I had just shifted into high gear, speed-walking pace coming off my plane a couple of months ago in the Indianapolis Airport. I visualized the familiar path to baggage claim, my rental car and the drive across town. Suddenly that mental imaging was slapped away. Rounding a corner, I walked into a wall of densely clustered people, all dressed in dark clothing clogging up the hallway. Surprised, I stepped back to figure out what this jarring “interruption” was all about.
They seemed to be a disoriented large tour group following three people holding up large placards to lead their way. Then I realized what I had bumped into. This group of over 50 people were Afghan families – mothers carrying babies, toddlers holding hands with the elderly, families arriving to be brought to Camp Atterbury, the nearby military base outside of Indianapolis where they would join thousands of other displaced Afghans. There are seven other bases in the U.S. where collectively over 73 thousand Afghans have been received in the last few months and wait to be processed for resettlement.
The emotion of the moment stunned me. I wondered what these visibly bewildered people must be feeling and experiencing. Their clothing and the small bags they carried represented all of their earthly belongings. But their faces and shoulders carried much more weight. I thought of their loss of home, country, culture, friends, family, everything familiar, as they wandered around an unfamiliar airport in a strange land. I walked alongside them, with just enough time to pray, “Lord, I pray your grace, mercy, peace, truth and love over these dear ones. May their time in this country mark the time they came to know you.” And then, they were led down a secure hallway and gone.
That scene has continued to jarr and interrupt me, coming to mind again and again the last few weeks during this Advent season as I’ve contemplated the Christmas story so familiar to us.
The Christmas story, where Mary and Joseph sojourned to Bethlehem, over tough terrain, only to find themselves in a city that wasn’t theirs, separated from home, family, friends, and comfort. Mary pregnant, and ready to give birth, finding themselves in a generous, but far from ideal place of refuge, in a barn that was probably more like a cold, rocky cave. This wondrous event and miraculous moment, was followed later by another journey, this time of escape into a foreign land, fleeing terror and death at the hand of King Herod.
Jesus knows intimately what it is to be the displaced and the resettler, the immigrant and the welcomer, the guest and the Host. God calls us as his followers to be a friend to the stranger and to show hospitality.
Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
Advent is a time of waiting, anticipation for our coming King. It’s a time to be reminded of who has called us. It’s a time to be reminded of the family he graciously welcomed us into and invites all to. May our hearts, minds, prayers, and homes be filled with a loving hospitality for those strangers, those families, who have yet to enter the family of God.
Grace, Peace, and Merry Advent,
Gabriel de Guia
EPC World Outreach