Welcoming Visitors

Muslim graduatesAs the school year ends, thousands of college and university students around the country are graduating - make that commencing, heading out into new chapters, armed with degrees from reputable institutions. Nadia is among those celebrating. An international student who just completed her degree requirements, she had the joy of lining up, having her name called, and receiving that coveted piece of paper this last weekend. Her brother, also studying here in the US, and her friends surrounded her with love and congratulations. As they took picture after picture of her with her degree, her flowers, and each friend present (multiple times), Nadia could barely hold back the tears, hardly believing that she was really finished.

She made it through five years of hard work, and she was in shock. Many of us would have a hard time doing what she did: Nadia came from a country where women can’t drive, much less have opportunities to advance, arrived in a huge and overwhelming country like the US, grew in her language skills to the level where she had enough proficiency to study and write papers, then did all the work to complete a degree in this other language. And all this, far away from the support system of her family and community back home. Connecting with others she could relate to and creating a new network have probably been the things that made this incredible achievement possible. Nadia and her friends exhibit amazing perseverence and diligence in these endeavors.

Soon there will be a get-together to love on her more - and send her off. Although the road felt long, Nadia’s graduation now feels quick and sudden. She’ll be taking her degree and heading back to her home country, ending this chapter in the US, quite brief in retrospect.

Nadia jokes with her friends, “I’ve been here for five years and never found a husband!” What other opportunities might she have missed while she was here? As she and others like her return to their homes, many of them as leaders and influencers, what is their impression of Americans? More importantly, how did they perceive and understand Christianity? Did Nadia meet any followers of Jesus who showed her real love and compassion? Was she ever introduced to the living Christ? Did we as the receiving community take advantage of the chance to welcome her in the name of the Lord, or did we let this opportunity slip through our fingers?

God continues to bring the nations to our doorstep, both permanently and temporarily. Just as many come to the US and other western nations for refuge and a fresh start, scores of internationals come to our cities not to stay but to visit. We only have them for a short time, and then they go back, often to hold prestigious or influential positions. How many of them come and go without the seed of the gospel planted in their hearts?