One bright Sunday morning I stood on a New York street corner and watched the people pass by. I did not know any of them. No one said, "Hello," "Good morning," or "How are you?" Everyone went his own way. This would not have happened in my old country where I was well known. But as I stood there and watched, I felt very lonely. Then I gazed across to the other side of the street and there I saw a man I had not seen for years—not since we were young men and had played our violins in the orchestra of a Christian association for young men.
We met now on this busy street with great joy! I learned that he had been in New York City almost thirty years and was an active member of an Estonian national society. He had a small family and a good job and income. But he did not belong to any church and had no place to go that bright Sunday morning.
As we talked and good memories of the past were exchanged, I asked, "What are you doing here on this corner?" The answer was, "Watching the people as they pass by." And in a low voice he continued, "And I feel like a lonely tree in a big forest." We both had the same feelings that morning, and many millions of the foreign born may feel the same as we did.
The Stranger in Our Midst
In the courts and lanes of the great cities, in the lonely byways of the country, are families and individuals—perhaps strangers in a strange land—who are without church relations, and who, in their loneliness, come to feel that God has forgotten them.—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 232.
World War II drove many millions from their homes and countries, and a very large number have reached the shores of the free land of America—also Canada and Australia. Most of them have stayed in the large cities or close to them. The writer, in cooperation with the General Conference, has helped more than 1,720 persons to immigrate to this country. These people would make several large churches if they had all stayed in one city.
What do we do for these millions of strangers who come to our land? Do we know how they feel here? Can they be absorbed into the great melting pot of the United States?
Foreigners are conservative people. They do not want to break their national and spiritual connections. They usually stick together. They seldom attend American public or gospel meetings. This the writer noticed while the Carnegie Hall and New York Center efforts were being held, eNtn though these meetings were widely advertised in their national papers.
A foreign-born person may learn the English language to help him in his work or business, but he is not so interested in going to an English-speaking church. He likes to hear a sermon in his mother tongue, and he feels his prayers reach God sooner when he prays in his own language. Therefore the gospel may have to be taken to the foreigner by a national worker and given in the national tongue.
While plans are being carried out to warn the inhabitants of various nations in distant lands, much must be done in behalf of the foreigners who have come to the shores of our own land. The souls in China are no more precious than the souls within the shadow of our doors.—Evangelism, p. 569.
Much remains to be done within the shadow of our doors—in the cities of California, New York and many other States.—Ibid., p. 571.
Public Meetings and Radio Work
Public meetings do not seem to appeal very much to the foreigner. He does not want to break the family, national, or society ties by going where his national friends do not go. If he does, he may become an outcast from his own nation, and no one wants to lose his only connection with the old country and his friends there.
But every foreigner is interested in tuning in on radio programs being broadcast in his mother tongue. He can listen undisturbed. Others cannot criticize his attitude or actions. He is free to listen to God's Word. Therefore it would be good if we could put on many more foreign broadcasts not only here but in every other country.
The little Ukrainian church in New York City started a broadcast last fall. Eight of the fifteen members have supported the program with S3,000, and the local conference has given $750. Every broadcast costs $150, and so it is not an easy task to keep this program going. However, the members feel they must do something for their fellow nationals. The response has been satisfactory. Letters are coming in asking for literature and visitation both in New York and New Jersey and even in Connecticut. I feel that the radio broadcast is one of the best means to bring the message to the foreigner in this country. If the Voice of Prophecy program could be heard in more foreign languages, the doors to the homes and hearts of these strangers would be open to receive the message.
From city to city, from country to country, they are to carry the publications containing the promise of the Saviour's soon coming. These publications are to be translated into every language, for to all the world the gospel is to be preached.—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 34.
Publications for the foreign born should be produced, if possible, by someone from the language area concerned. He would know what would appeal to the mentality of his countrymen and therefore should be able to do this work efficiently. Translations of books already in print, including the writings of Ellen G. White, may be done by such persons and the writing of small literature such as tracts and Bible correspondence lessons might also be accomplished by them.
New residents are always happy for a visitor, and the doors are opened gladly when a national friend comes to see them. Soon the table is laid, and over a warm drink and some national food the conversation starts, usually on personal problems or experiences at first. However, the wise gospel worker will soon lead up to the point and aim of his visit. Questions are asked about the literature previously sent to these homes. The radio broadcast and church connections may be discussed, and a lonely soul will soon find that there is a place where he may go and feel at home—the true church. This was the method of the believers in the early church and should not be neglected today.
Wake up, wake up, my brethren and sisters, and enter the fields in America that have never been worked. After you have given something for foreign fields, do not think your duty done. . . . In the cities of America there are people of almost every language. These need the light that God has given to His church.—Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 36.
The foreign-born church members are good supporters of the work. In some conferences they make up 50 per cent of the membership, as in the Greater New York Conference. They are cooperative and eagerly take part in every campaign.
Foreigners love America. To them it is a land of freedom and friendship, and their children soon are in the swim of things and become a part of their adopted country. It is a little more difficult for the older ones to do this. However, their sensitive nationalistic feelings will disappear when they feel they are loved, that their cooperation is needed, and their work is appreciated. And in spite of their accent, which never completely disappears, they will be happy to call themselves Americans.
The foreign work in America will never end so long as this country has open arms for the nations of the world. Let us wake up, and support the work for the strangers within the shadow of our doors.