“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19).
We are about to welcome a new family to our country. Because of our concern for their privacy, we won’t be publicizing details about the family in open forum. I can say, however, that they are Karen people from Burma. Tomorrow night (as I write this), a group of people from DBCC will go to the airport to tell this refugee family how happy we are to have the opportunity to know them. In a little over one week, we’ve collected enough items to furnish an apartment, moved those items across town, and then set them up in the apartment. I am in awe of the love and dedication shown by the people of DBCC. Special thanks go to Cheryl Flora and Susie Buchanan, as well as to Gary King for all the hard work they’ve done to pull this together in such short time. It’s difficult to tell you just how proud I am to work with such amazingly committed people—all the way around. Thank you.
“What,” you might wonder, “does helping a family of political refugees start a new life in our country have to do with the church? With our faith?” That’s a good question. Why should we be the ones to care? Aren’t there government agencies for this sort of thing? More good questions. My only response is to point out what it says in the book. I’d love to have a more creative answer, but there you go—as simplistic and old-fashioned as it sounds, that’s what the bible says we are to do. We welcome these strangers into our midst for no better reason than because that’s who God tells us we are—namely, we’re people who welcome strangers, because we’ve been strangers before, and God welcomed us.
Two years ago, our congregation voted unanimously to become an Open and Affirming Community of Faith. A big part of what that meant had to do with our public commitment to receive people, regardless of sexual orientation, into our fellowship to participate fully in our community. Open and Affirming, however, is a designation that encompasses so much more than our stance toward those of differing sexual orientation. At its heart, Open and Affirming is a way of situating ourselves inside the narrative of God’s expansive love to all people—especially those on the margins, those who are always in jeopardy of being forgotten by everyone else. Our work to welcome this refugee family is an expression of our continued commitment to extend the embrace of community to strangers. If the church reoriented its common life to do this on a regular basis, the designation “stranger” would be a rarity. And that, I believe, would make our God—who is not partial, who executes justice for the widow and orphan, and who loves strangers—happy indeed.