Deuteronomy 10: 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.
Anyone who has been a collegiate student-athlete or has been a part of their support network understands the extra demands they face. In addition to the significant school workload, they must find the time to fit in as much as 20 extra hours each week for training, practice, meetings, and competitions. Now consider the international student and you heap on a whole new layer of challenges. Such athletes must adjust to a new culture, often a new language (or at least new slang), and usually with their old support network thousands of miles away (often on a different time schedule). A University of Akron research paper, Acculturation of International Student-Athletes[i], addresses these challenges. The author, Alexandra Frawley, identified some of the specific and unique challenges they face. Following are three of her findings (page 11, Findings): 1) Insufficient Coaching Staff Support (international students reported more support if their coach was a foreigner themselves, or if they had previous experience coaching international students); 2) Insufficient Team Support (their American “teammates made no effort to make them feel at home, or ask about their home country”); 3) Homesickness (“they mentioned that spending time with their roommates or friends participating in activities such as homework, other events….helped to distract them”).
One of the benefits of reading your Bible (both Old and New Testament), is that you can better understand the heart of God. Today’s scripture from Deuteronomy 10 identifies a key characteristic of God – he loves and fights for the vulnerable. Verse 18 begins with: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow”. This is a constant theme. In Bible times the people did not have the social safety nets we have today. A woman and a child were dependent on the provision of their husband and father, so if that was removed, they were desperately vulnerable. God called his people to come to the rescue of these people when others would not. In fact, James 1:27 reads: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” But in today’s passage from Deuteronomy, God adds another group to the list of vulnerable people. “And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19). In Bible times, foreigners had no access to land, no inheritance, no way to provide for themselves – they were vulnerable. In this scripture God was speaking to the Israelites and he reminded them that they were all foreigners when they were exiled in Egypt. He tried to remind them of what it felt like when they were the vulnerable strangers.
As a Christian, you have a duty to help the vulnerable, and this includes the foreigner. How you can help may be unique to you, but I am certain the opportunity will arise for you to show the love of God to these vulnerable people. If you are a student-athlete, it could be as simple as showing some interest and concern for the foreign student. Showing genuine interest in them, their culture, their home, will likely have more impact than you could ever imagine. As a coach or support staff, you can help fill a massive void for these young people as they often have limited access to their parents, childhood coaches, and other support networks. Pray to God today and ask him to identify the “foreigner” whom he has placed in your life, who desperately needs the loving embrace of God. You are God’s arms on this earth, so embrace!
[i] Frawley, Alexandra L., “Acculturation of International Student-Athletes” (2015). Honors Research Projects. 188. http://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/honors_research_projects/188