My hope is that beyond the categories of where we've been refugees, immigrants, or where people come from, is that we all begin to see ourselves as strangers who are welcomed into the family of God and operate and reach out with that same love to others.
Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Today, the true story of one man's journey out of Islam and into the grace of God he found in Jesus. He believes his journey can motivate Christians in America to make disciples of the strangers at our shore. That's the title of our featured resource today, The Stranger at our Shore, How Immigrants and Refugees Strengthen the Church.
The author, Joshua Sharif, is going to join us. Gary, I don't know if I've ever asked you this question about your lineage. Do you know the first Chapman that set foot on American soil from your family? Chris, I don't even know my great grandfather. I don't, you know. In fact, that's one of the things that motivated me recently to write my memoirs, because I just thought, you know, maybe two generations or three generations down, I could be having a ministry if they knew a little bit about what God had done in my life.
So no, but I don't, Chris. I do know that my dad always said that the Chapmans came from Scotland or Ireland. I do know that when I was in England once, and I visited the grave of C.S. Lewis, right beside him, there's a grave for a man by the name of Chapman.
So that was kind of interesting for me. But I don't know a whole lot about my ancestor, to be very honest with you. What I know is my paternal grandfather came from Austria-Hungary and came to Ellis Island, and he knew very little English and had very little money, but he had this steamer trunk. And we still have his passage on the Bremen, which was the liner that came over, and he was in the Prussian military and got out before World War I. And so I've always looked at that, and then I was able to meet him and know him when I was a little child, and just the respect that I had for him to come that, you know, distance and to live this, he was a coal miner, lived this hard, scrabble life, to give us the opportunity to live here. You know, it was a totally different life for me and my generation, and even my father as well. So I'm looking forward to this conversation. I want you to hear Joshua Sharif's story. It's a little different than Gary and mine. Joshua was born in Egypt to a Muslim family, immigrated to the U.S., where he later came to faith in Jesus. You'll hear more about that in just a minute. Our featured resource is his book, The Stranger at our Shore, How Immigrants and Refugees Strengthen the Church.
You can find out more at moodybooks.org. Well, Joshua, welcome to Building Relationships. Thank you so much for having me.
It's a pleasure. Now, I'm interested in your story about growing up in Egypt. So let's begin there. How old were you when you came to this country? And tell us a little bit about what you remember from Egypt.
Sure. I remember having my eighth birthday in the USA. And so I came, you know, pretty close to my eighth birthday. Really for me, growing up in Egypt, I grew up in a nominal Muslim family. They were very culturally Muslim, but I would say more nominally practicing until my father had a health scare, had a heart attack. And that got him very religious, which was a real joy for me at that moment, because I had always had a real sense of wanting to know God, was always dragging him to the mosque. And so for me, life began to shift around that moment.
And I began to have dreams of becoming an imam and really diving into my Muslim faith. Do you know how old your father was when he came to the States? So my father never made it to the States, actually. Oh, okay. And he passed away at 48 years old from a second heart attack.
Wow. And so then did your mother come with you and did you have brothers and sisters that came with you to the States? Yeah. So the plan while my father was still alive was that my mother, myself, and my sister would go to the States and we'd set up first, and then he would follow after. And what unfolded as we came to the States and met Christ and our life began to change, kind of set a whole domino of things that ended with us spending the next 10 years in hiding, living on the run with anonymous names. And the story kind of gets crazy from there. Yeah. So your mother then was a target of what we normally call honor killing.
That sounds pretty serious. You know, my mother, and I didn't know at the time, I still remember I write about this in the book. I remember when we were on the airplane coming here, she took off her hijab, her head covering on the plane. And I was shocked by that as a religious boy. And in fact, I had the courage to tell my mother, you're going to go to hell. And she had told me, you know, for me, I had just gotten out of hell. That was a test she had laid before God, she'd had a secret faith in Jesus that she had kept from us that we didn't know. And that was, in her view, God's grace getting out. So when we landed to the States, I was not in a world of cultural shock, but in a shock of my mother wanting to reconnect with her Christian faith, she had come to faith as a teenager in Egypt, but saw all her friends go to prison for their faith and so turned secret with it. And that was coming alive. It forced me to reckon with a new reality that I wasn't ready for at that moment.
