The time has come when I need to really consider that what I feel called to do in the completion of my doctorate degree is something that the church needs. When it comes right down to it, I know that it is important. It is something that I have felt drawn to for years. How can we not think about how to welcome the stranger? Christ has welcomed us all. And in some way or another, we are all strangers. There are so many ideas and notions and thoughts and questions within us that we do not want to contemplate, that we do not want to admit, that make us strangers to each other, to ourselves, but never to God, who loves us most and cherishes what we are and what we can be.
I must believe that with all the frailties of the church, with all the sin and corruption, with the divisiveness and the ways we forget about what Jesus taught us, God still loves the church and cherishes how we do express love and compassion and cherishes what we can be. And this is where I am today. I am listening to God remind me about the places and the ways that the church has made a difference in the lives of God’s people, and I am listening to God remind me about the places and ways that God imagines the church can make a difference in the lives of God’s people now.
And I am trying to listen as God reminds me that this project and writing that wraps up my doctoral studies, that must be taught in September, that must be written up by mid-January, is something that is important and can be said in my own unique way.
What is my project and the desire of my heart? It is to help the church in North America to think about and talk about what it means to welcome the stranger—refugees and immigrants—by examining our understanding of ourselves and our ancestors and the stories of their lives that led to leaving everything that they knew to have a better, safer life, a life that has led to the lives we have now. It is to remember a time when we were strangers, or our families were strangers and to think about what questions needed to be asked and answered in order to make the decisions to become strangers. It is to think about the perils along the way and how these perils were overcome. It is to think about who offered us or our families hospitality and a place of home. It is to think about how we are given opportunities to welcome others who have had to make those same decisions, face those same perils, and hope for hospitality and a place of home.
I have researched my own family history, gathered stories of their time of hardship, decision-making and journey as refugees. I descend from four families that are well documented as refugees that left Germany in 1709. Their lives had been riddled with disease, war, religious persecution, and a climate event that caused economic devastation. Could they stay and survive? Could they leave and survive? What choices did they have?
They faced discrimination, peril, poverty, disease, death, and the knowledge that they would never see home or their families again. Never. They lived in a refugee camp for nearly a year around London before Queen Anne decided what to do with them and how to support them. My eighth great grandmother died in a refugee camp in London. My seventh great grandparents had two children died on the crossing of the Atlantic. Another set of my eighth great grandparents and their children were deported back to the home they had left because they were Catholic and only Protestants were supported by Queen Anne’s refugee resettlement project in the colonies. Eventually, they tried again and made it to the colonies the second time.
Thousands upon thousands of Americans descend from these 3000 refugees that left Germany in 1709 and arrived in the colony of New York in 1710. The story of my ancestors is not the only story of refugees and immigrants that arrived in this country for a better way of life. There are many, many stories that can be told and are still being written. We cannot forget our origins or those whose DNA makes who we are.
Along the Rhine River in Germany. My ancestors traveled on this river to the Netherlands, across the English Channel to London and then across the Atlantic Ocean to the Hudson River in the colony of New York.
As people of faith, we cannot forget how we are to welcome the stranger. We cannot forget that we are called to offer hospitality, community, and home. We cannot forget. We must remember. We must discover and reclaim our stories. We must hear the stories that are being told today. We must remember what it means to welcome the stranger, how we offer compassion in Christ’s name, how the stranger strengthens our community, how hope for our troubled world can grow and flourish.
Matthew 25:31-40 offers us the understanding of what causes people to be strangers or refugees or looking for a better way of life. In part these words of Jesus are:
“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, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” (Matthew 25:35-39)
So, now you know what will occupy my thinking over the next five months. I have challenged myself to write about the process of completing the teaching and writing of this project. The best way I know to fulfill this challenge is to write and post on my blog. I appreciate prayers for this journey. I appreciate you reading my thoughts. I appreciate you all.
Soli Deo Gloria!
The Hudson River where my ancestors first settled in the colony of New York. They were sick, destitute, lonely, but they made it because they were offered hospitality and home.
2 thoughts on “The Time Has Come…”
So with you on this and praying these next months for clarity, vision and determination like your ancestors had! This is an important message for the church to hear. Keep going! I will be following you and praying along your journey.
Thank you Kim!