The Lord protects the foreigners. He defends the orphans and widows, but he blocks the way of the wicked. (Psalms 146:9 NCV)
The first sentence of this verse grabs me by the throat. I have been a stranger in a strange land both foreign and domestic. Ask anyone who has moved across the country leaving behind the familiar and they will tell you how “foreign” one can feel even within the continental United States. Moving, setting up house, working in a new environment, finding the grocery store, the cleaners, etc. and making friends requires a level of energy that only can be supplied by God. For the gregarious person some of these actions of settling in a new place go by quickly, but for someone like me, who watches to learn the lay of the land and the voice of the people before jumping in, time passes in baby steps.
The task grows exponentially when in a foreign country where the language is unfamiliar and to work, order food, count money requires a trusted translator. In Mexico for two mission trips, I relied on interpreters primarily, although after my first trip I took two semesters of Spanish at what was then Tulsa Junior College. The second trip went so much easier than the first even though my Spanish was so limited..One of my interpreters who was a native of Mexico told me that Spanish was the language of Heaven…I laughed and said that was funny, I always thought Hebrew was. Perhaps all of us, myself included, consider our first language to be the language of God.
Language opens so many doors when in another’s country. I found strangers helped me more, their attitude was different if I attempted to communicate using their language even with my poor skills. Someone once told me that the greatest compliment an expatriate can pay native citizens is to learn their tongue. Believe me this is true even in the USA. Try speaking Brooklynese in Montgomery, Alabama or vise versa. Or Oklahoma middle America speak in Kentucky where there are turns of phrase that have to be acquired.
The Lord protects the stranger in foreign places. He has protected me. He has provided a rich diversity of life found only in stepping out of my comfort zone, where I speak the language, like the food, trust the water and know what is expected of me. To be like God then, I, too, must protect and care for the strangers and foreigners in my midst. I must also be a good stranger when I am in foreign places, striving to understand the natives both tongue and customs. I must not expect everyone to be like me…that would be a disaster for sure.
Thank you , Lord. I am so grateful for your protection in all the new environments I have encountered, in all the places I have been the foreigner. Let my Gratitude lead me to care for the strangers, the non-natives, I encounter as I would like to be cared for if the situation was reversed. Remind me also that everywhere I go on this earth teaches me something about You and that the truth is “I am a poor wayfaring stranger” and “this world is not my home”. Amen