By Darla Oksnevad
God is moving people around the world. Have you noticed internationals in your neighborhood? God is bringing the mission field to our doorsteps, from all over the world. Yes, immigration is a major political and economic issue today. But God has an eternal view & purpose. In Acts 17:26-27, Paul tells us that God determines where and when people live so that they might seek Him and find Him.
Are you building bridges of friendship with the immigrants that God is bringing to your neighborhood, to help them find the Lord?
The holidays are a great time to build some bridges and share the story of Christ, which some have never heard. It can be a lonely time for those far away from home. Here are some suggestions. Try some and see where they lead.
Invite an international college student or family for Thanksgiving dinner. Some students are “stuck in the dorm” for Thanksgiving. Check with the international student department at local colleges for students who would like to be invited to a home. Share what your family is thankful for. Include personal testimonies of how you came to know Christ as Savior. If they have not heard the story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, share it with them, perhaps using illustrated children’s books to tell the story. Ask some questions about their country and culture, and if they have any similar holidays. Then follow-up later by inviting them again for dinner.
Take a gift of food to an international neighbor, such as pumpkin or banana bread, homemade cookies, brownies, a pie, or your traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas food or dessert. Include a card with your address and phone number if they need any help or information. Some people will return the gesture and bring you something. Accept any gifts from them graciously, as it is their way of honoring you.
You could also include the “Life of Jesus” DVD (www.AllNationsDVDs.com or Jesus Film Project—jesusifilm.org for DVDs and gift cards in 1900 languages), Christmas literature, or an invitation to Christmas services or concerts. Some churches distribute the “Life of Jesus” DVDs or gift cards to internationals in their community over the holidays, by going door-to-door, in shopping areas, or wherever people “hang out”.
Invite internationals to attend a Christmas concert or church event with you. Then invite them back to your home for dessert and discussion about the event. Ask if they have any questions about the message they have heard. Share the Christmas story from the Bible and explain that this is the real reason for Christmas.
Plan an international Christmas event, such as a ladies brunch or lunch. Use decorations from around the world, serve international foods, and encourage the women to wear national dress. Include testimonies from several women and a clear, simple Christmas message. Provide translators, if needed.
Plan a Christmas party for immigrant children, with a visualized story, games, & a snack.
Share your church building with immigrants who would like to have a holiday party, but need a place to meet. Offer to help with the event.
“Adopt” an international student or family during their stay in your community, to be their “family away from home.” Help them adapt to life here.
Help a refugee family settle into your community by providing household items, furniture, food, winter clothing, and transportation and by helping them contact utilities, schools, and doctors. Provide a box or basket of holiday food and gifts for recently arrived refugees. This can be your Christmas gift to them. Continue to build a relationship with them throughout the year.
Darla Oksnevad and her husband Roy have ministered to Muslims and Muslim-background Christian believers and other internationals for many years. Reprinted by permission.