Nearly 30 years ago, a friend of ours from Thailand spoke at a mission conference. He said that most people are either unable or unwilling to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel of Christ to those of other languages and cultures. He also said that God was overriding our failure to “go” by bringing substantial numbers of those people to us, in the form of immigrants to this country.
He was right.
Only a few weeks later, I learned that a family had moved to our small community from a refugee camp in Thailand. Originally from Laos, they were ethnic Thai and ethnic Chinese—and Bhuddist/animist in their beliefs. A coalition of local churches had sponsored them and brought them to town, and they were living about a block from my house. When an appeal was made for volunteers to teach them English, I knew that God had given me the opportunity to “go”.
That was one of the best experiences of my life.
God allowed me to know them through the ESL class for the adults, as a neighbor and mentor, as a tutor for their children. They were introduced to a larger Asian community in a nearby city and took part in adult Bible studies led by my friend from Thailand. I was able to teach the children. Although they later moved from the area, they came to know Christ and became members of His Church.
Fast forward to 2010…
Recently, a building in our area was purchased by a Muslim professional man for use as a place of prayer and instruction by other Muslim families who have immigrated to our part of eastern Wisconsin. That property must be re-zoned in order for it to be used as a mosque.
In light of the events of the past 10 years, Americans have developed a paranoia about people of the Muslim faith. As a result, there is significant opposition to interaction with them.
Ironically, many of our churches have supported missionaries in Muslim countries for years, yet they seem to have a NIMBY attitude to “going” across the street to get to know local Muslims as people. They speak English and have been culturally integrated in many ways, so they don’t have the same needs as my Asian friends did, but I wonder what opportunities God has for us.
We will never know if we bar the doors and refuse to let them come.