Yesterday in chapel, staff members of Growing the Church shared some of their favorite stories about GtC. When it was my turn to share, I broke down in tears, surprised by my emotion. I talked about my first encounters with the GtC staff and my earliest days there, and how everyone had welcomed me with opened arms.
You see, I know what it feels like to leave one’s beloved family, country, and culture and move half away across the world. I know what it feels like to quit a good job and head into the unknown of financial security. I know what it’s like to completely uproot, to sell one’s possessions and to arrive in a new country, carrying only three suitcases and two carry-on bags.
I am a foreigner. I know what it’s like to learn how to grocery shop again, learning new foods, how to read labels, new terminology, a new system of weight and volume. I know what it’s like to learn to drive on the left side of the road and to learn different rules of the road, to struggle to communicate, and to feel so homesick at times that the feeling feels almost like physical pain.
Despite these struggles, I know what it feels like to be welcomed with opened arms and with love, for people to be happy that I am here, for people to have me over for dinners and braais and to take me for walks on the beach. I know what it feels like to receive guidance about bank accounts, clothing, and cooking. I know what it’s like for people to be patient with me, as I struggle to communicate in their language. I know what it’s like for people to live out Leviticus 19:34a, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.”
This has been my experience in South Africa, and I can never thank my friends, family, colleagues, parish family, and all the countless churches, parishioners, priests, bishops, students and other individuals who have welcomed and loved me as one of their own.
You can be an ambassador of Christ by welcoming others who are foreign to your country, city, or neighborhood. Discover this resource and learn more about how you can come alongside those in your community.