The woman of a thousand handshakes…
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:34 ESV
Can you imagine shaking hands with every new family who moved into your town? Pat Schlitz of
remembered how it felt to break into a small community when she moved to a town
west of Chicago.
Everyone seemed to know each other and Pat didn’t see any break in the ice to
find friends. Instead of hiding in her house, she came up with a remarkable
plan. She introduced herself to every single family that moved in, becoming a
one woman Welcome Wagon organization, the organization that used to call on all
newcomers. Over a period of years, she greeted 1,000 families, got many women
to a community Bible study, and saw changed lives—all because she remembered.
Scripture tells us to befriend strangers who show up in our town. Not only are we to be good neighbors, we are to “love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the
.” The New Living
Translation says, “Treat them like native-born Israelites.” God wanted his
people to remember how it felt to be aliens in a foreign land. He wanted them
to never forget how the Egyptians made the Hebrews their slaves and overworked
them. Many Hebrews built bricks in the hot sun and were beaten when they didn’t
reach their daily quota. If there was ever any group of people who should have remembered
the inhospitality and hostility of a strange land, it was the Israelites. land
Can you imagine how churches would flourish if we took this revolutionary attitude of befriending strangers seriously. The front doors of our homes would fling open with coffee invitations, play dates for children, and family barbecue offers. We’d stop talking about our insular lives and turn to the newcomer in our midst to find out about them. I can’t imagine a more compelling way to share the good news.
God loves it when we learn from experience because He knows it motivates us to compassion. As we become “old-timers” in our new community, let us never forget the strangers.