I remember when my wife Annica and I went down to the Wailing Wall on a warm summer evening in Jerusalem in 2009 to look for the first three stars in the night sky, marking the start of the Jewish Sabbath. Once there, unexpectedly, we were invited to the home of a Rabbi for a Shabbat meal. We walked through the streets and neighborhoods of the city before arriving at a house filled with happy people, and there was lots of food served there. There were so many people that they had set up outdoor furniture in the living room. We sat on white plastic chairs and sang Hebrew hymns, listened to the Bible, and praised the Lord together.
Amid all of this, the Rabbi stood up, and suddenly there was silence in the house. He raised a cup of wine and said something in Hebrew. Interesting, I thought, that looks familiar. Then a bowl of water was passed around for us to symbolically wash our hands in. After that, someone handed a long pan of freshly baked bread to the Rabbi, who said something in Hebrew before passing the bread around to everyone.
I recognize that, I thought! This Jewish ceremony is undeniably quite similar to the Lord’s Supper. There and then I understood the Jewish context of the Lord’s Supper. Since Christianity is born out of Judaism, we can learn a lot about our faith from the Jews. The Lord’s Supper is not just a ceremony but a real feast with Jesus at the center. A meal where strangers like I was at the party, are welcomed and included into the people of God. Thanks to Jewish hospitality, I had an encounter with the Lord.
A day later I was sitting on a hotel roof talking to a Dutchman who wanted to be baptized in the Jordan River. The Arabic scents of the evening breeze mingled with the neon green lights of the Muslim minarets and the grotesque cacophony of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
As we chatted about everything between heaven and earth, I began to feel a vision being born in my heart. I began to see how the Lord would send unreached people from closed countries to Europe, and how a revival among them would lead to mission in return.
Ever since I visited Jerusalem, these two experiences of integration and mission, of welcoming strangers and reaching out with the Gospel to all peoples, have inspired me. I have wanted to gather all my thoughts on what the Bible says about strangers, get them down on paper, and share them. But it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2021 that I finally sat down and started writing. The Lord can use our negative circumstances for something positive. But the more I’ve studied and written about what the Bible says about the refugee, the more of God’s love for the stranger I’ve seen all throughout Scripture. Now that I’ve finished writing this book, I feel like I could write at least one more book on the same topic. After all, almost every biblical person has been a stranger or a refugee at some point, even the Lord himself!
I know I’m not the best writer in the world, but my hope is that this book will inspire you to see in the Bible God’s love for the stranger, and that this in turn will lead you to a joyful commitment to people in need.
You have read a free chapter of my book Friend of Strangers. If you like this book, please consider purchasing the ebook through Amazon. Since English is not my native language, there may be some linguistic inaccuracies. Please contact me if you find any.
Read the next chapter: Created as a Migrant
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.