… Some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” … When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.—Mathew 2:1-12 NLT
Not everyone who travels from country to country is an immigrant. The wisemen who visited the manger where Jesus lay came as pilgrims. Although their faith in astrology would never have helped them understand the full significance of the Star, God recognized the sincerity of their faith and revealed to them that the birth of the King of the Jews carried both cosmic and personal significance. They had to go west in order to get orientation for their lives. Deciding to offer their worship to the divine child, they began their journey westward, navigating by faith the whole way. Like Abraham of old, they did not know where they were going. The confronted doubts, dangers, challenges, and sacrifices. But in the end, they went back to their country richly rewarded, sharing their pilgrim tales from the very cradle of salvation.
Many foreign travelors find Jesus in the midst of their journey. Perhaps an economic or employment motive drives them. Maybe they travel for adventure. Some of them search for something undefinable. But God knows the reasons that put them on the road to the Savior. Without their knowing it, God guides them until they find Jesus and offer him their worship and their treasures.
Such people, upon their return to their place of origin no longer travel as tourists or wanderers or migrant workers. The have been converted into accidental pilgrims. They didn’t know that their divine destiny would carry them to the knowledge of God. They never suspected that they would return to their country as missionaries. For the rest of their lives, they will share the story of how the Lord led them to the cradle of salvation in a distant land.
In olden days, the decision to immigrate implied that people would never return to their original home. With the advent of the airplane and globalization, today’s immigrants go home more easily. Those who have met Christ overseas often have the good fortune of going back to share the Gospel with their family and friends.
Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry. All Rights Reserved. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is president of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. He is the author of The New Pilgrims: How Immigrants are Renewing America’s Faith (forthcoming in August 2015, Worthy Publishing). Follow him on Twitter @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.