This holiday season were making a big ask of our church body. Why? We see a huge, God-given opportunity before us, and we want to take it!
What is that opportunity?
We're asking you, church, to welcome the "foreigners among us" into your house this holiday season for a traditional American meal. Invite them to celebrate this Thanksgiving or Christmas season with a meal in your home, and let's see what the Lord does
First, we know that DFW is continuing to get more and more diverse. Texas leads as the state with the most resettled refugees. (Last year, most of these came from Myanmar, Iraq, Somalia and Syria.) DFW is home to multiple major universities which draw international students from all over the world. And, our economic and business-friendly environment has drawn international people for a number of other reasons.
Second, we see powerful things happen around the context of a dinner table in Scripture. The Last Supper, the wedding feast in Revelation, fish eaten over a campfire after the resurrection, even the apple in the Garden of Eden. And there are two large American holidays coming up that traditionally include a significant amount of time around the table together, on those holidays and throughout the entire season.
Despite the number of international people here in our country and the prominence and power of a communal meal, a large number of these internationals have never been inside the home of an American. What a tragedy and "miss" on our part not to invite them into our homes, into our lives, and into an understanding of who Christ is.
A Guide for Hosting
(& sharing your hospitality stories)
For the remainder of this document, we're going to give you practical tips for this kind of hospitality. We have a great chance before us, and we're excited to hear how you engage with the international people in your lives.
If you do have the opportunity to engage people in this way during this Give & Go holiday season, will you please let us know? There are a few great ways to do that:
- Share your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Text your story to 972-591-1320
- If you share your story on Twitter or Instagram, use the hashtag #WMtablestories
We're not asking you to share stories so that we can treat international people as a "goal" to be reached. We just know that stories of Watermark's body serving others invigorate us AND encourage others to follow suit. We will be very sensitive about how we use any stories you send, or let us know if you'd like to be contacted before we do. We're glad to do that.
How to Invite
What we're NOT asking you to do is to find a random person that doesn't look like you and invite them to dinner.
One, that might not be safe. Two, we know that true impact and life change is going to come in the context of relationship.
Therefore, our ask is for you to invite someone of a different original nationality that you already know over for dinner. Of course, you don't have to know them well - this could be the family down the street you haven't gotten to know, or the coworker you've only cordially interacted with so far.
Of course, you can use the current opportunities of Thanksgiving and Christmas to make the invite.
Don't know anyone born overseas yet? No problem! We have a number of opportunities the next few weeks to allow you to meet internationals and build a relationship before making the invite. (And even if you don't get the chance to invite before Christmas, you'll still be building relationships - which is the point of all this!) Find those opportunities here.
What to Do
Of greatest importance: Before your meal, begin praying diligently for your guests: that they would feel welcomed and encouraged, and that a solid relationship would be built through the meal! Pray too that you would connect with them in sensitive ways.
Our main challenge is simply to invite your guests into your home for a meal. But if it makes more sense to go to a restaurant or do something other than a meal, that's great!
Extra resources: If you'd simply like to build relationship in smaller ways... or want to plan something for an entire neighborhood, we have a couple of great resources:
- 98 Ideas for Serving in Your Neighborhood: ideas from other Watermarkers about simply serving those around you
- Block Party in a Box: Engaging Your Neighbors through Gatherings, Get-togethers, & Other Great Events
Of course, there are all sorts of questions and concerns about "what you can do" or being culturally sensitive. While we're giving you lots of tips below, don't forget that you can also ask your guest. If you suspect the other person might have cultural or religious needs or simply preferences that you can fulfill, just ask them!
There's a good chance the family you're inviting into your home isn't just from another country, but they also might observe another religion or a branch of Christianity you're less familiar with. While it's true that you're inviting them into your home to experience an American tradition and meal, it might be helpful to be aware of the traditional cultural manners and potential dietary restrictions of your guests. Ideally, you can depend on that previously-built relationship mentioned above to help shape your meal. But here are some general notions to consider.
(Remember, too, that any religion has "cultural" or "traditional" followers and those who observe it in a more devoted way. So don't assume too much!)
You may know that Muslim law prohibits eating pork and pork byproducts. But you may not realize that pork byproducts can be fond in gelatin, cookies, chips, frosting, and some dairy products. So you may consider being thoughtful especially in the dessert menu that you prepare. Muslim law also prohibits alcoholic beverages. Some stricter Muslims, while willing to eat meat, may request that it be killed or prepared in certain ways .And in case you were considering it, in some Muslim countries rabbit is also added to the no-eating list.
Contrary to popular belief, the Hindu sacred text does not require a vegetarian diet, but it does strongly preach non-violence to all life forms. As such, many Hindus choose to practice vegetarianism. The level of obedience and adherence to this belief can vary based on country of origin. Hindus that do eat meat would typically require that the animal be killed in a specific way to maintain respect to the animals life, and even if they do eat most meats they'll likely not eat cow beef. With a Hindu person especially, you'll want to verify ahead of time that they are comfortable with the meat you are preparing. Or, be prepared with some additional, filling side dishes that they can enjoy.
The dietary practices of Buddhists can vary widely across countries and schools of thought. Contrary to popular belief, Buddha did not make a sweeping statement requiring Buddhists to practice vegetarianism. Many Buddhists interpret the requirement to honor animal life to mean that they themselves cannot kill the animal to be eaten but can partake if the animal is already killed. Observant Buddhists do however have a strong belief that alcohol should not be consumed. For your Buddhist friends, you might want to research even more about their home country than their religion. And count on your relationship with them to ask the right questions!
Of course, these aren't the only religions that your guests from overseas might practice. While you may feel "more familiar" with the rules of Judaism or may not expect much concern within feeding Roman Catholics or those within Eastern Orthodoxy, these and other religions may have unexpected restrictions or customs. Google can help here... as can simply asking questions.
Another note on food: Our friends from around the world may be used to very different meals than what you'll be serving them around Thanksgiving or Christmas. Individuals from many parts of the world are far more familiar with meals of rice and beans (or similar) than meals of meat, fresh vegetables, and cranberry sauce! Don't be offended or upset if they don't eat the whole meal, or if they only try certain parts of it. Invite them into the American tradition but also be sensitive to how far outside their comfort zone or even convictions we might be suggesting they go. Grace, compassion, a friendly smile, and a few "extra" options at dinner can cover all kinds of situations!
Greetings and Manners
If you've ever traveled outside of Texas, you might have noticed that culturally adapted mannerisms can change drastically from place to place. Even comparing the northern USA to the South, you see a number of changes.
So as you host someone from a different country in your home, have the expectation that some things will probably look different than you're used to. You might expect to open the door and shake the hand of your new guest... and they might go in for a double kiss on the cheek. You might expect your guest to take a seat at the table while you serve the meal; they might expect to be in the kitchen with you, cooking your side dishes.
As you and your guest face different greetings, manners, and cultural norms, commit now to use those instances as an opportunity to "lean in" rather than withdraw in self-consciousness or push them away in insensitivity. If you notice that you misunderstood one of their actions, ask them about it. Ask them questions about their home culture, how they usually share a meal, or how those in their culture greet one another. Use the opportunity in front of you to learn more about a country you might never get a chance to travel to. And when your guests do things that appear rude or inconsiderate, take a moment to breathe and realize they come from a completely different environment.
This may in fact be the first time they're in an American home.
written by Christy Chermak of the External Focus Team