My son penned these thoughts a few weeks back, and I thought they might add some perceptive input to voting choices on Super Tuesday. Wise words to consider if you are casting your vote today…
A few months ago, my tutoring partner and I walked in to the apartment complex of Abdul and Mieh for the fifth time. It would be another long two hours. You see, part of the education for my major at Wheaton College includes weekly tutoring English to a newly arrived refugee family. Abdul and Mieh are the two we were tasked to help with.
Tutoring them is hard work—and it often feels fruitless. These two are both older than 70, from Iran, and speak almost zero English. In fairness to them, we speak even less Farsi. But in any case, basic communication is hard—and teaching is even more difficult. So we do all we can with pictures, symbols, and gestures.
But really, it’s so much more than teaching. My tutoring partner and I are probably the only two Americans Abdul and Mieh know, the only English speakers they can attempt to converse with.
Yet, I know basically nothing about them. Yes, they’re from Iran. But that’s about it. I don’t know why they left, why they came here. I don’t know how many kids they have. I don’t know their last name or birthday. I don’t know what they like to do, or anything about their past or their plans for the future. They’re Iranian for one, and they also seem to be Christian. Why? The small silver crucifix on the table seems to indicate that, as well as their nods and smiles when we mention the name “Jesus”. But it’s all anecdotal, and it’s hard to be sure.
In any case, Abdul has particularly captivated me. He is a bronzed-skinned, white haired man (with what’s left of his hair) with a round belly and almost toothless smile. He limps when he walks. Whenever possible, he tries cracking a joke by saying a word or laughing at something. His smile is contagious. I always laugh back.
But through the jokes and confusion of teaching English on Saturday, something Abdul said one Saturday really touched me. We were trying to explain the concept of brothers and sisters. I don’t think Mieh understood, but Abdul was catching on.
Suddenly, he turns to me and grins his irresistible open-toothed smile. “Me, you, brothers.” he hooked his two pointer fingers together like a chain link to emphasize. “Brothers.”
It took me a second to process what he was saying. Did he even know what brother meant? We had just taught it. And yet he seemed so sure!
And then my eyes watered up a bit and I realized just how powerful the Kingdom of God is. Two people—different in just about every conceivable way—age, marital status, ethnicity, nationality, culture, language—could be brothers through what Jesus Christ had done for both of us.
I answered back emphatically, “Yes Abdul, we are brothers.” I link my two fingers together, mirroring him— “we are brothers.”
Iranians and Syrians, and all Middle Easterners are either our brothers and sisters…or our potential family members. If the U.S. had not allowed these people in simply because of their nationality or their “otherness”, I would’ve never known the blessing of being in Christian brotherhood with Abdul—and he would’ve never known me.
The kingdom of God is so much bigger than we could ever imagine. It’s bigger than black and white, western and eastern, male and female. It’s bigger than communication ability, culture and language. And it’s far bigger than the “safe” American border too.
If we don’t welcome these people in simply because they need our help, let us welcome them in because they are of the Kingdom of God, or could be brought into his Kingdom. Nothing is more beautiful and glorious than seeing God’s community of grace expressed through the diversity of the nations.