By Tom Bryant.
At the moment I have the privilege to be involved with a group of people who run international cafes with universities in Britain for overseas students. It is remarkable! In a world where there is more and more disputes and wars between countries, we have the honour of gathering students of all ages, from all backgrounds and nearly every continent to have a meal together and share each others’ cultures, stories and to celebrate them. Its very rare you will find a Geordie, Iranian, Saudi and a Mackem bonding over a game of UNO.
I’m pretty sure this is a small glimpse of heaven.
This happens in churches across the North East, but more importantly across all of Britain. There are at least five cafes that I am aware of in Newcastle for overseas students ran by different groups of churches and I help lead one in Quayside, the beauty of these cafes is that it is going against the stereotypes that are put on different people groups that come to Britain and by doing this destroys the roots of racism which are creeping back into 21st century Britain. We are all aware of certain newspapers and websites which use terms like cockroaches and vermin to describe refugees.
Being all-welcoming is probably always underestimated. It’s obviously very hard to judge the true impact of relationships you have with others in your life, say apart from those closest to you. But what we can say is that the biggest impact on the human history has been through the later part of the life of one man, Jesus. From a worldwide movement that went faster and further than the Roman Empire, to inspiring the first hospitals (Holy Jesus Hospital in Newcastle City centre is over 700 years old) and the first education centres and universities.
Jesus’ impact and influence is, of course, immeasurable.
Back to cafes (sort of)… Jesus was all-welcoming. Those he chose to help were meant to be untouchable lepers, who he healed with touch. Spending time with a promiscuous woman and treating her with dignity whilst putting his reputation on the line. But apart from these bible verses the most challenging thing is that Jesus was always All-Welcoming: Those he chose for his team and closest friends were disgusting fisherman and corrupt tax collectors who would betray and deny Him in His hour of biggest need. Not just those He saw and helped for his ministry but some of His best friends were some of the least in the eyes of the religious and governing groups of the time.
I know you are probably thinking that this blog post is about two very separate things, one being about work in Newcastle with internationals and the other a rather preach-like encouragement of being all-welcoming which didn’t really land anywhere?!
But the two should be almost inseparable.
What are you involved in? What’s it against? Inclusion or Exclusion?
Does it come from the movement and impact of Jesus?
Disclaimer: people that would consider me a friend, I have not sought you out because you are disgusting or corrupt, though some of you might be.