Welcoming the Stranger

This is the image created for the World Women's Day of Prayer-- the warm colors are shown to be welcoming in the cold grey of the stranger.
This is the image created for the World Women’s Day of Prayer– the warm colors are shown to be welcoming in the cold grey of the stranger.

“How long, O LORD? How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat?…They oppress your people, LORD, hurting those you love. They kill widows and foreigners and murder orphans. “The Lord isn’t looking,” they say, “and besides, the God of Jacob doesn’t care.” Think again, you fools! When will you finally catch on? Is the one who made your ears deaf? Is the one who formed your eyes blind? Can unjust leaders claim that God is on their side–leaders who permit injustice by their laws? They attack the righteous and condemn the innocent to death…But the LORD is my fortress, my God is a mighty rock where I can hide. God will make the sins of evil people fall back upon them. He will destroy them for their sins.”  (from Psalm 94)

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33–34

The news this week has been all about a South African Police Officer who brutally beat up a Mozambican taxi driver during a scuffle because he was parked illegally. The Mozambican man was subdued and tied to the back of the bakkie (pickup) and dragged behind the vehicle. An onlooker took a video, which was posted on YouTube and the police officer is now facing murder charges (the Mozambican man died in police custody later).

Last week on Friday it was the Women’s World Day of Prayer. Women gather worldwide at 10 am to pray for the nations of the world and their own country. Each year a different country is in charge of writing the liturgy for the service– made up of prayers, hymns, and creative elements such as dance and drama. This year the liturgy was written by France and the theme was “Welcoming the Stranger”, taken from the words of Jesus in the parable of the sheep and goats. “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me in.”

Anna, Karabo, and I joined the Hilton service (of mostly elderly women). The service encouraged us to think of times when we had been strangers and how we were welcomed, in order to see how to welcome others. God uses this same tactic on his people in Leviticus, reminding them to love foreigners since they themselves were foreigners in Egypt. More often than we’d like to think we ignore the foreigner or shut them out, rather than actively welcoming them in. It takes work. When you are in your comfort zone, it is difficult to think about what it is like to be someone who doesn’t understand everything, who feels different and alone.

I read Psalm 94 today, and it’s a scary Psalm. The psalmist seems pretty convinced that God takes special interest in the widow, orphan and foreigner (the people society overlooks)– and he’s actively against people and governments who practice injustice.

South Africa is home to many African refugees. Our area has a lot of Zimbabweans who are looking for work. Even at my church. How are we welcoming them? Are we just going with the flow and expecting them to fit in with what is comfortable for us? How are we as a church thinking about ways to celebrate their culture, to include and encourage them? How are we working as individuals and communities to embrace the strangers in our midsts?

  • Pray for the team from APU college students which join us next week!
  • Pray that South Africa would be a welcoming place to strangers. 

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