Yeah. Do you know what impacted your mother in her teenage years that brought her to Christ? Yeah, we both have similar testimonies, but for her, it was her mother, my grandmother who I dedicate the book to was the first Christian in our family.
She was a movie star. She was wealthy and she was absentee mother. So my mother was mostly raised by my grandmother and then one day everything changed and her mother walked back into her life. And that change was that she had found Jesus.
And so my mother, she tells a story. She took this Bible and she was angry at her mother, of course, and this was another new thing that her crazy mother was doing. And she took the Bible and to, in Islam, to read holy scripture in a bathroom is dishonoring. She took it into the bathroom to read it, to prove it wrong. And she's just so happened to flip to the gospel of John and she says that she left the bathroom a follower of Jesus. Wow.
Wow. Now, how about you and your journey after you came here to the States, what led you to leave Islam and become a Christian? For me, it was also my grandmother.
She had come to the States and had lived in the States a long time because of the persecution that she faced in Egypt and the threats to her life. And so we first came and lived with her and her and my step-grandfather were always reading scripture out loud in this little room, office room that they had. And I'd walk by, you know, and as a kid, go to Saturday morning cartoons or wherever I was going to walk by this room, I always hear them reading scripture out loud. And I was fairly rude, I would say, you know, your God doesn't hear you, scripture is corrupt.
Whatever, you know, I kind of had picked up along the way to say, but really I just felt so threatened by what I was hearing. And so I don't know the exact moment like my mother does, but I do know that I went from walking past hurling insults to lingering at the door, to being in that room and hearing scripture, to reading scripture, and it was encountering the Word of God that completely changed my life. I found, you know, that although I was on this search for God and wanting to please God, I found in Jesus, a God who loved me, was already pleased with me, was my Heavenly Father and had come to save me. And that was those characteristics of God I just could not find in Islam. I found a God who was just so different in character than anything I imagined or expected.
Yeah, yeah. Now when Muslims hear your story, how have they typically responded? You know, I think through the years, the idea of conversion is so foreign. You know, I've shared my testimony with Muslim friends here in in Chicago, and some of the first responses I usually get are, I won't tell anyone this. Don't tell anyone. Make sure don't tell anyone this.
And it's really out of their fear for my safety. But I will say on a positive note, I do believe God is doing something miraculous in the Middle East and all over the world. And the stories of people coming to Christ, I think are becoming less and less rare by the grace of God. Today on Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, we're talking with pastor and author Joshua Shariff. Our featured resource is his book, The Stranger at our Shore, How Immigrants and Refugees Strengthen the Church.
Find out more at buildingrelationships.us. Joshua, you not only converted from Islam to becoming a Christian, but you became a pastor. How did you sense God directing you into this ministry? For me, because I had a growing desire as a child to serve God, I just had my world flipped and discovered the one true God. You know, no longer was I wanting to go into some sort of ministry to please God, but really with the sense of purpose that God was pleased with me, that God had a purpose and a call on my life. And I would say, and why this book is written, why I wrote this book is the discipleship of the church. The church poured into me, they taught me God's word, they discipled me, they even helped pay for my biblical education and they ordained me. And so they raised me up to serve the Lord. And so the local church, I would say, is a huge part of why I'm a pastor.
Yeah. The church becomes a family in a sense, a spiritual family for us. Tell us about your wife. How did you meet her and how did you know that she was the one that God had for you? Yeah, so my wife and I met while I was in Bible college. She had a kind of a dual degree where she got a Bible degree and also was at the state school working on her teaching degree.
And it was serving together. I started in ministry as a youth pastor and you know how the story goes, you're serving the Lord together and getting to know each other. For us, we found a real deep bond over the desire to serve the Lord and found a real closeness.
Although I'm from the Middle East and she's from the Midwest. We found a real kinship and the purpose and calling that God had shaped in us to not only serve God, but to reach the nations. Yeah. So it sounds like when you came to the States and you began to read scriptures and came to accept Christ, the people in the church there really, really were open to you as family and serving you. Was that the attitude that you sensed from the very beginning? I did.
