The story of the foreigner is also our story

DASH Volunteer and refugee
DASH Network volunteer Monica Orjuela poses for a photo with one of her new DASH friends. Monica moved into Ladera Palms, a low income housing complex inhabited by many refugees and international people, to be available to the DASH asylum seekers who live there, build relationships and seek Jesus' heart for the sojourner.

As I examine my own heart, my seemingly best-intentioned acts of service are often laced with selfish motives, pride, worship of self, love of man, and fueled by a very conditional, distorted version of love.

Similarly, as I serve asylum-seekers through DASH Network, I encounter both the fingerprints of a good and kind Father and the scars of deeply rooted sin.

It’s tempting in our service to others, to love only when it’s easy and our efforts are received with gratitude. 

Two of the sweet women in DASH invited my roommate and I over for an Ethiopian lunch. We walked to their apartment and, as I entered the door, the delicious smell of berbere spice filled the room. Pillows adorned the floor and we gathered in a circle to eat, laugh, and learn more about each other’s culture and share stories.

For the next two hours, we talked as they roasted coffee beans, ground them, boiled and filtered it for us all according to Ethiopian tradition. We ate ingera and zigni to our heart’s content, and as soon as we wrapped up lunch, our friends emerged with a platter of cinnamon spice cookies and biscotti for our after-lunch coffee. I was in awe and overflowing with thankfulness for their elaborate demonstration of hospitality and love for us.

As we thanked them profusely, our friend turned to us and beautifully exclaimed: “Of course we do this for you. We are neighbors, but even more, we are family.” I walked home praising God for friendships that break through cultural and linguistic barriers and the Spirit of God that unites brothers and sisters from all different backgrounds as one Church through Jesus Christ. These moments in ministry remind me that serving is a profound gift for the joy that it brings.

Then, there are moments in ministry that I am reminded that serving is a profound gift for the sanctification I experience as a result. There are times the sinfulness in me comes face to face with the sinfulness in our asylum-seekers.

Yes, I have had conversations that reveal hurtful prejudices toward other cultures or an attitude of ungratefulness. Though my response can range from anger and frustration, to wanting to distance myself and serve elsewhere, the reality is that if we spend enough time in ANY ministry or with ANY person, sooner or later sin will impact our experience. It’s true!

Though this is immensely challenging, it is a beautiful gift that we are called to and enabled to love people up close despite their sin and ours.

We serve a God who’s Son looked his crucifiers in the eyes and said “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” In loving people in hard places, even when it’s challenging, we are getting a glimpse into the very love that Christ extends to us each and every day.

This is a radical, hard, nearly impossible kind of love. But here’s why we can do it: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives our fear (1 John 4:18), and we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

The story of the foreigner is our story; it’s the story of the Gospel. Jesus became a foreigner to make us foreigners no longer. We, who were far off from God, strangers too unholy to exist in His presence, are called near, clothed in righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), fed: Christ’s body, broken, and blood, poured out (Luke 22: 19-20), regarded as sons and daughters (Romans 8:17), and invited to draw near to the throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16). What a reason to rejoice!

Monica Orjuela, DASH Board Member

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