Praise God for volunteers like Kristen, who are willing to “walk a mile” in the shoes of immigrants.
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