“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:10–13).
In Southeast Asia, a pastor took my team up onto the very top of an enormous building in the middle of the city. He told us to look out across the city. We could see endless roads filled with traveling vehicles and motorbikes. We could see the gigantic bridge that stretched from our island to the next island over, where many are unreached and have never heard of the gospel. We could see building after building. There had to be millions in that city, millions who did not know that there was a God who would take them as they are.
He wants all of us as we are. We come, as we are, before Him, having nothing to offer Him but “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17).
When I returned to the States, I wasn’t coming home to a place that had it all together. I was coming home to more brokenness around me, to a place filled with people who thought they had it all together.
It became clear to me throughout my adventure overseas, and then in my life at home, that my job was to love others where they were at. For such a long time I wanted to come to Jesus with something, anything, but I realized I had nothing to bring; nothing to give but a broken and sinful heart.
And I wasn’t the only one. I’m ashamed to say there were times I looked at my friends and people I met and thought, “They definitely need to fix that before they can come to Jesus, or even have a relationship with Him.” But who was I to make that verdict? I am just like them. In desperate need of grace, in desperate need of a Savior.
Since that time away, God has graciously given me the ability to love my friends where they are at. To share with them of the love of the Savior where they are at. To remind them that they don’t have to have everything together before they come before the Holy One. They can come before Him with all their mess and chaos and just lay it down at His feet.
The most powerful and beautiful thing about His grace is that although we don’t deserve it, we have the ability to receive it; not because of our works, but because of His work on the cross. Because of Him, there is a way to the Father. And because of grace, we can say, “Look, God, I’m not even worthy to come before you and I have nothing to offer — but I know and trust that your grace is sufficient.”
Since we served with EMM and MCC in Cambodia for seven years, the people of Southeast Asia have been close to our hearts. Living with our Cambodian brothers and sisters, we worked with education, youth ministries, and the local church. During that time, our priority was learning the language, culture, and story of the Khmer, a people who had lived through genocide and 20 years of war. Our end goal was to encourage and build up local leadership among them.
Lancaster City has recently become known as “America’s refugee capital,” following a report by the BBC which said that Lancaster takes in 20 times more refugees per capita than the rest of the U.S. Meet Barbara Witmer, one Lancaster City resident whose longstanding commitment to refugee resettlement has affected hundreds of lives.
Sally and I knew El* would be the first woman to arrive for worship every Sunday morning. She’d be out front of the church with her headphones on, dancing wildly to “Stomp” by Kirk Franklin.
In the 1970s, a Marxist military group called the Derg gained control of Ethiopia by force. There followed several years of civil unrest, in which gunfire seemed to resound beyond every horizon, friends and neighbors were divided by fear and betrayal, and the church was forced deep underground.
What does “welcoming refugees” mean to me?
Tuesday night, on the last day of January 2017, I stood on Penn Square in the setting sun with 2,000 of my neighbors in support of refugees and immigrants in our city and in our country.