Dear Praying Friends:When Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, seeking a place for their firstborn child to be born, there was no room in any inn for them. As a result, the baby Jesus was brought into this world in a stable, and laid in a feed box for animals as a crib (in fact, “crib” meant “feed trough” originally!).
Strangers from Afar
Today, thousands of students come from foreign lands to pursue higher education in America. Several hundred thousand are Chinese. Most of these people never enter an American home during their entire stay in this country! Some return quite bitter and disillusioned; others settle down here, feeling like permanent strangers in a foreign land. For better or for worse, this nation is known as a “Christian country” around the world. What sort of impression do you think is left in the hearts and minds of those who find no welcome here?
Open Heart, Open Home
During this Christmas season, when all is bright and cheery on the outside, countless millions suffer loneliness and despair. Among them are surely many who wish they could be invited into one of those lovely homes they see pictured in the media, or glimpse from the street as they walk back to their bleak apartment. Christians can make a huge difference, not just at this time, but all throughout the year, if we just open our hearts and then our homes to the “aliens” among us.
Here are a few simple things you can do: - Invite one or two students from China to your church’s special Christmas service. - Ask them to come home with you afterwards for some Christmas goodies. Let them enjoy the tree and decorations with you and your family. - Be sure to include a present for them under the tree, and give it to them before they leave. They almost certainly will have brought a gift for you. - Consider inviting them to your home for Christmas dinner. You can have your own family time first, and then welcome them into your home. They miss their parents, and perhaps a spouse or even child(ren) still in Asia, and will love to be a part of your family, even for an afternoon. - Consider buying and showing to them the marvelous film that came out last year, “The Nativity story.” It is a beautiful movie. (True, the final scene is idealized, but in my opinion it “works.”) This movie does more than any other I know to show just how “ordinary” were Jesus’ parents, how extraordinary was his birth, and how fragile his life, even from the beginning. It also portrays the feelings and struggles of those far away from home – like your guests!
For the rest of the year, you can:
- Invite them over for a meal once in a while. Don’t worry, they are busy, too, and won’t have time to take up too much of yours! - Take them along to a game or an outing with the family. - When with them, ask them to tell you about their family, their home, their country, their culture. Involve your children by having them look up places on the map or in the encyclopedia. - As you build the relationship, learn more about China, its history and culture, from the wealth of resources available. Go to our Web site (www.chinainst.org) for articles, book reviews, and more.
Seven Chinese joined us for Thanksgiving. Two of them had come to Christ in this country as a result of the kind of friendship I have described while living in China. They now host a Bible study for Chinese in their home. We meet with them frequently to advise them, and they help me learn more Chinese. The other four were eager to hear more about the origins of Thanksgiving Day. One couple among them are having a church wedding ceremony next week to supplement the civil one they had just before leaving Beijing. They have asked their host, a pastor, to preside, and us to attend. Even in China, the husband went to church; Dori took the wife to the church women’s Christmas party this week. Last year, we had a Chinese Christian couple stay with us for five days, and a sister from the same house church over the New Year’s break. It was great fun to share our holiday pleasures with them. Our annual Christmas party for Chinese Christian Fellowship gives us and the Christians in the group a chance to celebrate the coming of our Savior and to share our faith with those who have not yet believed. What a blessing it is to have such folk in our home at a time when we remember the arrival of the Homeless One who came to take us safely Home! Yours in the love of our majestic Savior, Wright