“We started Friends International to serve the international students at the University of South Alabama. We welcome people from around the world into our home and share God and food with them. Someone from Sudan knocked on our door during our Bible study on Monday night. He was one of the lost boys of Sudan and a church adopted him.
There is a refugee crisis because the body of Christ has trouble loving people who are between the lines. We have to look at why they are leaving their countries and coming here. Jesus’ family fled to Egypt as immigrants because of persecution. Religion is black and white and gray is a difficult color for us to deal with. We want it to be the good guys with white hats and the bad guys wear black hats but life is more complicated than that. To be a healthy loving community, we have to build bridges of relationship.
The BBC called and wanted to do an interview with us about refugee issues in Mobile. I thought it was a prank call from my daughter. The BBC came here and then the DailyShow. I did not know what the Daily Show was. I thought it was CNN but it is on Comedy Central.
I have to pray about everything and can’t say no until I have prayed about it. I didn’t understand why they were calling us. God said don’t worry about the interview, just love and focus on the people. The BBC was easy but the Daily Show was more challenging. They spent 7-8 hours taping in our home. They wanted to get me as a pastor but I go where the Holy Spirit tells me to go. We had great conversations about life with their crew.
Refugees from Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan and around the world are coming to our school and our community and we want to make them feel welcome and at home. The media wanted to tell this story during a time when refugees became a political issue and they had questions about a ministry in Alabama that is trying to help them.
Believing follows belonging. Before people can believe, they need to know they belong. Jesus first called people to relationship, not the synagogue. Jesus did not command us to love our religion, he commanded us to love ourselves, others and God. In Alabama, our identities are set in sectarian religion and where you go to church. My wife and I have both been called to serve in the world.”
“I grew up in Long Island New York in a Catholic, Jewish, and Polish community. I read my mom’s missionary magazines about places around the world and was eight when that seed was planted. I became a physical therapist and wanted to do that through mission work.”
“I got a degree in nursing and Mary and I had the same vision. Before we were married she talked about going to serving in Bangladesh and I wanted to do that, too. When our kids were young, we sold everything and moved to Pakistan for medical mission work. We started from scratch, learned the language, and started setting root with close friends. We loved our neighbors and our work and thought we would be there a long time but God had other plans. I was praying for a way to impact the world and God put two words into my brain, ‘international students.’ I didn’t know what that meant but started asking around. It led us to Mobile.
We have been here 20 years. The longest time I have been anywhere in my life. There is such a need for love and so many people come to our house, that friends added another room so that we can have more people for meals and Bible study. Parents coming in for graduations and to see their students stay with us. Kids come to talk. We are the family connection they need.
We always need for families who want to welcome students in their home and give them a place to stay overnight or holidays and a feeling of family. We give a training several times a year about relating and cultures.
One of the greatest love languages is affirmation and one of the most loving things you can say to another person is I believe in you. God made us in his image with dignity and value. Life is an exploration about finding the treasure in that person. We want to help our students find their treasure.
To live in a changing world, we have to understand their questions are just as important as our fears. Blessed are the peacemakers. Making peace and reconciliation is the hardest work and it is easier to give up and walk away. There are opportunities for love and purpose all around you, just open your eyes. You don’t have to go around the world to find it.”