We often shelter our children from unknown situations, some because we are good parents who want to keep them safe, and some because we are afraid of the unknown. It is human to be afraid of what we do not know. Unfortunately, we act this way around people who are here from other countries. We spot them in parks, grocery stores, libraries, walking down the street. They look different, dress differently, sound different than us. Most of us, seeing the differences, pretend these people do not exist. Without realizing it, we are modeling these actions for our children. “Avoid people who are different from you.”
I began welcoming internationals about 18 months ago. I had always wanted to be a missionary and yet, I had never had a Hindu or Muslim friend. In theory, I loved the nations, and wanted my kids to love the nations, yet I had done hardly anything to reach the nations from my home. I realized that Jesus had put the nations at my “back door” so to speak and yet, I had not reached out to them because of my own fears, discomfort, and worry of offending them.
I was robbing myself and my kids of the blessing of welcoming, and being a tangible display of the gospel. I was not convicted of Jesus’ word, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” If I wanted to show my children God’s heart for the nations, I must put feet to my faith and do something to show them that His love looks like something.
I got connected with other women who were already welcoming internationals and asked if I could go along with them. I decided to take my son with me when I began visiting internationals. I was surprised at how easily he played with their children, and that the language difference did not matter to him. Sometimes we were offered strange foods and snacks my son was not used to, but that was ok! Sometimes the children fought over one toy, but that was ok, too! Sometimes my son jumped on their furniture, but it was not the end of the world! I wanted him to experience what people from these different cultures liked, ate, and enjoyed doing. Over time, my new friends have come to love my son.
Now, he is used to being with me on these visits, or when our international friends visit us in our home, and it sparks interesting conversations for our family. We get to talk about how these friends do not know Jesus, how we can pray for them, why they have idols in their homes, or why they cover their heads. We talk about how our family worships Jesus, the true God, who gave His life for these precious friends of ours.
Including our children in welcoming others is such a powerful, practical way to get God’s heart into our families! Unless we move to a new region or country, this may be the only way our kids can experience different cultures, customs, and beliefs … and the reality of what nations look like without the gospel. Having friends from other cultures enables us to show our children what aspects of those cultures are redeemable… what is beautiful … what is broken … which areas need Jesus.
Giving our children tangible, real-life exposure to the nations is one of the most precious gifts we can put in their path. We can talk about the nations all day long, but what about living among them? What about inviting them into our real, personal lives and loving them fully with the heart of Christ? Let’s show our children how to be the welcomers God has intended for us to be.
About the Author: Alicia and her husband, Titus, love people and experiencing other cultures. One of their highest goals is to inspire their children with God’s love and vision for all nations, and make it a tangible, doable part of everyday life. The Hofers love adventures outside, Indian food and taking their friends on adventures with them.