November 10, 2015

When 10,000 Muslims Come to Your Country

Post by Brittany Tedesco

This year, the U.S. has committed to receive 10,000 Syrian refugees. According to this Mission Network News story, they'll be assigned to medium-sized cities "in areas with a good economy, affordable homes, and plenty of jobs. After a year of assistance, they are expected to be self-dependent."

At Christian Aid Mission, we've been raising and sending funds to native missionaries who help destitute Syrian refugees in the Middle East. Much of my attention has been focused on this humanitarian crisis. I want to help them.

But when it comes to the thought of them coming here, to where I live, I'm suddenly less magnanimous.

I can rejoice at the great revival taking place among Muslims over there. . . but bringing a large group of Muslims here? Oh wow. What bad things might happen?

I've talked with ministry leaders from the Middle East who estimate that approximately 10% of the refugee population from Syria and Iraq is comprised of terrorists—yes, that means ISIS.

I've read about the ill effects of refugees pouring into European countries, and I'm trepidacious. Once again, I find myself wrestling with my identity. Am I first an American, or a follower of Jesus? The answer to that question will determine the lens through which I view this event.

Will I seek to preserve my comfort here in the U.S. and become resentful that a group of possibly radical people are coming my way. . . or will I observe what God's Word says about how we are to view and treat the foreigners in our midst?

God has revealed His heart toward those who find themselves as strangers and aliens in a foreign land. In addressing His people, He gives these instructions, "The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:34 NASB).

Catch that? I'm not to just be civil toward the Muslim in my midst; I'm to love him or her as myself.

Often in scripture, the foreigner is placed in the same category as the poor, orphan, and widow: needy.

"The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows" (Psalm 146:9 NLT). And here: "Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor" (Zechariah 7:10 NIV).

In the context of scripture, are these 10,000 a group to be feared, shunned, and avoided? Or seen as a mission field?

What might God be up to by bringing this group of Muslims to a country with a large Christian population?

The book of Acts is full of examples of God moving people away from their birthplaces to hear Truth and then returning them home as witnesses to their own people.

Bakht Singh in 1959

In Acts 2, we find 3,000 people from 16 nations reached with the gospel in Jerusalem at Pentecost. In Acts 8, we read that they returned to their own people groups with this message.

If we read a little further in Acts 8, we come upon an Ethiopian who was reached with the gospel by Philip while away from home.

In Acts 9, we read about how God reached a man named Saul, who had been a foreign student in Jerusalem, and sent him to his own people. Paul went to the citizens of the Roman Empire who shared his language and culture.

Luis Janeiro, Christian Aid Mission's Director of Development, Hispanic Division

In Acts 10, Cornelius, an Italian professional soldier, was reached while assigned to Caesarea.

In Acts 16, we read about Lydia, from Thyatira, who was reached while doing business in Philippi.

Bakht Singh, born in Punjab, India to well-to-do Sikh parents in 1903, pursued engineering degrees in the UK and Canada. John and Edith Hayward won him to the Lord in Winnipeg in 1932. The following year, he returned to India as an evangelist. The Haywards distributed copies of his letters to their friends who sent small gifts to Singh. He is responsible for planting more than 2,000 churches in India. Not only that, but his outreach spilled over into Nepal and Bhutan. Nearly 10,000 churches worldwide trace their roots to his movement.

An Iraqi ministry leader, who recently visited us, grew up in Baghdad as a Chaldean Catholic who never heard the true gospel. Only after he moved to an adjacent country in the Middle East did he hear about Christ and make Him his Lord and Savior. Now, he's back in Iraq, working among the refugees as one of the few laborers amid the great harvest of people hungry for the gospel.

And I can't forget about our own Luis Janeiro, who spent a year with a Christian family in North Dakota as an exchange student from Mexico. After seeing the love of Christ in their lives, Janeiro became a Christian. He returned to Mexico as a native missionary, planting several churches and training and sending other native believers to unreached people groups in rural areas of Mexico. Currently, he works as our Director of Development in Mexico.