Yes. And I will say, you know, the church didn't get everything right culturally. They didn't fully understand our situation, but what they did is love us and accept us.
They didn't see us just as a project, which I think can sometimes happen. They didn't view us as just a testimony to be shared, but real men and women of God poured into our family, poured into me and said, we see a gifting in you. We see God has a purpose in you.
We want to raise you up to serve God. Yeah. So it's not only that America kind of became a safe haven for you, the church, the local church was a safe haven for you. Yeah. I would say that there's probably nothing culturally closer for us than coming into the church because we were leaving our extended family in this foreign land with the foreign culture, but there was something about coming together with this new large extended family weekly and eating together.
And that felt like the closest to home that we had. Yeah. And then this book then is about immigrants and refugees. And in the book, you point out some of the problems that you see in the church today about how we relate to immigrants and refugees. What are some of the problems that you see?
Sure. And I want to say my motivation in writing this book was not to say, you know, here's all these things that need to be fixed church, figure it out. In fact, I just don't think the church needs to be beaten over the head anymore about things but really encouraged. My motivation as I wrote this book was to say, look how the church has changed my life. And I want to see that replicated.
I believe that the local church is equipped to do this over and over and over. And so really the issues I deal with are internal and probably the major issue I deal with from multiple angles is the idea of fear. The idea of fear as something that holds us back from living our purpose, from carrying out the gospel call to the nations, to our brothers, our sisters who are foreign and strangers among us. The idea of fear as it shows itself in our own personal lives, dealing with inadequacy.
Why would God want to use me? And just the way that fear as well keeps us from connecting with other people. One of the questions I raise in the book is, you know, what informs our perspective of certain people groups? When that list of things that informs our perspective isn't a personal relationship or a friendship, then we need to begin to reevaluate if we have a true picture of who those people are. So one of the things I hear you saying is that you feel like they're at the root of why Christians and Christian churches don't reach out more freely to those of a different race or culture is they're just fear, fear of the unknown or fear that they won't know what to say or how to relate. Is that part of what you're saying?
Yes, definitely. I mean, for me, I raise past the broad theme of fear, I raise three problems I think we're facing and I categorize them like a good preacher in that inadequacy, ignorance and indignation and really inadequacy deals with our in our heart. What do we see ourselves as part of this mission? And it points us back to Peter and John and Acts four before the teachers of the law where it's very clear that these are unschooled ordinary men, but they took note that they were Jesus just to say that as far as inadequacy, God has equipped the church and equipped us by the power of his spirit to reach out and that gives him glory. I talk about also the idea of ignorance, which is to kind of dispel the myth of the expert. We don't need people to be experts in Islam to reach Muslim people.
We don't need people to be experts in Hinduism to reach Hindu brothers and sisters. We need people to build relationships and friendships because the truth is people don't all think the same. People aren't always the same. And when I approach somebody in my neighborhood who might be from the same background as me, they actually have a lot of expectations. They expect me to know the culture, the language, the customs. So there's a lot unsaid. But what I found through the years is some of our best disciple makers come from completely different cultures because there's a mutuality there. Learning each other's language, learning each other's culture, eating each other's foods. There's a lot of grace there actually to discover.
So I just want to encourage the church and say, please, you don't have to be an expert. You can make friends. And then the last one, indignation simply. There's a lot of sometimes good and bad reasons why we have indignation towards other people. And I even go as far as to say, listen, there's some people who are going to read my book and say, great, this is exactly my heart for immigrants, refugees. And I wish some of these other people would have the same heart.
And so I kind of want to give the warning. As humans, we have the ability to shift our indignation. And I hope we can, by the grace and power of Jesus Christ, get rid of indignation in our hearts and truly love and serve one another as brothers and sisters. You know, Joshua, you're reminding me of a book that I just released with an African American friend of mine. We've been really close friends for more than 50 years now. We wrote a book together on cross-cultural friendships because often that's where relationships begin when we begin to reach out and, as you mentioned earlier, have conversations, have meals together, and we get to understand each other. And in that context, obviously, if we're Christians, we share our faith and we listen to them and give them, expose them to the faith and trust God because God's the one ultimately that brings people to Himself, right? Amen.
