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I Was a Stranger and You Inited Me In

Cayla, SP staff in San Jose, shares about how she was learned true hospitality from a friend in the neighborhood. 

The most salient role of the missionary is to “bring the good news” of the Gospel to the nations. Indeed, the great commission of all believers is to be bearers of the Gospel in word and deed. But every time a person of faith steps into a context that is foreign and distant from where they grew up, they must rely on the hospitality of the people they have come to love. For they are the stranger in their new context.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a story of what will happen on the day of judgement. He will sit on the throne, with the nations before him, and he will separate them one from another. To those on His right, He will declare as “blessed” saying, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

I have discovered that I did not understand this passage until I was the “stranger” in need of refuge.

When I first moved to San Jose (four years ago this August), I felt foreign—I was not Latino, I did not speak Spanish, I hadn’t been to a Posada, I hadn’t tried chilaquiles, mangonadas, or micheladas. And I did not know how my life and experiences were going to translate to the lives of people in my neighborhood.

In January of 2014, Lizzie (a former intern) and I walked into the Washington United Youth Center not knowing what to expect, if we would be able to connect with any of the girls, or if the staff even wanted us there. We were entering a space that was not made for white adult women on purpose, and we did not know how our presence would be received.

We could have been turned away at the door, and that would have been justified. However, instead of being discouraged from engaging with the girls, we were welcomed in. Vanessa, a lovely, thoughtful, hopeful Latina woman, welcomed us, introduced us to all the staff and youth at the center, and invited us to participate in her young women’s empowerment group. Although the girls initially thought we were from the government (a sad reality that we live in), it did not discourage her from fostering a genuine care for us.

Vanessa did not limit her invitation to “come in” to the youth center alone, but has welcomed us into all parts of her life—into her family and into her friendships. Just this last weekend, Lizzie and I had the honor of attending her 25th birthday party. When Derrick and I got married, she drove all the way to Riverside to attend. I know full well that her friendship is one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Vanessa has taught me what it means to “welcome the stranger.” For I was once new and different, and needed someone to invite me into their life. And I believe God is calling her “blessed” for her invitation.

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