The Biggest Ministry Lesson from 2015: Loving the Foreigner

By Kathy Ferguson Litton

Flourish will continue a New Year practice of identifying a specific critical ministry lesson from the previous year. In preceding years we have looked back at the example of Rick and Kay Warren in the national and devastating loss of their son Matthew in 2013. In 2014 we addressed the glaring racial divide and subsequent tensions that exist in our nation. We recognize what transpires nationally or globally exponentially affects our lives and our ministries. We want to be informed and engaged as those effects trickle into our worlds.

The issues we address may be sensitive, difficult or even polarizing. Our biggest ministry lesson from 2015 will fall in all those categories. We believe, as we look at our present global landscape, in a rapidly changing national or international culture we must address our calling to love the stranger, foreigner or alien.

Our mandate to love the foreigner is foremost derived from Scripture.

We begin by understanding that every person is created in the image of God’s (Genesis 1:27) and is offered the free gift of salvation through the blood of Christ (John 3:16). Refugees or other internationals in our communities are people whom God created, whom He loves and whom He expects even implores us to love. This is an inescapable truth.

From the earliest days of human history the treatment of strangers was addressed:

When a foreigner lives with you in your land, you must not oppress him. You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. — Leviticus 19:33-34

Our mandate to love the foreigner is fueled by changing demographics.

The numbers are in—the international population has rapidly changed. There was a day that diverse ethnic populations were primarily in our largest urban centers-that is no longer true even in small cites and even small towns we find more diversity. And it is growing.

Note this research from Brookings Institution shared in recent International Mission Board post  that demonstrates the changing face of America:

While the majority of immigrants still live in megacities such as New York and Los Angeles, most immigrant growth these days is occurring in small-to-medium-size urban centers, especially in the South and Southwest. Similarly, the states with the fastest-growing immigrant populations aren’t California or New York, but North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Nevada and Tennessee.

On a national scale, Asians have surpassed Hispanics as the fastest-growing immigrant group. Indian-Americans, at 3.1 million, are the third-largest Asian-background cohort in the United States, trailing ethnic Chinese and Filipinos but topping ethnic Koreans, Vietnamese and Japanese (source: Pew Research Center). They also are the most affluent and educated immigrant group in America. — USA Today 

The foreign-born population living in the USA has increased so rapidly that it could break a 125-year-old record within the next decade, according to a Pew Research Center report out Monday.

The percentage of people living in the USA who were born outside the country reached 13.7% in 2015 and is projected to hit a record 14.9% in 2025, the report said. The country’s previous high of 14.8% was set in 1890, when waves of Irish, Italian, Polish and other immigrants were coming to the USA.

So join us in January as we learn from the biggest ministry lesson of 2015. Flourish will take a long look at our call to love the stranger, foreigner and alien among us. We will be posting helpful resources, hear stories of internationals and get snapshots of churches and women loving foreigners well.

More Resources:

Stay tuned for more on loving the foreigner.

Published January 6, 2016

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Kathy Ferguson Litton

Kathy lives in Mobile, Alabama, with her husband Ed, pastor of Redemption Church. Both lost former spouses in car accidents, and God uniquely gave them new love and life together in 2009. Kathy enjoyed 26 years of life and ministry alongside Rick Ferguson. She has three children and ten grandchildren. Presently she serves as Director of Planting Spouse Development.