Part 1 – I Welcomed The Refugees Because . . .
By Jean Johnson
I went from being a sheltered Minnesota gal to a friend of refugees to a cross-cultural disciple-maker in a fairly challenging place — Cambodia. I have learned a lot since then and I would like to share it with you in case you leave your comfort zone.
Jesus said go and make disciples of the nations . . . what if the nations come to you?
(Scene from my high school years) . . .
I asked my classmates, “Who are these strange people coming down the hallway and why are they wearing sandals in the winter?”
They teasingly responded, “Didn’t you listen in the assembly last week, Jean? They told us that our school would receive new students from some far away place. They came from refugee camps!”
My high school classmates stared at them, ignored them, and teased them. I befriended them, ate lunch with them, and started an English class for them.
I can’t really tell you why I was drawn to them, rather than put off. I was just coming into a heartfelt relationship with Jesus, so maybe He was overturning the foolishness of my sinful heart.
I found out rather quickly that my new friends were Cambodian, Hmong, and Vietnamese. Each one had a horrific story of war and escape:
- The Hmong were recruited by the United States to help fight against communism. Eventually, the communists tried to massacre them in retaliation.
- The South Vietnamese made their way to the United States due to the Vietnam war.
- The Cambodian faced a horrific, homegrown genocide that claimed about three million lives.
Then there was me!
A little exposure to suffering—a family argument, the flu, and a betrayal by a friend here and there.
Despite our vast differences, they were my new friends and the beginning of my Great Commission conviction, although I didn’t know it at the time.
God brought the nations to me and I crossed the boundary that kept others isolated from these people made in God’s image.
God Himself regards refugees:
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
When the ends of the earth come to you, welcome them. You never know when it may be your turn to become adisplaced person.
I wish I could tell you that I kept my zeal for this cross-cultural journey, but something happened. . . stay tuned.
Picture: Jean adorned in a Hmong outfit.