Jesus said, "...you did it for Me."
Invite the Stranger In
These verses from Matthew chapter 25 inspire us to serve the people we do:
“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;” (Matthew 25:35)
And the righteous respond, “And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in; or naked, and clothe You?” (Matthew 25:38)
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.’” (Matthew 25:40)
And now the opposite is told:
“For I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’” (Matthew 25:42-43)
The word stranger jumps off the page to me in these verses! “I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.” The word stranger can also mean foreigner, immigrant, alien or newcomer.
I remember well when my husband and I moved to Barcelona (BCN), Spain. We moved there for work, and our baby girl was only 1 month old. We did not speak any Spanish. We were in a hotel in downtown BCN, and I stayed in the room with our baby, while Tim went down to the street and found a phone booth to call and find us an apartment to rent. (This was before laptops, the Internet, Google search, and smartphones.)
There was a phone book in the phone booth, and Tim had to put change into the phone for each call he made. He would call one real estate place after another, and no one spoke English. He would say, “Do you speak English?” and the other person would say, “No.” They all spoke only Spanish, and neither could understand the other.
His money was running out, and finally, one person on the other end, spoke English. Tim explained our situation. She took compassion on him, and said she would come meet us in her car! We did not know it, but we were in a bad part of town. While I waited for Tim in the hotel room, and as I looked out the window down to the street, I saw prostitutes approaching men for business.
We were foreigners. We were the strangers. We were the newcomers without understanding a word of the native language there! We knew no one. We had no friends or family there. We were the aliens. We were so thankful for the real-estate lady who saw a need, and walked the extra mile, to help us out.
Thankfully, this woman came to our hotel, and she said her sister had an apartment that she was renting. We saw the apartment, signed a contract, and moved into the apartment. She, so to speak, “invited us in” seeing that we were foreigners, strangers, and that we really needed help desperately. Not speaking the language, we were vulnerable and needy.
Let me fast forward 28 years to another time in our lives. When Nazarene Bible College opened their administrative offices in Lenexa, KS, we were one of the families who moved from Colorado to Kansas. We asked God to “give us people to love.”
As we looked for a local church to attend, God opened the doors for us to start a ministry to those who did not speak English. We called it Spanish Ministry – Ministerio en Español. The philosophy would be: one church, two languages. We were not planting a new church. We would specifically minister to Spanish speakers who did not yet have English skills.
We asked the English congregation if there were any of them there who God specifically put on their heart to form a team with us for this ministry. And God called three families from the English congregation to join us. One couple was Hispanic, one lady was a missionary kid, and one lady was a Spanish teacher. In addition, many of the English congregation became prayer partners with us, and the 6 of us began meeting for Bible Study in Spanish on Sunday mornings.
We knew there were “strangers” out in the community. “Foreigners,” like we had been, who needed love and help, and above all, needed the Gospel of Jesus Christ for life transformation. We put a sign outside on the busy church corner offering free English Classes one night a week. We use a Jesus Film material for English as a Second Language called “A Window to the World - Reaching the Nations Among Us.” We find it an excellent curriculum.
And the “newcomers” came! We have been teaching English now for 2 years. We have met people who were in their first week of arrival to the United States – people with not a single word of English! We have also met people who have lived in the US for 15 years or more, who still struggle speaking English. These “strangers” have come from El Salvador, Spain, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador, Turkey, Iran, Korea, and China.
Each class, we close our time together asking the students if there are any needs that they have that we can pray for. It is always amazing the great needs that are shared! It is also amazing how willing “strangers” are to be prayed for! From this large group of English students, many of them have wanted to know more about the Lord. The Bible study on Sundays turned into a Spanish service, and the “strangers” started coming on Sundays.
From this point on, it is difficult to call these people “strangers” because many have become part of “the family of God.” They might still be learning English, but they have experienced the transforming power of Jesus Christ changing their lives. God has done the work. God used a church that opened its doors to the “foreigner” and “invited them in.” Tim and I have had our prayer answered, “give us people to love.”
And without even knowing it, the Spanish Ministry team has served Jesus Himself. “‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.’”
I am so glad that we did not miss these precious people. “I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in;”
We have seen so many miracles: families united, sons and daughters coming to faith, talents being used for God’s glory, and lives transformed.
May God give us eyes to see “the strangers” among us. May we make intentional space for them to “enter in…” Enter into US life, enter into our fellowships, and ultimately, to enter into the Kingdom of God. And Jesus says, by doing so, we will be doing it for Him!
Rev. Susan McKeithen, NBC Executive Assistant to the President, Spanish Ministry Pastor