In just a few months, Karen and I are starting to feel a part of the Grace family. Family – not just in the sense of a group of people dwelling together; but in the sense of being accepted, loved and valued. God created all people for family. All people have a deep desire to be part of a family. Yet many people, if not most, never experience this blessing. Sin messes everything up. Relationships are not as they were designed to be, and people often feel more like foreigners than family.
When we first meet new people there is a foreign-ness to relationships. You might say we are foreigners. However, with intentionally “friendly effort”, people begin to connect and become friends. I have been speaking with many guests over the past few months and one word I have heard many use to describe their experience at Grace is “friendly”. I would agree. The people of Grace have been very friendly. Friendly turns into friendship over time.
As friendships grow, people become “family”. All people long for family. It takes time and trust and investment, but that is how the kingdom of God works. Foreigners become friends and eventually we become family.
FROM FOREIGNERS to FRIENDS to FAMILY!
As I look at the landscape of Grace Lutheran, I see many places in which this process is already occurring. Some of these foreigners turned into friends, turned into family are actually people from other countries. For example, for many decades the people of Grace have been very “friendly” with the UTA students, most from Asia, especially India. I know there must be cases of these friends turning into family. I just haven’t been here long enough to hear those stories yet. Our GLEE program has a high number of “friends” from China. Our school partner, Newman International Academy, has 25% of their students (our “friends”) from Nigeria. In the apartments immediately west of campus about 50% of the residents are Spanish speakers – these could be our friends too.
Not all “Foreigners” are from other countries. Arlington has a growing nucleus of young families. I stopped by the Target store on Eastchase last week and stumbled on to a new neighborhood of several hundred new homes – these are also current "foreigners” who are potential friends. Actually every neighbor, co-worker, fellow student… has the potential to move along in this process from foreigner to friend to family.
Here is how I have seen God work. He takes people who are initially “foreigners”, some become friends, and then some will eventually be family. Our goal is to be “friendly” – but it goes beyond that. Our goal is to be family with people who don’t yet know the GRACE of God in Jesus. Time is short. Lord please teach us how to walk this process with as many relationships as possible as we together seek to populate the heavenly family.
-Pastor Doug Widger