Welcoming the Stranger

by Kelsey Salvesen and Mim Tilton September 29, 2016

 

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”  Matthew 25:35 

On September 28, 2016, when a family of 10 stepped off a plane at their Port of Entry in New York City, they had traveled farther and endured a longer and more harrowing odyssey than most arriving passengers. This family had fled years of violence and unrest in their home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), only to wait in a refugee camp in Malawi, before finally—finally—finding their way to a more permanent sanctuary in the United States.

Why did this family leave everything behind? Why did they risk their lives to make their way out of their homeland to Malawi and then to the United States? They did so only under extreme provocation; they fled a conflict in their home nation that has kept the country in turmoil since 1996. The conflict has been called “Africa’s World War” due to the sheer number of countries (nine) and armies entangled in the violence. In 20 years, the war has displaced more than 3 million Congolese. The U.S. Department of State reports the conflict has likely involved war crimes and crimes against humanity, from disappearances and torture to mass rape. Many people, like the Heri family, who arrived this week in Philadelphia, initially sought asylum from this violence in neighboring nations. But these nations were themselves unsafe, in turmoil, or oversaturated with refugees. Unable to return safely to their own country, they looked to other nations, like our own United States, to provide refuge.

The Bible reminds us again and again how we are to care for those in need—for those who are suffering, hungry, and looking for refuge. In Luke 10, a man is attacked, stripped of his clothing, beaten, and left half dead; a priest and a Levite both see the man’s distress, but do nothing. Only when a Samaritan passes by does the man receive any help. Jesus shows us in his parable that only the Samaritan, who had mercy on a stranger in distress, was truly a neighbor to him, though this neighbor was unknown to the Samaritan. Jesus again calls us to succor the stranger in Matthew 25:35 when he says, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” As Christians, it is our duty and our privilege to welcome, feed, and care for strangers, no matter where they come from.

On September 28, we helped welcome the Heri family to Philadelphia: Asukulu Heri, his wife Zamda Malumalu, and their six children—five boys and one girl, ranging in age from 5 to 17. Also traveling with the family are two orphaned young men, Saleh Angoya and Kakozi Kashindi, taken in by the Heri family while they were in the refugee camp in Malawi.

Please join us in welcoming the Heri family to Philadelphia. We can start by praying for them. Pray for Asukulu and Zamda and their children Asukulu, Mercredi-Saint, Shika-Sana, Nyemia, Alpha, and Vision De La Troisieme Eglise. Pray for their foster children, Saleh and Kakozi. Pray for the family as they transition into their new life and pray that Tenth would be an integral part of making this city home for them.

Pray that we would remember that we are to “love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18–19).