Things have been a little quiet on Embracing Exile for the last few weeks because our family has been transitioning from New Zealand to the USA. Apparently, an overseas move is a lot of work! During this time of transition, however, we’ve spent some quality time reflecting on what God has taught us during our 5 years abroad.
One resounding theme is how much God works through the kindness of His people. The church is called to be a light to the world, and kindness is a big part of this mission. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the kindness we were shown in New Zealand was life changing. Here are some examples of kindness we received that you can also show to others:
Show Kindness to Strangers
My wife and I arrived in New Zealand with nothing but the clothes on our back, two suitcases each, and hearts full of dreams. We had no jobs and no real prospects either. The transition could have been very difficult for us two sojourners, but it wasn’t thanks to the kindness we received from (what would become) our local church.
Two different families allowed us to stay with them for free until we could find work and a place of our own. Another family let us borrow their van until we could buy our own car. Several families invited us over for meals. We heard about job openings from people in the church and eventually got those jobs.
The list could go on, but what always strikes me about this story is that, at the time, none of these people actually knew us. We were strangers to them, and yet, they chose to show kindness to people who really needed it. If not for their help, our time in NZ could have been very short and very difficult.
Offer what you have to give
Kindness, like giving, can be a difficult thing to measure. Luke 21:1-4 tells the story of a widow who gives a mere two coins into the offering plate. Knowing her circumstances, Jesus had this to say, “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Kindness and generosity go hand-in-hand. Sharing your resources with others in need is a great way to show kindness, but each person will have different resources to pull from. We were shocked when a family gave us their old car, but after receiving a new car from his company, they had it available to give.
You probably don’t have a car to give away, but what do you have? A spare room to host visitors? Cooking skills to feed people? Time you can give to help others move in or move out? A storage closet full of stuff you don’t use anymore?
We once had a family of four sleep on our sectional couch. Our place was small, and that’s all we could really offer them, but it was enough!
It’s easy to forget about these things, but remember your resources and look for opportunities to share them.
Treat others like Family
It was pretty hard for us to live 8,000 miles away from our family. We have great relatives on both sides, and they were missed everyday. But the kindness our church family showed us helped a great deal.
We had help cleaning our flat when we moved in, and when we moved out. We were never left alone on big holidays, others invited us in to join their family. Some provided free babysitting (which wasn’t always an easy job!). Many visited us while in the hospital when my wife had major surgery.
There are many people in the world who don’t get to experience family. Perhaps their family is on the other side of the world, or maybe they’ve passed away, or maybe their family has abandoned them. Inviting these people to be part of your family will show them a kindness that they will never forget.
Avoid the idol of convenience
Perhaps the biggest threat to my own ability to show kindness is the idol of convenience. For instance, I could host someone for a night, but then I’d have to clean the bathroom. It’s not convenient, so I don’t show the act of kindness. I could give someone a ride home, but they live in the opposite direction. Again, it’s not convenient, so I don’t show the act of kindness.
But choosing to show kindness, despite the inconvenience, makes the act all the more meaningful. People won’t always know how much work it took to show them kindness, but they’ll usually have a good idea. I’m sure it wasn’t convenient for our friends who let us stay with them when our son woke them up in the middle of the night, but they never complained. We have the deepest gratitude for them.
Kindness is a wonderful fruit of the Spirit. That means the more time you spend with Jesus, the more natural it will be to show kindness.
If you want to demonstrate God’s love and see lives change, you don’t need to perform huge miracles – you can show kindness. Throughout the Scripture and the rest of history, we see God working through the extraordinary acts of kindness shown by ordinary people. I experienced it first-hand, and it’s truly a beautiful thing.
So be encouraged, and seek opportunities to be kind to each other. And if you happen to be one of our New Zealand friends, thank you, once again, for making such a positive impact in our lives.