For almost a year now, my husband and I have worked for a Christian organization whose main purpose, though maybe not so explicitly, is welcoming the stranger. We were placed in a specific apartment complex in Atlanta, Ga with the mission of making this ordinary building and group of people a community. One of several of our responsibilities is when new residents move in, go and visit them, make sure everything went well with their move, introduce them to the area; welcome them. We make ourselves available to them as resource people, as the first person they may have met in this new city, as friends.
In the beginning of our time here however, we struggled more than we had originally anticipated. Neither one of us grew up in Atlanta. While our family is not too far away, they are not as close as they had been when we lived in Athens. We did not have any deep or close friends in the area. How were we as strangers suppose to welcome strangers? It was a struggle.
However, we quickly saw and realized the great need people have to be included, to feel important, to feel welcomed. We have several international residents who are here in the United States for the first time. It has been such an honor as they have invited us into their homes and shared their life and customs with us. In turn, we are able to share with them the love and hospitality of Jesus, hopefully showing them just a glimpse of the love the Father has toward them.
Our culture is one of constant hurry and movement from one place to another. We rarely stay in one place long enough to really build relationships with people; to be Christ to one another. Something that our time here has taught us is how meaningful “small” or “insignificant” acts of kindness mean to others around us. How by simply baking someone cookies or taking them dinner after surgery, we are fulfilling a need, showing them we care. No matter how small watching an episode of “I Love Lucy” with a homebound resident may seem to us, this is truly being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around us. When we sacrifice our time, energy and attention, we are welcoming strangers into the love and community of Jesus and his followers. While we may not always see fruit from our actions right away, we are comforted by the promise of Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth: It shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
In what way could you show the love of Christ to those around you, no matter how big or small?
When has someone reached out and welcomed you? How did that impact your life?
Lorien Magnus is a third year Marriage and Family Therapy student at Richmont Graduate University in Atlanta, Ga. She is also a graduate and editorial assistant for Conversations Journal. She loves learning about integrating her faith into her future psychological pursuits as well as doing relational ministry. She and her husband now reside in Atlanta, Ga.