Do you ever find yourself gravitating toward someone because they’re different? Maybe they’re a foreigner, born in a country you know nothing about. Maybe you have almost nothing in common with them. But you’re a TCK, and you know how it feels to be the different one.
My family recently met a family who had emigrated from Cuba to Chile. Our immediate impulse was, “Let’s invite them over for dinner!” They were foreigners from Cuba; we were foreigners from the United States. That was more than enough reason to become friends.
As we sat around the dinner table, I asked our new friends what kinds of foods they make in Cuba. They lit up as they eagerly explained how they combine slices of giant banana with meat before wrapping them back in the banana peels to fry.
I was touched to see sad eyes brighten at my simple question. It gave me pause to contemplate how a little kindness, a little interest, can go a long way. Especially toward those who feel out of place.
Being a Foreigner is Hard
“Hard” is a broad term. For many foreigners, “hard” could mean missing family overseas, facing discrimination, or fighting for survival.
Even assuming you’re having the time of your life and couldn’t be happier in your new country, there are still small, practical challenges that come with being a foreigner. Something that may be a non-issue to a local could be a daunting hurdle to a stranger.
For example, a few practical challenges that my family bumped into as immigrants to Chile included:
- Finding a store that will sell you a mattress (sleeping on the floor is hard, guys … pun intended)
- Finding a store that will sell you anything (and not just take your money)
- Muddling through miscommunications due to the language barrier
- Standing in line at the immigration office for eight hours only to be told to come back tomorrow … more times than you can count
God Watches Over the Foreigner
Here’s the thing – God’s love and care accommodate the challenges life throws at us. Have you ever noticed how often the Bible mentions God caring for foreigners?
“The LORD watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”
Psalm 146:9 NIV
The Bible often links the foreigner with the widow, the orphan, and the poor. Basically, God is talking about people who are set at a disadvantage due to life circumstances. People who are often oppressed or taken advantage of by society.
God sees. God cares.
One of God’s methods for caring for foreigners is through His people. That’s where we come in.
The TCK Advantage
Countless people who have reached out to my family here in Chile have told us, “I spent some time in another country. I know that being a foreigner is hard.” Their experience prompted them to extend kindness to a stranger.
As TCKs, we have a unique advantage for reaching out to foreigners. We know what it’s like to be a cultural misfit, to not quite fit in anywhere. God has given us the incredible gift of understanding what it’s like to be a sojourner. Likewise, He can develop in us the gift of compassion.
In the Law of Moses, God commanded the Israelites to “not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (Ex. 23:9 NIV).
In a sense, all followers of Christ are foreigners because we do not belong to this world (John 17:16), but the Israelites experienced this in a tangible way. Much like many TCKs have.
God has given us a responsibility “to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deut. 9:10 NIV), whether we are foreigners in a country or foreigners to earth. Often, with a gift comes a responsibility.
Let’s use this gift.
Putting it Into Practice
Loving foreigners doesn’t have to be too hard or out of reach. Here are five simple yet powerful ideas on how you can reach out to the foreigners around you:
1. Make Conversation
Back when I could barely string two words together in Spanish, there were people who patiently persisted in talking to me. I couldn’t understand half of what they said, but what did that matter?
Next time you meet someone who struggles to speak your language, slow down. Be patient. Take the effort to engage in conversation. You may just make their day.
2. Show Hospitality
Invite a stranger over for tea. Or cake. Or sushi. Whatever it is you serve, extending hospitality is a sure way to bless a foreigner.
3. Fill a Need
I’ll never forget the week my family moved into a cold and empty rental house. One evening at church, my mom broke down crying. When a kind woman asked what the matter was, my mom managed to communicate in a few Spanish words that we had no firewood to heat our house and that she was cold.
The woman sent us home with a box of firewood. Someone else gave us a contact for buying firewood.
I don’t know about you, but I would like to be that kind of person toward others. The person who sees a need and fills it.
4. Be a Friend
Many friend groups are cliquish to outsiders. Other friend groups are warm and welcoming to anyone.
I’ve been a recipient of both. I’d rather be known for being the latter.
5. Share a Smile
Treat strangers with kindness. Remember that you never know what all someone has been through. If you do nothing else, conduct yourself in such a way that you’ll be remembered as a person who was kind.
A Lasting Impact
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about reaching out to others in difficult situations is that by doing so, we are ministering to Jesus.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells of how when He comes in His glory, He’ll say to the righteous, “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…” (Matt. 25:35 NIV).
When the righteous then ask Him, “Lord… [w]hen did we see you a stranger and invite you in[?]” Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:38, 40 NIV).
As imitators of Christ, we should love the strangers and misfits around us. You never know how far your simple act of reaching out might extend.
At the least, you might brighten someone’s day with a smile. At the most, you might leave an impact that someone will carry with them throughout the rest of their life. An impact that may even influence their eternity.
For to display care for foreigners is to display the heart of God.
TCKs for Christ: Editor-in-Chief
grew up between the United States and Chile and has months of experience living out of a backpack. She’s a reader and writer with an appreciation for historical authenticity and quality editing. She lives in an island cottage surrounded by sheep and an apple orchard and enjoys playing her viola, cooking, and sipping mate, a South American tea.