by Evi Rodemann
I know Christmas is not here yet. But if you wanted to do something extraordinary, why not consider inviting a stranger into your home to provide him or her with some new friends, and then plan accordingly over the next few weeks?
Christmas can be life changing for people fleeing their countries and finding a home with us. According to the UN refugee commission, in 2015, 42.5 million people were refugees. Every minute, eight people flee their homes.
In Matthew 25:35 and 40, Jesus says, “’For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in’… The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.´”
Last Christmas, I did exactly this with my dad and youngest sister. Instead of joining family members, I opened my home, and together with my family members we welcomed five strangers: an Iranian lady, a homeless German, a depressed person, an Iranian refugee who had only been in the country for a few days, and someone new in Hamburg.
It was wild, wonderful, and heartwarming. We told stories and tears flowed. For us, it was not a huge deal. It was welcoming them into our home, hearts, and lives. We fed them, made them feel welcome, and gave them space to share their stories.
A burden lifted from their hearts as three of them shared that they had cried for days, not knowing where they would go at Christmas (Muslim or Christian), facing the loneliness and fear of the unknown, and missing family and home.
Although we could hardly communicate with two of our new friends due to language barriers, the spirit helped us to overcome. The Iranian refugee was so touched that she started to ask questions about God. Six months later, in June 2016, she got baptized. It all started with opening our home at Christmas.
Jesus encourages us in the Gospel of Matthew to feed the hungry and invite the stranger. This is not only for those involved in ministries that specialize in reaching out to refugees; instead, all of us are encouraged to welcome the stranger in our midst.
With Germany receiving nearly one million refugees in 2015, we have a lot of opportunities to welcome and share. In my small city outside Hamburg, for each refugee family, a godfather or godmother is sought to help integrate, assist, etc. My twin sister has adopted two families, one from Iraq and one from Afghanistan, both of whom live in refugee centres near us.
My 7-year-old niece started to accompany her mom on visits and her heart has been touched as well. She went back home and sorted through her toys and balls in order to go back and bring the kids things to play with. When asked what she would like to do in the afternoon, she often says, “Let´s go visit the refugees so I can play with the children!”
Just as it pains Jesus to see the needy situations of people spiritually and physically, we also are asked to share the same pain. As Bob Pierce from World Vision so well stated, “May my heart be broken by what breaks God´s heart!” How about this Christmas then
Questions to ponder:
- Am I willing to share some of my precious celebration time with strangers?
- Is my view on strangers more shaped by politics than the Bible?
- Who around you is a stranger whom you could reach out to
Evi Rodemann (@erodemann) is part of the Lausanne European steering team and a member of the Lausanne YLGen Development team, living out her passion of reaching young people and developing younger leaders, especially with a focus on Europe. In 2016, she completed her MA on European Mission with Redcliffe College, UK.