Which nationalities might be in our midst right now who don't know Jesus Christ? Who has the Lord brought to our country to discover Him while away from home? Especially in today's global world, it's possible for us to reach the nations without crossing the sea.

But what about that word "go"? You know, in the Great Commission. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19 NKJV).

Many Christians in the U.S. have understood that word "go" to mean hopping on a plane or boat to share the gospel in another country. But why couldn't it mean hopping in the car to drive 15 minutes down the road to where a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist person resides?

Every year, 1.1 million international students study in the United States. Sadly, approximately 75% of them never enter an American home.

Did you know that 60% of the world's leaders in business, technology, education, government, etc., were educated in North America? The State Department lists nearly 300 current and former world leaders who chose U.S. institutions. Wealthy families throughout the world send their sons and daughters here to learn and return home.

According to this Business Insider article, "Iran currently has the highest number of US college alums serving in any foreign government cabinet in the world."

Can you imagine the global impact we could make for Christ if all of us, including myself, turned our attention to the foreigners in our midst?

Bakht Singh with Dr. Bob Finley, founder of Christian Aid Mission, in 1974

That's the positive scenario. The negative scenario is what happens when we forfeit this opportunity.

"A distressingly vast range of despotic and otherwise anti-Western figures were educated in the United States or Europe," the BI article states. It goes on to mention Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Islamic cleric who was a top propagandist for Al Qaeda, who was educated at Colorado State and George Washington University. Mengistu Haile-Mariam, who spearheaded "one of the most brutal governments in modern African history" in Ethiopia was also educated in the U.S.

Back in 1953, Christian Aid Mission started as an outreach to foreign students. Our founder, Dr. Bob Finley, recognized the treasure-trove in our midst. When he encountered a foreigner in the U.S., he saw their potential—what could happen if they came to know the Lord here and returned to share the news at home.

When it comes to the 10,000 Syrians coming our way, we can assume a viewpoint and role that is passive or active—as victims or as ambassadors of the Most High, with good news to share. The choice is ours.

Brittany Tedesco - posted November 16, 2015
Thanks for your comment, Melissa. I completely agree with you on a political level. I don't think it's wise to bring thousands of Syrians to America, knowing terrorists will likely be among them. I've struggled mightily with this idea—even before the latest terrorist attack in Paris. I can envision a similar scenario happening in the U.S. This post is definitely not an endorsement of a political decision, but more of a way to think about a less-than-ideal situation. You are right, God protects His children. If we belong to Him, we are not victims at the mercy of someone else's bad decisions. This is what we have to rest on when dangerous people come near us. Jesus calls us to a radical love–loving our enemies–which can only happen by the power of His spirit in us.
Melissa - posted November 16, 2015
I see that this was posted before the Muslim terror attacks involving at least one Syrian refugee and other foreigners who were welcomed with open arms. While I agree God says to treat the foreigner amongst us with kindness and generosity, the same God also, at His will, protects His children from foreigners who mean them harm. Many recorded in the bible, to say the least. Now I DO want to see Syrian Christians receive food, shelter, clothing and healthcare, but we as a nation can do what Mr Huckabee said and build tent cities near their homeland. Why not? We waste plenty of money and this would be the rightful spending. If there was ZERO chance that ISIS, who has VOWED to strike us here on our soil and are literally hungry for American blood, could come in amongst us then all would be well, but you are forgetting that love is not the cure all for these monsters. If you welcome them amongst the little children of America who have no say, and they are killed along with others, you have not protected your own. God is love yes, but God is also vengeful and has killed many as is His perogative being the creator of the universe.
Nancy - posted November 12, 2015
The heart of Christ in operation to those in need.
Gwen - posted November 12, 2015
We must learn to treat everyone with respect, and dignity. In order to do that love must be in our hearts. Christ gives us a higher love, understanding, and peace. Eventually what's in your heart will come out good or bad. Amen!