Big things, both good and bad, often start small.
Global Gates was born in a growing storm. The storm began several years ago with suspicious murmurs about immigrants: “Are they legal?” “Are they taking our jobs?” “Are they dangerous?” “Are they terrorists?”
What began as suspicions soon became a groundswell of opposition to the strangers in our midst. Caught up in the maelstrom were millions of legal immigrants who, like our own ancestors, came to America just seeking a better life as students, refugees, businesspersons, and a host of other legitimate immigration categories.
Many Christians, despite the assurance that “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18), were being submerged in a rising tide of fear that threatened to drown what was left of their Christian witness.
Today, that tide may be turning. Growing numbers of Christians are hearkening back to the “still small voice” of Scripture, which reminds them:
- “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Ex. 22:21).
- “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt” (Ex. 23:9).
- “I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger” (Job 29:16).
- “I was a stranger and you invited me in….I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matt. 25:35 & 45).
Over the weekend, I was in St. Louis helping my daughter move into an apartment as she prepares to enter a Masters program at Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work. My daughter’s roommate, Jacinta, is an international student who was invited to come to a “Free Furniture Giveaway” on campus.
Intrigued, we joined Jacinta to try and collect some of the furnishings this “stranger from a strange land (Australia)” would need to begin her tenure in the heartland of America. We were amazed to find a university parking garage filled with hundreds of beds, tables, chairs, bookshelves, kitchen appliances, lamps, and countless other second-hand items; all free for international students to take back to their bare apartments.
Over a thousand students from every corner of the globe descended upon the parking garage. Dozens of volunteers from local churches–the same churches that annually donate these myriad household items–not only managed the affair, they also fed the students a free lunch, extended invitations to English Language Clubs, and afterwards spent hours loading trucks and vans to transport the furnishings to the apartments of the grateful students.
Who does this?? Christians. Christians who have chosen to replace fear with thoughtful acts of love. As they do so, they open doors of communication and relationship. One pastor observed, “We build a bridge of love, and Jesus crosses over it.”
I spoke with one of the women volunteers about this remarkable show of love. “How did this begin?” I asked.
“Well, it started small,” she said. “Twelve years ago, we barely had enough furniture to fill a single parking space. Now we have enough furnishings for every student to claim multiple items.”
As I surveyed the parking lot filled with gleeful students and joyful volunteers, I was struck by how every Christlike response to a turbulent world begins: It starts small.
Executive Director, Global Gates