Ruth 2:16 So she gleaned in the field…
The lack of food or jobs has spurred vigorous activity in the past, and in the present, on the part of individuals to depart from their homeland. There are many ways to perish, but dying because of a food shortage definitely is not an enjoyable one. That sort of crisis has led to many new beginnings. Take, for instance, the story of Ruth. It is a narrative that one must read in order to understand King David’s origins. Elimelech, Naomi and their sons had become expatriates in the foreign land of Moab. Elimelech made an earnest attempt to secure each of their futures. And although other destinations were more suitable, and Moab often is not favorably noticed in scripture, the family sought to leave behind Bethlehem’s severe deprivations. Yet death’s shadow did cast itself upon them on foreign soil: without warning, the men in the family died. The women were left to carry on. And carry on they did. Naomi and Ruth survived their grief and made it home to Bethlehem in time to enjoy the harvest God had granted.
But the journey home was fraught with memorable pains that later were pushed aside by an exceeding joy. In time, Ruth landed a job working in Naomi’s kinsman’s field. A good man, Boaz showed Ruth much grace. A marriage resulted, conception came, and the lineage of David was further established. Whatever David might have thought of his heritage we can only rejoice that Ruth chose to conform her life to the holy precepts of Israel’s God. The beautiful redeeming qualities of that account really foreshadowed the dazzling picture of redemption that later would be revealed in the advent of Jesus into this world to rescue his own brethren (and gentiles) from the harsh conditions of sin. Christ made room for us in his field of grace and blessings. So Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection continues to be told daily.
The message is the same, but the proclaimers of it and its hearers are different now. The Gospel trails millions of persons as they traverse the earth seeking safe havens, albeit Christ is mankind’s only secure refuge. Masses of people round the world live as expatriates in foreign lands, working there and sending money back home. Like Ruth, one should be industrious. God has little use for languid folk. I think of the numerous Pakistanis, Philippinos and Bangaladeshis, and others, that I once knew in Saudi Arabia who labored under all kinds of duress just to make a living. Weekly, they endured their crosses, while despising the shame of it all, knowing that happy days were ahead. And when Friday arrived, they boldly expressed their joy to God with dancing in all the house churches of Jeddah and Riyadh.
Those cottage meetings formed the nucleus of relations among their new Christian kin. Some of the abused workers never made it home for funerals of their blood-kin. A few of them buried their loved ones in a Muslim land with no chance of a Christian burial. The one thing, however, that I realized was that the whole labor-force population was a “Missions Field” that needed to be harvested. There were many lost ones among them. WMF lift your eyes, the fields remain ready to be reaped. We face a similar predicament today. Nationalities by the score are submerged in the USA’s melting pot. Each one needs to be evangelized, here, there, and beyond in other locales. Presently, there are thousands of Koreans in Kazakhstan, one by one surrendering their lives to the Lord; millions of Chinese are in Malaysia waiting to hear the Gospel.
A friend of mine, who is preaching in the Far East, recently told me in an email of a poor Christian man who was invited to come and work in tin mining in Penang. He was such a good laborer the Malaysian authorities asked him to go home and bring back more persons like him. He gathered as many Christians as he could. In time, they sent for and brought their wives and children there. Now the third generation of many of their descendants occupies top positions there in law, medicine and government.
If you work alongside or within an immigrant community, there is a lesson to learn here. God follows definite principles: ‘those who honor me will I honor’ (I Sam. 2:30), regardless of their ethnicity.