Have you ever moved to a completely new community where you did not know anyone? Chances are in this
modern mobile society of ours, you have. Try to remember your thoughts as you arrived, and your many
"Will the people here be friendly and accept us?" "Where is the best place to go grocery shopping?" "Is
there a Sears store nearby?" "Will we have to pay a deposit for telephone service here?" "Where will we go to
church?" "Will they have a service station that can service our make car?" "Are there any good restaurants?"
"Are there any places to go camping nearby?" "How much are hunting and fishing licenses here?" "Do they
have a little league team?" "Do they have scouts here?" "What are the schools like?" And on and on we go with
The Old Testament scriptures are very explicit regarding treatment of strangers. In fact, there are 228
verses, to be exact, in the Old Testament referring to being a stranger or how to treat a stranger. Exodus 23:9
commands, Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, seeing you were
strangers in the land of Egypt (KJV). This reminder of the Jews having been strangers in Egypt was repeated
over and over throughout the hundreds of years that followed.
More specifically, Leviticus 19:9,10 tells the Jews to glean their harvest only once and not go back and pick
up what was missed. You shall leave them for the poor and stranger (KJV). You may recall that Ruth, the
widowed Moabitess, was both poor and a stranger when she accompanied her mother-in-law Naomi back to
Naomi told Ruth to go to a field and walk behind the harvesters, picking up what was left behind (Ruth 2:2).
In fact, handsome Boaz happened to be there that first day, noticed her, and asked his servants who that young
lady was. Then he ordered his servants to drop a little extra on purpose so she wouldn't have to glean so long to
get what she needed. That was the one thing that made her realize Boaz was interested in her personally. So
she let him know she was available according to the Jewish custom. Then there was a wedding in Bethlehem.
Ruth and Boaz were brought together by a simple kindness to a stranger.
Number 9:14 explains that if a stranger among the Jews wishes to keep the Passover with them, he may do
so. A modern way of saying it is, if a stranger wants to go to worship services with you, let him. Of course, you
don't know whether he wants to or not unless one of you brings up the subject.
The Jews had cities of refuge for those accused of killing someone where they escaped to until their trial.
These cities were to be made available to the Hebrew, the stranger (another nationality), and the sojourner
(Numbers 35:12-15). Here, then, is another need fulfilled by the Old Law. Those in trouble could find help. This
is, indeed, why some people do move to another community - to escape trouble behind them. The Jews were to
help them until there was proof they were guilty.
There was a strong warning to the Jews to judge equally between themselves and the strangers among them
(Deuteronomy 1:16). They were not to favor the person they had known for years. It is hard to judge a stranger
wisely, but it must be done. Perhaps the best way is to postpone judgment until you get to know him/her better.
The strangers are put in the same category with widows and fatherless in Deuteronomy 10:18. The
strangers were to be loved just as much. They were to be treated equally by being given both food and
clothing. When people arrive in a new town, they often will have spent most of their money on the move,
restaurant meals, and motels. If they haven't obtained housing yet, they will have to continue with these
expensive accommodations and meals for a while longer. They need our love and help during this transition time
in every way possible.
Even before the Law of Moses was written, strangers were cared for. Job, who lived possibly around the time
of Abraham, stated, But no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the
traveler (Job 31:32). Job should be an example to this as well as other methods. He showed God to these
strangers by showing them love (1 John 4:8).
Every three years the Jews were to bring the tithe of their fields' increase to the city gates, and there allow
the Levites (priestly tribe), the fatherless and the widows, and the strangers to eat and be satisfied
(Deuteronomy 14:28,29). They were to do this also yearly at the Feast of Passover, Feast of Weeks, and Feast
of Tabernacles (chapter 16). When we have potluck dinners, do we invite the strangers among us? Have we
ever had a potluck dinner especially for strangers?
In the New Testament John wrote a letter to Gaius praising him for his treatment of his brethren who were
passing through and whom he had taken in:
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you.
They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of
God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore
to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth (3 John 5-8).
Yes, just by keeping a preacher in your home while he holds a gospel meeting is helping him and giving you
an opportunity to be a fellow worker with him. Whenever a group of Christians comes to your town for a special
campaign of knocking on doors, etc., do you keep one or two of them in your home? When you do, you are
being a fellow worker with them. So, even though you may not feel you have the same talents they have, you
can be just as important and necessary to their work.
Certain widows are to be supported by the church, lest the church be considered worse than infidels or
unbelievers (1 Timothy 5:3-8). However, not just any widow is to be accepted for this.
No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is
well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints,
helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds (1 Timothy 5:9,10).
