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You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt (Ex 22:21).
‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen’ (Dt 27:19).
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Lev 19:33-34).
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts (Mal 3:1-5).
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Heb 13:1-2).
It’s next August. You’ve decided to finish your degree in India, at a good university in Hyderabad. You step out of the airport and the it feels like a hot, wet blanket was just dropped on you. It’s more than 80 degrees out and raining like crazy.
At the same time, the smell is different. You’ve been breathing the dry, recirculated air of planes for more than a day. Now you step out and, beyond the smell of just wetness, there’s the smell of millions of people. And they smell very different from what you’re used to in America—deodorant isn’t as popular here, and people eat very spicy food. And the sewers are different, and sometimes you smell them.
And the sounds are strange, too. Strange instruments and chords and vocal styles come from every radio. And no one is speaking English. You know that most of them are speaking Telegu, and you’ve studied that, but you’ve never had to listen to so much of it before and you’re already getting tired from translating it in your head. Now you’re surrounded by Telegu 24/7—as well as Hindi, Tamil, and many other languages and dialects. The sixth taxi you try, the driver speaks some English, so you get in and, after a number of trials and errors, you arrive at your dorm.
Everything is different. Not even the wall plugs are the same—you’re going to have to buy an adapter. You have no sheets or bedding, not even a pillow. The room looks and smells unfamiliar.
And you’re going to be spending three years here. In that time, you may fly home three times—or you may not; it will all depend. But right now, you are in a strange land with strange smells, strange faces, strange tastes, strange sounds, and there is nothing familiar around you and you won’t know the next time you see something familiar to you.
You don’t know the next time you’ll be able to get a burger.
There are people on your campus who are going through that right now. They’ve been in the U.S. for three months now and they still haven’t encountered a familiar face, sight, sound, taste, or feel since they left home. The really good English speakers are just now starting to get used to being around English 24/7—some are even starting to dream in it now. Most haven’t gotten there yet.
They’re probably really homesick.
And what’s worse, Americans are so friendly, but so closed off. Americans smile and say hi to everybody, but we never invite people to hang out with us unless we’re already friends. We hang out with our friends after class, but how often to internationals get invited to that?
They have to spend a lot of time studying—that is what they’re paying so much (probably more than twice your in-state tuition) to come here for after all, so it’s a pretty high priority. But their homework also just takes them longer because it’s in a language they’re not as familiar with, and our teaching and learning style is often different from theirs.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to hang out. People want to feel like they belong—it’s the way we’re all wired.
If you were studying in Hyderabad right now, wouldn’t you want some of your classmates to invite you out with them? Wouldn’t it be really depressing to just go to class and then go home and study all day because no one includes you? You’d probably hang out with some other international students, but doesn’t a part of you want to make some close Indian friends while you’re in India?
So be a friend to an international student. It will stretch you—they may not speak English well, or it may require not hanging out with some other friends, and you may have to eat strange, new foods if you cook together—but that’s all the better! And it’s so worth it to connect with them!
And let us never forget the opportunity for the Gospel! Many international students come from countries that do not allow missionaries at all, or are just very hostile to the Gospel. Missions in India aren’t forbidden, but most Hindus have never had any access to the Gospel because most missions have gone for the low-hanging fruit: exclusively those outside the caste system—and reached a bountiful harvest—but they’ve never presented the Gospel to those inside the caste system. And for many Hindus, the way the Gospel has been presented is that, to become Christian they must become Western, and that’s not true at all. Christianity isn’t even from the West, but the East!
Internationals want to have friends, and they are very often very open to being discipled.
And think about it: if they come to know Christ, learn to be discipled and to make disciples, and become experienced with the Holy Spirit, they return to their home countries as indigenous missionaries! They can return home and share the Gospel and make disciples among their friends and family. Churches and small groups can get planted worldwide because you made a friend here!
What a tremendous opportunity to grow the Kingdom of God!
So remember your international students! They’re in your classes and in your dorms. Bring them into your heart and into your life, and invite them into the Kingdom of God! Learn to cook their food with them. Learn to speak some of their language. Learn who they are, and love them as Christ loves them!