I have had the pleasure of welcoming many newcomers in my work teaching English to internationals.
The range of nationalities I encounter is massive: from Somalis and Sudanese from Africa, to Saudis and Libyans from the Middle East, to Brazilians and others from South America, to Turks, Vietnamese and Thais from Asia, and even some Kurds and Mongolians. The one thing that most of them express initially is that it’s a cold and slightly strange city, but the people are warm. I am always reminding them that the sun will come - although it may not be as warm as in their home countries. The photo above expresses how dark and gloomy the city can seem to the newcomer who is used to a warm climate. Even in this picture of a rainy day we see that the light is coming as the sun begins to glint through the clouds in the sky. We who live here know that the sun will come eventually, glinting over those hills.
In the same way, as Christians, we know that the son is coming. Light is coming into the world and that light is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. As we approach Christmas, we think of the light, the Son of God, coming into the world to dispel the darkness. John 1 v 5 says, ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ I have the privilege of sharing this with my friends of many nationalities, that the light of the gospel of Christ is for all nations and people everywhere.
I want to tell you the story of one of my friends, who I met as I was beginning this ministry in 2013. She had only just arrived from the Middle East and was recently married, after a short engagement. This friendship developed slowly, not helped by the fact that I misplaced her email address and she lost my phone number. I kept encountering her husband, who was a studying English at International House, opposite the church I attend and where I was involved in activities during the week.
By the time that we finally met up again it was a few months after our initial meeting. I then discovered that she was nearly five months pregnant and that this was her first baby. There were lots of nerves and anxious thoughts about giving birth in a strange city, where she did not know anyone and was so far away from the support of her own family. I assured her that I was willing to be there for her if she ever needed me. So, after a shaky start, our friendship continued to build over the next few months and I repeated my offer to help in getting her to the hospital when the time came.
I finally got the phone call that I was waiting for at nine o’clock one evening, so I gathered myself together and got over to her house as quickly as possible. Things were a bit further on than I expected so it was a more eventful drive to the hospital than I was expecting. Although we got to the hospital by ten that night, there was not much time to wait and her baby boy was born just after midnight. Her family, at home in her country, had been very concerned about her giving birth on her own in a strange city. She had continually told them that God would take care of her. She shared this with me afterwards and said, ‘God provided you to be with me when I was giving birth in a strange city’. What a joy it is to welcome those from other lands in the name of Christ and to reach out in love and friendship with the truth of the gospel, which can bring light into all lives.
J has worked with Muslims for over 15 years, firstly in North Africa and more recently among the growing refugee community in a city in the UK.
Photo © Roger Bradley
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