Notice, one of the requirements is that she have a reputation for good works, including showing hospitality to
strangers. Although we should not do these good works for this reason alone, we should remember that one day
any of us could be in need, and this will be one of the ways the church will have of judging our worthiness to
receive monetary help. (See chapter on benevolence for more on this.) At any rate, helping strangers is
considered a very important work, a required work.
God admonished in Hebrews 13:1,2, Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain
strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Twice in the Old Testament
angels were entertained, and ended up bringing an even greater blessing with them than was given to them by
God appeared to Abraham in the form of a man, with two of his angels. Abraham begged them to stay and eat
and rest. He then "hastened" into Sarah's tent to tell her to "make ready quickly" some bread. Then he "ran
unto the herd" to get a calf, and "hasted to dress it." After their meal they told Abraham and Sarah that they
would have their promised child, even though they were now ages 89 and 99. When the couple doubted, the
reply was, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14).
You may wonder, "How can I ever entertain an angel unaware?" Remember, "Is anything too hard for the
Lord?" Who knows but that the stranger you have into your home next time will end up being one of the greatest
blessings of your life? You will always receive a blessing from doing this, but sometimes you will even receive an
added blessing you never dreamed of. Try it. Then you will understand.
Another example of what welcomed angels did is to give advice and warning to avoid pending trouble. These
same angels warned Abraham that Sodom and Gomorrah were going to be destroyed because of their awful
sins. They later went to Lot's house to tell him the same thing. In fact, they spent the night there trying to get
him and his family to leave. Lot and his wife and daughters believed the warning, but his sons-in-law would not
pay any attention.
The next morning they were still lingering, possibly in hope that the sons-in-law and other family members
would change their minds. Finally the angels literally took them by the hand and rushed them out of the city
crying, "Escape for your life!" It was just in time, for the fire fell on the two cities even before they reached their
hiding place (Genesis 18:16-19:26).
It may be that one of those you help in your own home may be able later to help you teach and warn your
family or friends who have not yet become Christians so they will not suffer a fiery condemnation. Angels are
technically messengers from God. In the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3, angels are referred to as
humans, such as "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write...." (2:1). Unknown blessings always await those
who entertain strangers in their home.
One of the most exciting prospects of helping strangers is that every time we take in a stranger, we are doing
this to Christ, entertaining Christ unawares, so to speak (Matthew 25:40). What a privilege to be able to help our
Lord. We all wish at one time or another that we'd been able to see him in his earthly form and do things for him
as did Mary and Martha and Lazarus, as well as others of his friends. Well, we can do the next best thing, except
that it is two-in-one: our stranger and Jesus both at the same time. A double blessing!
But how does one find the strangers and newcomers to the community? One way would be to contact your
Travelers Aid Society if you live in a large city. They give help to people traveling through on a very limited
income, and request that the travelers pay them back once they arrive at their destination. Often times they
assist someone whose car has broken down and will take several days to be fixed, if they have only enough
money to take them straight to their destination. You may contact this organization and ask how you could help,
and indicate your willingness to be called on if needed.
Here again, you must decide whether you can take the person in to your home until they are able to go on
their way. Remember, be as wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. It is a shame that our society has
gotten to the point we have to consider our personal safety. Hopefully, you will be comfortable helping them in
your home; however, if you are not, help them find a motel or room at the YMCA or YWCA that fills their needs,
and provide transportation from where their car is being worked on and back again in the mornings. You may be
comfortable having them over for meals, and this would be most welcome. You can also fix meals in a paper
sack to eat while waiting on their car to be repaired, and also to eat on their way to their destination once repairs
Do you ever stop and help a traveler on the road whose car has broken down or who has run out of gas? If
you are a woman alone, there would be some hesitation to stop; but you could lock your door and roll your
window part-way down and ask if there is anyone you can call for them. Have you ever been stalled on a road
and counted 10, 25, even 100 cars pass by without caring? Sure it is risky to some degree in our age, but so is
the mere act of riding in a car. And how do you think the stranded person feels when they aren't sure it is safe to
get out of their car? Use care and caution mingled with kindness (wise as serpents, harmless as doves) and you
should be able to help in some way without any problems. Just remember they too may be afraid of you. What is
the saying? "A better world begins with me."
People moving into a new town very often do not yet have a place to live. If you meet such people, tell them
which newspapers or agencies are the best in locating housing. Ask them which part of town they want to live in;
schools, job location, churches, recreation are all considerations. Perhaps take them in your car driving around
looking since you know the streets better than they, and they can save their energies for getting in and out of the
car at various locations being considered. This is very exhausting, and someone else doing the driving and
knowing the streets without using a map is a priceless gift of friendship to a stranger to your town.
