Who is your neighbour?

By Dr. Soo Ling Howard

I have been living in Ireland for four years now, and the term ‘blow-in’ amuses me. Basically it refers to a stranger or a foreigner. But then again, is a person who is born in Ireland and then lives overseas for a period of time and subsequently returns a blow-in? Was St Patrick, who was not born in Ireland but revered by many, considered a blow-in? I have met people who have been offended by this term and others who proudly proclaim it. 

It boils down to the concept of acceptance. Christ was born a Jew but most of His countrymen did not accept Him. So the problem of being ‘accepted’ is an age-old one. 

It is certainly easier to mingle with like minds, but to keep company only with your church crowd is no way to get to know your neighbours. If we are not careful, we can become too comfortable with church lingo and church practices, and we convince ourselves that certain mindsets and traditions are set in stone. We become exclusive, judgemental and cliquish. 

I try to be part of my local community by joining common interest groups. It is a commitment to be part of the coffee morning, the community garden, the crafting, the reading and the sewing circles. It is never easy to be new person in any group but I praise God that I have made very good friends in all the activities that I have been involved in.

It takes effort to set aside time to be a friend to someone.  We can be so busy doing everything else that we find it hard to make time for people. But if we want to have good friends, we need to be a friend first. We may have hundreds of Facebook friends but do we have people who can trust us with their hearts?

I believe that God has given us a home so that we can open the doors and welcome others. I once invited someone over for tea and as the minutes trickled on, she was anxious that she was taking too much of my time. When I told her that she was my priority for the day, the glow on her face made it all worthwhile.

Not everyone will like you or accept you. What is more important is that God loves you and accepts you as who you are. When you are secure in God’s love, man’s perception of you doesn’t matter.

I do not see myself as a blow-in. I see myself as a swallow that came to Ireland and stayed beyond the summer. And when I touch the lives of some, I count it a privilege that I have been given the opportunity to be a friend.

Dr. Soo Ling Howard from Malaysia now lives in Co. Clare and worships at Abundant Life Church in Limerick. The miracles in her life are her husband Michael, her children, Ireland, Malaysia and having a personal relationship with God. Read her blog at www.soo-livinglifeasitis.blogspot.ie.