No Longer Strangers thanks to Acts of Kindness

During our retirement, my wife Ruth and I have been blessed with good health and able to volunteer in a number of countries. In each case, there were new faces, a new language and a different culture. As strangers in foreign lands, we knew there would be challenges. But there were also many kindnesses.

When Ruth first left her South Australian hometown of Murray Bridge to teach in a Lutheran Mission in Papua New Guinea in 1960, she was unsure what lay ahead. But on her arrival in Ega as a stranger, she was met by a warming act of kindness. The parents of her students presented her with a hen and bowl of eggs. Through an interpreter, they explained she was regarded as the mother to their children who would be safe under her wings.

This simple act of friendship gave Ruth an insight into the locals’ welcome to her, a stranger.

While living in Sumatra, in a seminary where we were helping incoming students with English, we received many invitations into people’s homes. Once when we were asked to visit for coffee, we were greeted at the door with ‘Happy Birthday’! Yes, it was Ruth’s birthday and they had made a cake to celebrate.

After the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’, Ruth was fed the first mouthful of cake on a spoon.  Then, as was the custom, she fed other guests in a similar way. It was a heart-warming experience, especially as we were unable to celebrate with our own family.

One Easter while we were teaching in Pakistan, our director, knowing we were Christians, offered us his car and driver so we could attend the nearest church in Sargodha, two-and-a-half hours away. We were made very welcome by the Sri Lankan mission priests. Although the service was in Urdu, it was wonderful to be able to celebrate an Easter service with fellow Christians. When we arrived home, it was very touching to be welcomed by the director and his family with cake and Pepsi. They said, as we were far from home, we should recognise our holy day with a little party and they were happy to celebrate with us. We were then able to share our faith with our Muslim friends.

Our school, in remote Pakistan, was about 20 minutes’ walk from the nearest town and we would often walk into town after school. We were the only Westerners in the area but after a few weeks, the local people became used to us and often offered us a drink as we passed their homes. One day a man driving a donkey cart stopped and gestured for us to hop on. We were most thankful and soon we gratefully accepted rides whenever they were offered. Our fellow teachers, all young women, were quite envious but said they would never be allowed to ride on a donkey cart.

During our time teaching the children of INF medical missionaries in beautiful Nepal, access to Western food was limited. We began to long for some familiar Aussie bread. The wife of a teacher must have heard us ‘grumbling’ and several days later was on our doorstep with a warm, freshly baked loaf. How we savoured each mouthful. Every now and then another loaf would appear – such a thoughtful gesture has not been forgotten.

When teaching in Bangkok, we were privileged to be invited to the blessing of a new Lutheran Church in rural northern Thailand. The village had very few resources, but the locals wanted to show hospitality to those who had travelled long distances.

Some villagers spent many hours preparing meals, while at night they joined visitors in hymn-singing and testimonials. Bedtime was a revelation – 40 visitors, including the bishop and his wife, slept on the floor of the small church building. We were head-to-toe, but it was a most entertaining experience! We strongly felt our oneness in Christ with the villagers who had welcomed us and those who had travelled to encourage them.

Over the years, many offers of hospitality have led to meaningful sharing times and enduring friendships. Thanks be to God for the opportunity to learn from other cultures.  We were no longer strangers, but pilgrims on a journey.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another”. Ephesians 4:32

If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email For more information, go to

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