“There’s no place like home for the holidays … for the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home.”
Perry Como croons the words to that Christmastime favorites as I sit at my computer in my own home. If there is a word most associated with “Christmas” other than “Christ,” I think it would be “home.” This time of the year leads many people home, literally, to visit family and friends. For those who can’t make it home like our military personnel, the desire to be home is especially sharp right now.
This weekend my family will gather at my parents’ house. I’ll see my brothers, their wives, and nieces and nephews. We’ll exchange gifts and get all the grandkids to hold still for a microsecond to take a picture. We’ll pray, then eat. It’s always a good day, because even though we may be scattered among three states, for that time we feel at home.
This makes me think about one of the components of Mission Georgia – refugees and internationals. When Joseph and Mary left Nazareth for Bethlehem, they didn’t know they would soon become refugees. Joseph knew his son was going to be the one who “will save his people from their sins.” But I doubt he realized it would result in them escaping by night to Egypt, leaving their home behind, and not returning until after King Herod’s death.
Clarkston International Bible Church has led the way among Southern Baptists in ministering among refugees through a variety of ways. Partners in that ministry include other churches wanting to do a mission trip and assist in their work. Other partners include NAMB SEND Relief and the Atlanta Morning Center, which will lead in another area of Mission Georgia – Pre/Post-Natal Care.
Christmas also is a time international students long for home. One way to help remedy that is opening your own.
Recently Teresa Royall did so. Royall, campus minister for Georgia State University, and her husband, Bob, hosted a group of students for a Christmas meal.
“We had students from ten countries in our home and it was a rich time of sharing about holidays around the world,” she said. “We were able to share what Christmas means to followers of Christ and read the Christmas story.”
Later on, Royall received an email from a student from Japan who attended.
“Thank you for today’s invitation and delicious food!” it read. “I was so happy that my dream which I joined the party at American big house, come true!”
To be clear in her email passed along to me, Royall doesn’t have what many of us Americans would call a “big house.” But to this student it seemed to be.
“It reminded me that many internationals want to be invited into an American home,” she said. “I’m grateful Bob and I had the chance to host these students.”
Our biggest blessings are the ones we don’t expect to get. Often, they also usually require at least a little bit of risk. Maybe you’ve never served among refugees or internationals, but maybe it’s time to consider it.
The Gospel we preach is big enough to overcome anything, whether it be a language barrier or cultural differences. It’s plenty big enough to bring us together, starting with the story of a family of refugees long ago.
Scott Barkley is editor of The Christian Index.