Guest Blog by Sharon Moore
I first realized a love for immigrants in college. I began teaching ESL classes and working with the Latino youth at my church, tutoring and teaching the Bible. As I developed relationships with many immigrants, my love for the population grew. In graduate school, I started volunteering with a refugee resettlement agency, and I caught the vision, as many Christians have, that many people are hungry for the Gospel during life transitions. Many immigrants are looking for a better life when they come to the United States, and what better time for the church to reach out with open arms and share the Gospel to them with words and actions.
I continue to believe this, and I have seen the Lord work in some big ways among the immigrant population in the cities where I’ve lived; however, the Lord has also been at work in my life in some unexpected ways. Not only have I been given the opportunity to share the Gospel through my involvement in ministries to refugees and other immigrants, but they also have been an integral part of the Lord’s work in my life over the past few years.
In my mind, I was coming to these ministries and experiences as the “giver.” I felt like I had something to offer…whether it was my English, my tutoring skills, my connections and resources, or even just a listening ear. While this was, to some degree, true, I was in for a surprise as to how much they had to offer and teach me. Beyond the richness of the cultural expressions of their values and individuality, they brought so many reminders to me of the Gospel and the way that the Lord has been gracious to me in Christ.
To explain a little more, one of my sin struggles is the fear of man. I often make other people and their opinions of me idols in my life, and I use their responses or their words of approval as a gauge to determine how I’m doing in life. I find my identity in the good things people say about me and how it measures up to those around me. This is a sinful response because I am not basing my identity on the identity I’ve been given in Christ. I am not believing that I am righteous, accepted, adopted and approved of by God (the only opinion that matters) in Christ, as God’s Word declares.
So, how exactly have the immigrants in my life reminded me of this? Well, the identity/comparison/approval game works pretty well in my own culture, where I know the rules and how to live and manipulate people’s opinions of me. But it doesn’t work that well among people from other cultures, because the rules change.
It’s a lot harder to manipulate people’s opinions when you don’t know the laws of cause and effect. Wow…deep ugly sin issues…I know. Such is the state of my heart without Christ. So, the more I spend time with immigrants, the more personal insecurities the Lord reveals to me. I have found myself appealing to my culture, my achievements, my financial/social resources, and my “righteous deeds” for my identity when I’m not sure where I stand in the eyes of the immigrants. I had always considered myself to be a friend of immigrants, but then the Lord revealed to me the racism and self-righteousness within my own heart.
Oh, but what a gracious God we have! The more I see my sin, the more I am reminded of my need for Christ! I have tried to change my heart and cast out the idol I had made of other people’s approval, but I can’t. The more I see how powerless I am to change and how utterly enslaved I am, the more beautiful the Gospel is to me. By God’s mercy, my relationships with refugees and other immigrants have brought me to more fully fulfill the purpose for which the God created me, to worship Him as I understand, embrace, and work out the Gospel in my life.
2 Corinthians 5:16
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh… All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Sharon Moore is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a new occupational therapist working with older adults in Durham, North Carolina. She helps provide ESL classes to immigrants and refugees in Durham through The Summit Church and is a volunteer for World Relief-Durham.
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