Yes. And I have your book on my list. I heard you speaking about your book, and so it is on my list for sure. We got to get you a copy of that, Joshua. We're going to do that.
Yeah, I'd love that. But it reminds me, when Clarence was here, Gary, you two talked about, you know, when you said something wrong, when you approached him and his friend on the porch, there's a risk in that. And I think a lot of people kind of in the church may hold back because, oh, I don't want to say the wrong thing. We go back to fear, Joshua, I don't want to say the wrong thing.
I don't want to offend anyone with something. I may do it wrong, so I'll keep quiet. You're saying go ahead and risk because the mistake you make might be the thing that brings you together, gives you a little bit of humility. Do you agree with that, Joshua?
I definitely agree. And I think there is something powerful, not just about giving grace, but putting yourself in a place where you can receive grace from other people and even ask for forgiveness if you need to. When you make a mistake, there's something genuine, that's what a real friendship relationship looks like. There's mutuality. We aren't building these friendships as these, you know, just arbiters of grace. We'll give you grace and we're going to give you the gospel. But really the strong bridge, you want to be able to travel both ways on. And I think there's a real trust that's built when we have the ability to also receive grace and forgiveness.
Yeah. Now, you know, one of the barriers sometimes is a language barrier. If a person is a recent immigrant and has not yet learned very much English, and what we found in our church is if we teach English as a second language, there are many immigrants and refugees who are eager to learn English. And in that context, it becomes easier to build a friendship. Have you found that to be true?
I definitely think that that is key and that is true. You know, in the book we talk about not just having a missionary sending model, but also having a receiving model, the benefit when we send people out to other countries and have to learn the language. And there's a huge learning curve that way, but there's nothing more motivating than being dropped into another country and having to learn that language. So you have people who are at our doorsteps in our neighborhoods who are just doing everything they can to learn English there, although that's a barrier.
That's one that can easily overcome so many of these classes, you know, are looking for people to converse with. But for us, I know one story, one lady started a women's exercise class in the neighborhood for free, and that, you know, garnered a group of 40 or something like that. And then we saw a need that a lot of these ladies didn't speak any English.
And so we had a teacher who offered to put on a class after the exercise class. And that, for us, led to seven people being baptized and finding Jesus. And we've seen such a desire and hunger in people where we've had multiple stories of people who didn't speak a word of English come into the church on those bridges where somebody else speaks their language. And they're sitting there through the sermon and the song, they don't understand anything for six months, and then slowly they get there.
But really, it's not the content of all the sermons or the lyrics of all the songs that are preaching the gospel to them most for six months. Thanks for joining us today for Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . You can find out more about your love language and simple ways to strengthen relationships at FiveLoveLanguages.com. You can listen to the stream or download the podcast right there.
Just go to FiveLoveLanguages.com. Our guest today is Joshua Sharif. Let me give you his full bio now that you've heard some of his story. He was born in Egypt to a Muslim family, immigrated to the United States, where he later came to faith in Jesus. He planted and pastored a church in Albany Park, Chicago, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country. He spent years equipping and coaching missionaries and pastors around the world. And in his new role, he works bivocationally to equip churches to reach their cities. His story was featured in the documentary, Love Costs Everything, and it concerned Christian persecution. We're talking about his story that's detailed in the book, The Stranger at our Shore, How Immigrants and Refugees Strengthen the Church. You can find out more at MoodyBooks.org.
Click the Moody Radio icon right there when you go to MoodyBooks.org. So Joshua, who were some of the key people in your life that gave you the feeling that the church truly is a family? Yeah, for me, I have many stories, but I'll share two that come to mind real quickly. My first Sunday school teacher, I think he was like my third grade Sunday school teacher.
I can't tell you what he taught me in the Sunday school classroom, but I can tell you that he bought me my first bike, came over, taught me how to ride that bike, invested in me when I was alone and didn't have a father figure in my life. He was an older man, and that I'll remember for the rest of my life, that investment. The other story for me is when we were first moving, living on the run, we came to the Midwest and a church had taken us in and we had this new apartment in this completely new place. We didn't know anyone. A family came with furniture for us to help us furnish the place.
I remember there was a young boy my age who came and helped carry this furniture in. His name is Andrew, and we have been friends from that moment on. I was the best man at his wedding, he was the best man at my wedding, and almost 30 years now, we have been in each other's lives, been great friends. For me, it was those kind of relationships where, again, they didn't see me as a project or as an outsider. He showed up and he made a new friend, and we have become lifelong friends.
Yeah. That is so powerful when an individual or a group of a church reaches out to an immigrant individual or family and just seeks to help in any way they can, and then to follow through in getting to know family members individually and doing things like that, like you mentioned on the bike. I can see how that action would have spoken loudly to you at that age in your life.
Just really, really powerful. What are some of the common difficulties that immigrants experience that natural born citizens may not have considered? You know, I speak in my book about a small, very, very small example that is really inconsequential when you look at it, but at the time as a kid, it was huge to me. I remember I had seven Egyptian pounds, and my parents were explaining to me that when we came to the US, that because of currency exchange, and of course, I didn't understand that it was going to be less US dollars, and I remember feeling like, wow, this moving there is costing me.
I can't believe it. This is unfair, and I think that's a small example that I share to say with every new game, new country, new language, new opportunities is also grief, and so often in all these milestones, there is grief involved, even in the beautiful things of being a new country. We grieve what we've lost by leaving our homeland. And I could see that most people here in the States would not understand that because they're thinking, well, you came out of a place where you were in trouble or things were not going well, and you came here to this wonderful country, and you should be grateful just to be here. I can actually see exactly what you're saying. So what can people do to ease some of these burdens?
Yeah. The most important thing is to adopt this as churches and as people of God, to adopt this idea of family. That is what has made the most difference in my life, that the church is our extended family. It's our family in Christ, and having that family model where we not just welcome people through organizations and activities, but really around our dinner table is huge. One of the things that immigrants and refugees face is just an exhaustion with dealing with organizations. We might be dealing with people, but you're dealing with the government and this agency and that lawyer, and after a while, although there's people there, it's all faceless. And I think the church has opportunity not just to be, hey, our church is raising money for this. We want to give to you, or we want to furnish your house, not as an organization, but truly as individuals welcoming somebody into their family.
And I know that's nuanced, but that makes a huge difference. Yeah, I can certainly see that. You know, Joshua, another area, it's not exactly immigrants, but it's international students who are here in the States studying in college or doing graduate studies.
And I forget the exact number, but there's a huge number of those international students who are here four years, six years, or longer who are never invited into an American home to have a meal or just to share life with that. And that's another place where the church may be really missing a wonderful opportunity to minister to those of other cultures. Have you seen that?
I have seen that. And I definitely know that that is a great opportunity because what you have built in already are people who are coming to study and learn in a new culture. And so they are very open, but if we don't invite, if we don't reach out, then they don't have that opportunity. I was very grateful for a couple years ago in our church who had been missionaries in another country and had to come home because of health issues. But whenever a significant group of people from another country came to our city to live, they led our church people to reach out to them and to build individual relationships and to find out how we can help them as they begin to adjust to a new life here. It takes somebody in a church, it takes somebody who has a vision for that. And I'm hoping that your book is going to be one thing that if Christians will read it, it will help them get a vision for this ministry.
I'm sure that's what you would hope as well. Just my hope for this book is just to see what the church has done in my life, to love me, disciple me, and raise me up and send me out, happen again and again. And I wanted to write this book, obviously on the topic of immigrants and refugees, but I was mindful all throughout this book to make sure that this is a book that could apply to disciple making in many contexts. Because often I think sometimes the stranger is sitting in the same room with us.
