Jessica Udall begins her self-published book, Loving the Stranger by telling her readers that the words she has written come from her heart. But after completing her book last week I would have known without a doubt that it was written from her heart, even if she had not explicitly said so. Jessica has spent over a decade loving and serving immigrants; she has also become an immigrant herself, living in Africa for a time with her Ethiopian husband. She understands both roles in the story of strangers and welcomers, and she has seen first hand how they can transform one another in beautiful ways.
In Loving the Stranger, Jessica shares dozens of practical tips for loving immigrants well. She gives ideas for how you can meet an immigrant in the first place. She challenges us to embrace the awkwardness of getting to know one another. She explains some of the best ways to share the gospel with unbelieving immigrants, and to encourage believers from others countries. She stresses the importance of “bridge people, saying,
“People who prove themselves to be safe by being sincerely interested in a person from another culture… become a bridge for that international to connect confidently with the wider society. It is through relationships with safe individuals like this that immigrants become able to cross the cultural divide and thrive in a new culture” (pg 29-30).
I’m writer, so one of the temptations for me is to talk about how Christians should love refugees until my tongue falls out, and then realize that I haven’t actually been acting to love and serve my refugee and immigrant neighbors. Jessica’s book reminded me of all the awkward and beautiful interactions that caused me to fall in love with refugee ministry six years ago. She reignited my excitement to leave my comfort zone and serve them in small, practical, but impactful ways.
I highly recommend Loving the Stranger to anyone who is interested in serving immigrants, who already understands the biblical command to welcome the stranger, but is unsure how to live that out in practice. This book is for you. Learn from Jessica’s own mistakes, blunders, and beautiful successes over many years, and then go out to love strangers well in the name of Jesus.
By the way, Jessica has just started a blog. Check it out and show her some love.