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Loving the "Strangers" in Our Midst

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Pastor Oliver explains why we should care and serve the strangers in our midst. 

I must confess that I have not paid much attention to them. I see our guest workers eating packed food over their lunch breaks outside construction sites. I see them waiting for the lorries to take them home at the end of a long day. I see them on the MRT on their one day off going to remit money back home or to get their living necessities. But I admit beyond noticing them I had mainly gone on with my responsibilities and busy life. 

But now with the rising Covid-19 infections among our guest workers, and with many dormitories gazetted as isolation areas, national attention is drawn to our guest workers. And what we have found out is crying out for our notice. Firstly, many of our guest workers are involved in construction and cleaning industries, taking on jobs that many Singaporeans would not do. They form an essential part of our economy. Secondly, the media has shown us their living quarters; many of them live in less than ideal conditions. And thirdly, with this Covid-19 crisis, some of them have gone hungry and do not have living necessities. It brings to light that many of their employers have not taken responsibilities nor exercise care for them. 

We could justify actions to care for our guest workers based on shared humanity and the need to care for others as part of our social responsibility. Care for them is right, but for Christians, there are gospel implications that ground our care and action for them. 

Moses tells the Israelites in Exodus 23:9 "You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." And he restates the command positively in Deuteronomy 10:19, "Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." God's people are not to ill-treat the sojourner or strangers; instead, they are to love them as their neighbours. For the Israelites were once also strangers and exiles in Egypt—they had a similar experience and could understand and empathise. Moses also tells the Israelites in Leviticus 19:33-34:

"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."

We should not "ill-treat" the sojourners or strangers, a word that usually means economic exploitation, the deprivation of property, or denial of legal rights. God's people should treat strangers justly. But as commentator Jay Sklar writes:

"[Levititus 19] verse 34 goes further, commanding the Israelites to treat resident-aliens with full justice, just as they would the native-born (cf. v. 18). The Israelites knew how dehumanising it was to be mistreated in a foreign land (Egypt). They were therefore to show resident aliens the same practical love they had longed to be shown: the love the Lord their God had indeed shown to them. Those who experience the Lord's love and mercy are to be the quickest to extend it to others (Deut. 10:18–19; cf. Matt. 18:23–35)." 

Paul in the New Testament tells us: "Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Eph 2:12-13)

God's people are to treat strangers and foreign nationals living in our midst with love and care. We too at one time were separated from Christ, and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and God. God, in His abundant mercy, sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sakes. So that by the blood of Christ, we who were strangers and far-off have been brought near to God. The wonderful promise of the gospel is that we one-time strangers are now part of the people of God. The gospel gives the basis of our care and service for our guest workers. We, who are one-time strangers, with gratitude to what God has done, should care and serve the strangers in our midst. 

Grace Baptist Church, we now have the privilege and responsibility of doing just this with the guest workers in Singapore. They are the "strangers and foreign nationals" living in Singapore. There is a time for advocacy. But at this point, they have an urgent need for food and necessities. We can help provide these for them to demonstrate our love and care for them because we too, have experienced God's love. And perhaps as we extend practical care, we can seed opportunities for building some friendships. And through these friendships maybe we can bridge to the gospel. In this light, we have partnered with the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach (AGWO). We gave a love-gift to provide for some meals. We have also "adopted" a factory-converted dormitory in the Tannery area: we will be providing additional support and delivery of fruits and some necessities. If you want to find out more, contribute or get involved, please email me at oliverchia@gracebaptistchurch.sg.

You can also partner with us in prayer. Please pray for God's wisdom as we provide for our guest workers’ practical needs. Pray for the good building of relationships as we text and talk to our friends, the guest workers. Pray that God will use our small efforts to seed the gospel. Finally, pray for wisdom as we abide by the Covid-19 regulations and pray for God to guard the health of our volunteers. 

Do partner with us in prayer or by providing practical help! For the glory of God in all things and for the joy of all peoples, Amen! 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We are all looking forward to gathering together again following the end of the “circuit-breaker” measures. However, we anticipate that there will still be some restrictions on the number of people who will be allowed to gather in one place. For this reason, we are exploring the possibility of re-opening with multiple services and are seeking your input. 

Please take a few moments to respond to our survey via www.tinyurl.com/worship-survey or QR code below:

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2. These are challenging days. If you need financial or family support, or know of anyone in the GBC community who needs help, please contact any of our pastors. You can also write to gbclovegift@gracebaptistchurch.sg. As a family of faith, we want to provide practical love and care for one another. Please be assured that we will treat your request with sensitivity and discretion. 

3. We will have our Elder-Led Prayer Meeting on Friday 29 May at 8pm via Zoom. You can also access the meeting details via the QR code below:

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