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By Roland Clarke

Image courtesy Bible Study Tools

Chris and I recently spent time with Khalil and Hamid on the grass near my parking lot where we talked and had fun playing frisbee. These newcomers had told us a week earlier that the last six months of lockdown have been very frustrating as they've been trying to learn English through online ESL classes. We four have been friends for the last couple years, so it's not surprising that the lock-down-absence made our hearts grow fonder. Chris and I were deeply touched by their urgent request for language learning help and are now meeting with them each week in a conversation circle, not forgetting, of course, Covid prevention rules.

Since we started these informal discussions, two other small clusters from the same community, have expressed a similar desire to practice speaking English.

You may wonder why we got involved with these newcomers who, in some ways, are different from us, yet like us, believe in one God who created everyone. Interestingly, they also agree that God has planted eternity in the human heart, as Solomon observed so long ago. In fact, Khalil is willing to translate this statement from Ecclesiastes into his mother tongue along with a couple of other proverbial sayings. (Ecclesiastes 3:1,2,11 & 7:1-5) The latter passage touches on a topic with which our friend is all too familiar – mourning and tears.

Not so long ago in their homeland, Khalil and his people experienced intense persecution, indeed, they were nearly annihilated. Such painful memories could make Khalil ultra-sensitive and self-protective, yet somehow, he recognizes the wisdom behind Solomon's words, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4)

The sorrowful shadows which still linger over Khalil bring to mind similar Scriptural imagery involving the “shroud of death”. God promises in Isaiah 25 that he will destroy the shroud of death that hangs so tragically over mankind. Not only so, he “will wipe away the tears from all faces” replacing them with rejoicing and gladness. Please pray for us as we begin the journey of exploring, together with these men, how “Jesus destroyed death and has brought life and immortality [eternity] to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10) Walking this path means being empathetic and compassionate. Perhaps Christ's example of weeping at the graveside of Lazarus was in the back of Paul's mind when he tells us in Romans 12:15 to “weep with those who weep.” (cf. John 11:35)

Showing empathy is, indeed, a genuine way of expressing love, however, Jesus also showed courageous love by confronting the evil underlying death. Christ is the long awaited Messiah predicted in Isaiah 25 who has defeated death forever. Interestingly, we see a glimpse of this inner strength and deep hatred of evil in John 11:33; “When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.” (NLT, bold added) Moments later, Jesus broke death's grip and raised Lazarus from the grave! “As the Father has sent me,” Jesus said, “so I am sending you.” As Christ's ambassadors, Chris and I, are seeking to reach unreached people who have come to Canada from remote countries. We need others, like you, to come alongside us in showing simple friendship to these lonely and needy newcomers. One way you could help is by participating in a conversation circle. Please contact us here: