Did you know that there are no boundaries in the love language? When my husband and I were appointed to open an outpost in Houston, we settled in a community where various mixed ethnic groups were living. African Americans, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Burmese refugees and Hispanics from all over South America were residing within a few blocks of the corps.
Free classes for children were started with the hope that the parents would send their children. ESL classes (English as a second language) were available for the adults. A simple flyer listing the various classes were posted around the nearby apartments. We also knocked on doors and handed the flyers out to people we met in our neighborhood stores.
When the parents came to the corps to check out the programs for their children, we couldn’t communicate well with each other. However, I soon realized that they didn’t need to fully understand what I was saying. As long as I tried my best to accept them and show that I understood their hardships, anxieties and struggles, they would open their hearts to me. They felt my acceptance. As I talked to them, it reminded me of when I came to the United States 39 years earlier. I was hopeful, yet fearful of being new in this country. I had to make new friends and find a job. I needed to explore a new beginning for my life. I wanted to ease these parents’ fears and to let them know they could open their hearts to me. As I began building relationships with them, I gave them time to trust me. Then, depending on their openness, I invited them to the Sunday worship service at the corps. There they were introduced to Jesus and invited to accept Him as their friend and Lord.
Many years ago, the Houston Refugee Center referred many Burmese refugees to the apartments around the corps. One year during our Angel Tree registration many came to apply for gifts for their children. It was so difficult for us to communicate with them. We needed to make them understand what documents were needed, how to list their children’s clothing size, even indicate what kind of toys their children liked. Regardless of these challenges, our volunteers patiently helped them step by step. Those actions made the refugees feel comfortable and trusting, and they opened their hearts to us. Some even brought food they had made to show their appreciation. Soon they started to send their children to join our youth programs.
One hot summer afternoon, right before school started, a lady who was in her early thirties came to the corps. She indicated that she had decided to visit after reviewing the corps flyer. She was interested in the children’s after school programs, especially the homework help that we provided. She was a little hesitant at first, but soon we became friends. She mentioned that she felt acceptance from the people at the corps. Here she could release her tensions as a minority in her new country. Her whole family ended up joining The Salvation Army and actively participated in the corps programs. She still volunteers at the corps, serving the many immigrants from different communities with a warm, open, welcoming heart, just as she was welcomed many years ago.
As some of the children were attending the corps on a Sunday, their parents started to come to the worship services. When I asked one of the parents the reason she came even though she couldn’t fully understand what was being said, without hesitation she replied, “I come because I feel the love of God here. I don’t have to understand everything.” Yes, we humans are spiritual beings. We know very quickly whether another person welcomes us or not. We also know if they are faking it or not. When we communicate with a love language first, people will almost always feel connected.
We encounter many immigrants living in our neighborhoods. Some speak good English and have adapted well in their new country; but all thirst for acceptance, a welcome without discrimination and a longing for friendship. The Salvation Army’s Mission Statement clearly states, “… Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” We as Salvationists, know how to act, speak and show the love of God to people who need us without discrimination in His Mighty Name, Jesus. Yes, indeed! There are no boundaries in the love language of the Lord Jesus.