Why should you care about internationals?
Foreigner. International. Someone different than me. Someone raised in a different culture or a different country. Immigrant.
When you hear those words, what is your initial reaction?
For many, the initial instinct is to feel threatened, or to a lesser degree awkward, or maybe, and possibly the worst, indifferent. Why should I care about THOSE people?
The simplest answer to why I should care about those people is because God cares about them. Look at these verses from our Bible:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:17-19
“The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” -Psalms 146:9
We care about the foreigners, immigrants and internationals among us because God cares about them.
There are 470,000 immigrants living in Minnesota. There are also around 6,000 students at the University of MN Twin Cities Campus, many from China and India. They are here. In our city. And they need to hear that Jesus loved them enough to come to rescue them from the corruption of sin in this world. Most of these immigrants and international students never get invited into an American home and most don’t have Christian friends who show them the love of Jesus.
We—you and I—are Christ’s ambassadors here and now (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) to these people to share the Good News of the Kingdom. We believe God has sent the world to our metro area so that they can hear the Gospel. The media may tell us another story, but the story of the Bible is more authoritative than the media. Jesus loved every foreigner among us enough to die for them. Will you tell them about Jesus?
What are some practical ways of meeting an international here in the metro area?
First one caution: just because someone looks like they have a different ethnicity than yours, don’t make assumptions about how they have been raised. Be humble enough to learn about their story. Their grandparents may have been immigrants, but they have been born and raised here and consider themselves American.
Where can you meet an international? Here is a list of ideas. There are countless more ways for you to meet someone from a different culture, this is just a starting point!
Neighborhood parks with your kids or grandkids
Kids naturally break down barriers. They are less concerned with apparent differences than are adults. Engage the parents in conversation.
Your kids’ schoolmates and their parents
Show interest in their families at school events. Sit next to them. Introduce yourself and start a conversation.
A local ethnic grocery store
Google ethnic grocery stores in your area. Go and shop there. Ask questions about the food and be courageous enough to try something new.
A local ethnic restaurant
Asian. Somali. Middle Eastern. Hmong. Indian. Latin. They are all here and many are owned by immigrants trying to make a living. Visit them regularly and get to know the staff and the owners.
The Mid-Town Global Market
A special place in South Minneapolis where the world gathers. Restaurants. Shops. Coffee shops. Make a habit to visit regularly and make friends. Check out the list of merchants here.
The Hospitality Center
A Christian ministry that connects international students with churches. You can volunteer as part of the events they host, where you can meet international students. You can become a conversation partner with an international student. Both are great opportunities to start a friendship with students from many unreached countries. Click here for more information.
Arrive is a refugee assistance organization that helps refugees from around the world learn how to do life in America. There are multiple ways to serve with Arrive. Click here for more information.
How do you build a friendship with an international?
In most cases, it is just like building a friendship with a new neighbor.
Before you start any endeavor with an international, pray! Ask God to prepare your heart, to pour His love for these people into your heart. Ask Him to show you where to go, and with whom you are to connect.
Be the first to introduce yourself
Ask for names. Exchange numbers and plan to meet again at the same time or place. Then start praying for them and their children by name, specifically. Prayer will open your heart and will prepare their heart.
Keep those commitments and plan abundant time for connection.
Internationals live their lives at a different pace than most Americans and they value relationships deeply. Presence matters to them, so plan for hours and for conversation.
Be humble. Listen and learn. Don’t correct or lecture. Just listen and learn. Ask open-ended questions. There is a treasure waiting for you as you learn about other cultures.
Avoid hot buttons like politics or current events.
Just be a caring friend about their world.
Be patient, but relentless.
Don’t give up if you don’t connect with the first few internationals you meet. (You don’t make friends with every American you meet either.)
Resources to help
Foreign to Familiar
Seeking Allah Finding Jesus
Discovery Bible Study App – Resource for studying the Bible with people who do not know Jesus. And it offers the Bible in MANY foreign languages.
Small Group Guide on Welcoming Internationals
Other Bible references to internationals