July 13, 2016

Welcoming the stranger

Written by  Daniel*

This article appears in the July/August 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.

If you’ve ever lived in a foreign country, you know how hard it is to fit into the community. Between the language barrier, the cultural differences, and the lack of connections, it can be difficult finding your place. When you’re the outsider, you really appreciate it when people welcome you into their homes.

In Central Asian culture, you don’t need to wait to be invited to go to someone’s house. When you drop in on someone, you don’t just sit down and drink tea. They make an entire meal for you: osh, or maybe pastries filled with meat and vegetables. Lots of fruits and nuts. They will drop whatever it is they are doing, bring out a full meal, and hang out with you for the evening. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve already eaten, they’re going to serve you an entire spread.

Invited to belong

Almost every evening, people would come over to my host family’s home or they would go visiting. If I hadn’t stopped by somebody’s home in a while, they asked where I’d been, or why I hadn’t come over for dinner. People I didn’t even know well made me — a foreigner still learning their language — feel welcomed like part of the family. I was invited to holiday celebrations, weddings, and football games. When the guys went out to a restaurant, they invited me along.

God told the Israelites: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34a, ESV). And as Jesus instructed in Luke 14:12–14, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

In Central Asia I learned to see hospitality in a different way than I did living in the U.S. It is more than just inviting someone over and serving them dinner. Hospitality is dropping what you’re doing and going out of your way to make someone feel like family. It is reaching out to someone who doesn’t quite fit in and making them feel like they belong. It is opening your home to people who aren’t your close friends and family and making them feel at home.

*Daniel is a pseudonym for an EMM worker serving in business for transformation in Central Asia.

This article appears in the July/August 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.

Listen to the podcast