If these people do not find a place to live the first day (it would be very unusual if they did), make sure they
have a place to spend the night(s). If they have funds, recommend a motel that is reasonable; they may prefer
one with weekly rates and a kitchenette. In some instances, you may wish to let them stay with you, but be sure
this is what you truly want to do so you do not end up in a "Rescue/Persecution Triangle" referred to in a
previous chapter. If you do not feel comfortable with this and they do not have funds to stay in a motel, you may
approach the church or a Traveler's Aid organization. For single individuals, the YMCA and YWCA are
possibilities for temporary rooms.
Another need these strangers to town may have is finding a job. Tell them of various large companies who
do a lot of hiring that they may qualify for. Gather up some newspapers for them, and go through them together
to explain what types of companies these are running the ads.
Perhaps go with them to apply for their jobs. You may stay out in the car or in the lobby, but your presence
that close could be a great morale booster. Job hunting is one of the most exhausting things to the ego and the
body there is to go through. Help keep their spirits up. You may also personally know of people in businesses
that might be interested in hiring someone like this. You will become very tired helping people in this way; but
just remember, they are probably five times more tired than you are.
Then there are the strangers who come to your town to make your community their home and who already
have lined up their job and their home. These are the lucky ones. They are ready for the step that may come
later in helping those mentioned above. This step is helping them get settled into the community and establish
themselves as part of the community.
How do you learn about them? It used to be the utility company or telephone company was willing to send
you a monthly list of all newcomers established in an apartment or house along with their address, unless an
individual requests their name not be included. Chambers of Commerce nearly always receive these lists
themselves. Real estate companies have contact with newcomers also. Welcome Wagon may share their lists.
Following up with these people could keep you busy full time.
First, after you have received your list, you or one of your Bible classes may wish to make up a packet of
informational materials to either mail or take in person to the newcomers. You may wish to send a welcome letter
and tell them you will be mailing or stopping by with the packet in a few days. Most people who receive just a
letter, regardless of how friendly it is, appreciate it and then forget it.
Whatever you decide about a follow up, a letter is still a good gesture and a very good door opener. It could
read something like this:
We just learned that you have moved to our community, and we wanted to be sure and welcome you. We
love people and enjoy so much meeting new friends.
This is a time of excitement for you, no doubt, and also a time of innumerable questions. You may wonder....
1. Where are the best places to shop?
2. What types of entertainment does our town have?
3. Where are the outdoor recreational spots?
4. Where are the churches?
5. Where are good hunting and fishing spots and how much for licenses?
6. Where do we go for new auto and driver licenses?
7. What cultural activities do they have?
8. Do they have scouts here?
9. What types of employment opportunities do they have?
10. Where are the doctors and hospitals?
We would like to stop by in a few days and bring you materials introducing our town, and explain these things
to you. Naturally, we will be happy to answer any other questions you have. Most of all, we wish to make you
feel really welcome into our community.
We look forward to meeting you in person in a few days. God bless you. Very sincerely, ____
You will want to enclose a list of your Bible classes and worship services and starting times.
Now, here is a list of things to include in your packet. You will probably think of other things to include or
substitute some items:
1. Map of your town (from Chamber of Commerce)
2. Map of your county
3. Map of your state
4. Brochure on hunting and fishing licenses (from your Fish and Game Department)
5. Recent newspaper
6. Entertainment and recreation information (from Chamber of Commerce, Department of
7. Latest employment bulletin (from State/Provincial Employment Office)
8. Brochure from County Health Department
9. Drivers License booklet
10. Your latest church bulletin
11. Brief tract explaining the church
12. A paper explaining the Christian ministries being done by your congregation
13. A card explaining the times of worship and Bible classes
14. Coupon book of a "welcome wagon" type. Your congregation may even want to create a small one of
your own by contacting a few businesses and saying the church will pick up the tab within certain limits.
15. Anything else you can think of.
See if someone will go with you to deliver the packets. You should not try to see very many families in a
month, for you should be able to remain in contact with them and make friends with them. If you have too many
people to follow up with, you will spread yourself too thin, especially if you eventually set up a home Bible study
with them. So perhaps you can get some of your friends to help also.
The husband-wife team is best because it may be that only the wife is home or only the husband is home
when you arrive, and it might make the visit awkward. Tell them a little about yourself, and find out about them in
a friendly but not-too-curious way. Discover their hobbies and interests. Learn the names of their children if you
can. Be friends with them. Remember, they are strangers, and probably know few if any people in your town
yet. It is very lonely for them still, no matter how busy they may be moving in.