We have extended family that feel like strangers sometimes in our midst. And my hope is that beyond the categories of even refugees, immigrants, or where people come from, is that we all begin to see ourselves as strangers who were welcomed into the family of God and operate and reach out with that same love to others. This is Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The New York Times best seller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Joshua Sharif is our guest, the author of The Stranger at Our Shore, How Immigrants and Refugees Strengthen the Church.
Find out more at buildingrelationships.us, again go to buildingrelationships.us. Joshua, a few years ago, one of my daughters was working with refugees here in Arizona. We live in Tucson, and I got invited to the ceremony where he and his wife went through the naturalization and became citizens.
And this is a fellow from Iraq who had several advanced degrees there because of different things that were going on with Al-Qaeda and others. He and his family came here and it was very much, he was working at very low paying jobs at that point and didn't know how do I go through the complexity of becoming a citizen. And so my daughter and others with the organization that they're working with were able to get him to the end. And when I went to this and you see the people stand there from a lot of different countries and they are challenged as they become citizens, all of the things that were said there, and the flag and the president speaks on the video about it, it was just such a moving thing. And I wonder about your situation, I think you were an adult when you actually went through that ceremony, right? Yes, for me it was on the 4th of July, so it was like a big party.
There was a parade going outside, it was at like the state courthouse and they had a kind of a center feature and they had this big gallery for people to come and celebrate during that time. And this 4th of July will be my 13th anniversary then as a US citizen, but yeah, that moment was again one of those beautiful moments, defining moments of kind of finally crossing into that citizenship into this land that had really taken me in and blessed me. Well, it's always exciting to celebrate what God has done and it's a journey step by step. Where do we look to in scriptures to find examples of what it looks like to care for immigrants and refugees? Sure, we see all through scripture, God's heart is for those who are downcast, who have little resources, who are strangers. And as I look at scripture and even coming off the question of my citizenship, one of the themes I'm really struck by in scripture is all through scripture as well. And I see it in like 1 Chronicles 29 and the dedication there for the temple is saying, as he's standing before God, he's saying, we are here before you as foreigners and stranger. And I even see in this Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 that same idea, he says, they didn't receive these things promise, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. And so for me, I think the biggest theme I want to point people to is that when we see ourselves as foreigners and strangers to the kingdom of God on this earth, that bridge between each other becomes a lot less distant because we are all hoping for a heavenly country and all awaiting eagerly that citizenship that we have in heaven.
Yeah, absolutely. We see throughout the Bible that God's chosen people, Israel in that day, and even Jesus himself were made refugees and immigrants many times. How has Christianity been shaped by this history? Yeah, I think becoming an immigrant into this country shaped my heart for the Christian faith.
We are a sojourning people. The people of God are on the move because our God is on the move. And so I think the more we understand that as his people, the more we understand that his heart was that from the beginning that we'd be fruitful and multiply all over the earth. His heart in the early church was to scatter the church to the nations. And his heart for us is that we wouldn't sit still on the gospel message, but that we would go throughout all of the earth proclaiming the gospel, baptizing, teaching people in the name of Jesus Christ and the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and the promise that he gives us. Although we are people on the move and people who can be scattered, that surely he's with us to the very end of the age that he'll never leave us.
Joshua, I'm sure that you see this. It's really been astounding what has happened in our country here. We have been a missionary sending country, the Christians in this country for many, many years now. But now more than ever, the nations have come to us in the form of those who are coming as immigrants and refugees. So the whole commission that Jesus gave the church to take the gospel to every nation should have even a fresher dimension for Christians in our day. Do you see that and sense that?
I do see that. I see that the world has just gotten so much smaller, even in my short lifespan here. I'm amazed at the people that I meet monthly coming into this country and into our cities. God has brought the whole world to our doorstep here. And we have an amazing opportunity that I don't think is by coincidence. I think God is rewarding that long tradition that you've talked about, our heart to reach the nations. I think God is entrusting the nations to those who have a heart to reach the nations because He cares deeply about His children all over the world. And so one of the things I talk about and really encourage churches to think about is that idea of a receiving model, because we've had such a beautiful tradition of ascending model of raising funds and training up missionaries to go. And I think that should still continue.
