You can’t get online without seeing the news about the Syrian refugee crisis. Folks are saying it’s the worst refugee crisis since World War II. And while our hearts may break as we read the stories behind the photos, it’s easy to keep this event at a distance as it’s not our families, our friends, our country.
As I read these stories and weep over the situation, I see the face of a woman I’ve known for the past two years.
One day during the spring break of my senior year of college, I hopped in the passenger seat of my mom’s Subaru Outback and rode with her to the west side of Indianapolis. We drove to an apartment complex in a part of town where you always lock your car and get inside as quickly as possible.
We walked to the door of two bedroom apartment, knocked and were met by M, a young Palestinian woman who had recently moved to Indiana from Iraq following the fall of Sadaam Hussein. She came to the U.S. with her husband and five children after living in a tent in a refugee camp for two years.
My mom and an ESL tutor had been meeting with M, helping her acclimate to American life and teaching her conversational English. And my mom had asked me to come during spring break since the ESL tutor was out of town. So for an hour and a half or so, I played with M’s youngest daughters while she and my mom talked.
When the time came to leave, M ran to her kitchen and pulled out a dish of Palestinian food, insisting we take it with us.
“No, no, no,” my mom declared. “That is food for you and your family.”
M would hear none of it and it became the first meal shared between M and myself.
Over the next year, I would eat a handful of meals with M and her family. I would sit in their apartment or my parents home, feasting on M’s superb cooking while drinking tea and coffee, hearing about their life as immigrants and the grueling journey that brought them to America. They came to my wedding and gifted me a tea set and silver tray that sits on my corner shelf in the dining room, reminding me of their story and the many ways that my life is richer because of them.
I remember the meals we’ve shared and how my life has been changed by this humble refugee family.
As I grieve for the suffering of precious people who now find themselves without a country to call their own, there is an unparalleled occasion for Christians to show hospitality. We have now a vast opportunity to open our tables to the vulnerable, the displaced, the weary.
The Christian cannot afford to miss this opportunity. Because through making room at our tables for those seeking a new home, we not only have a chance to bless but to be changed and blessed in the richest and deepest of ways.
3 Reasons We Must Show Refugees Hospitality
We must make room for the refugees at our tables because we are sojourners, and we have received hospitality.
If your story is anything like mine, your life has been changed by people welcoming you into their lives and homes. How can we not reciprocate this kindness by showing people hospitality?
The command to provide hospitality courses through the Old and New Testament and the command is clear: Show hospitality to those unlike you because you have received the greatest of all hospitality in Jesus.
We should make room for the refugees at our tables because it will change us.
As we spend time with and personally learn the stories of those who have fled their homes to begin a new life, how we view our lives will be re-framed. We will see the mundane and ordinary as a gift. We will be changed by the world outside our zip code. We will see the beauty and resiliency of God’s image bearers in the midst of great evil. We will be reminded that this world is not our home, and we are merely sojourners.
We ought to make room for refugees at our tables because it foreshadows the feast to come.
In Isaiah 25, Jesus return is prophesied, and a great feast is described:
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
When we open our tables to those from other countries who are suffering and mourning and show them hospitality, we glimpse the kingdom of God that is to come.
Let Us Prepare
The refugee crisis will continue to escalate, and we have an opportunity to prepare our hearts and homes for the beautiful work of hospitality.
Begin praying for the refugees— that they will have safety in their travels, that they receive comfort and that they will be welcomed in their new homes. Educate yourself on the crisis. Build connections with individuals and organizations that resettle refugees and help them acclimate to life in the U.S. Give to organizations currently helping to alleviate the suffering; Ann Voskamp is helping lead the way.
Be ready. Coming alongside those resettled in a country that’s new to them is not comfortable, tidy work. Opening our tables to those unlike us comes with personal, financial and emotional costs. Although it is not glamorous, it is glorious.
Friends, the time is now. Let’s prepare our tables for those who are on their way.
[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.
But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
(Luke 14:12-14 ESV)