After you have been there a few minutes chatting, open the packet and hand the items to them one at a time,
explaining anything else you want to about each item. Invite them to worship and Bible class when you get to the
church materials. Most people do not care especially where they go to worship, and often choose a place merely
by how close it is to home, or if they know someone there.
You might offer to help them unpack, although many people prefer to do it themselves so they'll know where
everything is. If they need to go to a certain office in town, offer to pick them up and take them over the first time,
and show them places of interest on your way.
Before you leave, invite them to your home sometime in the future. If they are still manipulating boxes, invite
them over the next day if possible, for it is terribly hard to cook amidst a moving conglomeration. It doesn't have
to be a fancy meal. They will appreciate the chance to get away from all that unpacking regardless.
If they put off attending Bible class with you, offer to take their children. Most people want their children to
go, even if they don't themselves. Regardless, contact a few people in your congregation and tell them a little
about your newcomer friends ahead of time. This way they can watch for them when they do attend and be sure
to greet them with something like, "My friend has told me some very nice things about you, and I have been
looking forward to meeting you." Hopefully your friends will invite the new family to their home sometime soon,
and thus enlarge their new circle of friends.
By the way, when you invite someone over to your home, never say, "Why don't you come over some time?".
That really says nothing very concrete and sincere. If you really mean it, then say, "Why don't you come over
next Friday evening?" If they say they are busy that night, then ask if Sunday would be better, or whatever day
you wish. But be specific.
Another type of newcomer into our community we do not usually think of is the person in the half-way house.
Half-way houses have been set up for people who have been in some type of full-care situation, and are being
eased back into society and on their own again. These people are from prisons, drug and alcohol facilities,
institutions for the mentally handicapped, physical rehabilitation clinics, mental hospitals, homes for unwed
mothers, and some older juvenile facilities.
These people would require more attention and concentration; but at the same time, they have the moral
support and guidance of counselors in addition to you. You could probably do with them everything that has
been mentioned above for newcomers. Then there are other things you could do.
You could stop by and pick one of these people up and take them for rides to get better acquainted with the
community. You could take them around looking at apartments; and if applicable, looking at cars to buy. You
could take them around job hunting. If/when they succeed in finding a job but will not be able to buy a car, you
could take them through the bus route to get them used to that.
Again, it is necessary with these people at half-way houses to be very careful not to enter the "Rescue
Triangle" discussed in the chapter on benevolence. These people are in these half-way houses because of past
inability to take care of their own needs, and these people have been having people make more decisions for
them than people out living on their own.
They will try to continue this old pattern with you, trying to put decisions on you and actions on you that they
could and should be doing alone. Concentrate with them on building up their self-confidence, and in building
new social skills. Such skills would be how to interview for a job, how to get along at the office or shop with peers
and employers, making appointments on time, working at a task until it is completed, budgeting, etc.
You could encourage them to make contact with their family, whether they are in the same town or another. If
they have not been close to their family, try to encourage communication more often and seeing each other.
Help them make new friends in the community, and learn how to be selective so that the friends build them up
rather than tear them down. Of course encourage them to attend church and make new friends among
Christians. There is another category of newcomers to the community who are in some respects perpetual
newcomers, for they are only temporary. These are the service personnel and college students. The next
chapter will be devoted entirely to what you can do for them, and what you can encourage them to do in turn for
A figurative type of newcomer to the community is the newly widowed or divorced. Although living where they
may have lived for many years or even all their lives, they usually leave the world of couples and enter the world
of singles. Even if they attend functions for couples, they are single regardless. In order to avoid awkwardness
which could innocently lead to jealousies, these single adults quite often begin to associate with one another for
a social life. However, if they have been part of a couple for many, many years, they may not be close to any
single people. Although in the same city, they must enter a new society of people in that city. They usually enter
as strangers or relative strangers.
If you know a newly single person, and are acquainted with another single person with similar interests (no
match-making please), introduce them. This will be a good beginning. However, do not let go of the person to
find their way into the single world on their own from then on. Often newly single-again people will ask, "Where
are all my old friends? We've always done things together. Now they hardly talk to me. Do I have leprosy or
something? Why don't they call me any more?" Continue your friendship with them. They needn't be in the
single world exclusively. They could be part of both worlds.
Remember, finally, that in a sense we are all strangers, living in a strange country, pilgrims, travelers, on our
way to our real home. The author of Hebrews speaks of Christianity in this sense: Instead, they are longing for a
better country ~ a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he has prepared a
city for them (Hebrews 11:16). So let us all help one another as we travel through this life until we arrive at our
permanent heavenly home in the world to come.