And I think that's beautiful. But I think just as valid now as churches, we need to figure out what it looks like to have a receiving model to say in our own neighborhoods, in our own country, are the nations coming and are we prepared? Have we put resources?
Have we put the energy effort? And most of all, prayer behind what it means to receive the nations into our family here. You know, Joshua, there's a lot of discussion today about what's happening in our country with people coming in illegally in the southern border, and people have different feelings about that and feel very strongly about that.
And I don't want to discuss the whole political issue of that. But in terms of individually relating to people who end up in our communities, however they got here, we need to see them as individuals, individuals for whom Christ died and that He loves them and cares for them. And if we can be motivated to reach out and not put them down, I think you mentioned about this earlier, of kind of putting people down, indignation and that sort of thing. How do we get over some of the feelings that even as Christians we may have about illegal immigration? Yeah, and I will want to preface by saying I'm not any legal expert in any matter, but I do know that that is a difficult conversation and I know it's a difficult thing for immigrants and refugees, even just in our own story, you know, our visa was expiring while we were here early on and we wanted to do everything the right way.
And so I remember my mother working multiple jobs and she had saved money to pay a lawyer to finish our paperwork. And we were so vulnerable that that lawyer took advantage of us, he just stole the money. And so there are so many challenges of vulnerable people coming here that I think we're unaware of, but for me, past kind of the legal process, I just want to make sure our hearts are in the right place because I know that scripture says that we were lawbreakers and sinners and breaking people who broke God's law, yet he had compassion and love on us. I think of too the parable Jesus tells about the debtors, you know, and he says, who loves the master more and the answer is the one who was forgiven more. And I think how can we look down our noses at people in a difficult situation as lawbreakers and at the same time hold that man, we were in God's eyes such lawbreakers, but yet he's forgiven us for so much.
So that's not a legal argument. I'm not a legal expert, but I just want to make sure at least where we start in the heart is to show that same grace and love that Jesus has. And to say as a young kid coming in who was eight years old behind all these families are vulnerable children who don't have choices. They just want to thrive and live and, you know, have the same opportunities that many people get to have in this country.
Yeah. No question about it at any nation needs laws regarding immigration and citizenship and all of that, but you can't legislate friendships. And if we have a heart for being friends to people who we encounter from other cultures, we can be God's representative. After all, what's most important is not where we are citizens in this world, but that we get citizenship in heaven and we can be God's instrument of helping people come to have that citizenship.
And that's what's most important, right? Amen. Joshua, as we come toward the end of our time together, what would you say to someone who is an immigrant or a refugee who might be listening to this program today? I know what it means to live in fear and live in uncertainty, but to anyone who's listening who feels like they're in that place, maybe anyone who's listening, it doesn't happen to know Jesus. One of the things I want to encourage you with is that the gospel and the good news of Jesus is realistic and applicable to the life and circumstance that you're living right now. Jesus is very honest with his disciples.
He says, in this world, you will have trouble, but behold, I've overcome this world. And that regardless of where you are or what will happen, there is a citizenship and there is a right, as John writes in chapter one, that no one can take away from you. And that is the right for those of us who believe in Jesus to be children of God.
And that right is irrevocable by any nation or any people group. And that's good news. Well, Joshua, I want to thank you for being with us today and sharing your heart. And I do pray that God will touch the hearts of many who are listening and encourage them to get a copy of this book and read it and to think about and pray about how God may want to use them individually and use their church to reach out and minister to those immigrants and refugees who may be among us. So again, thanks for being with us and may God continue to bless you in your ministry.
Thank you so much. What a challenging conversation today with Joshua Shareef. If you want to read more about his life and thoughts on the topic you've heard about today, go to the website buildingrelationships.us.
That's buildingrelationships.us. You'll find out more about the stranger at our shore, how immigrants and refugees strengthen the church. And next week, the people, animals, and other characters who populate the creation story. Dan Darling will join us.
Don't miss it in one week. And remember, you can find simple ways to strengthen relationships at 5lovelanguages.com. A big thank you to our production team, Steve Wick and Janice Backing. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
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