Oostburg is a small town on the Western shore of Lake Michigan that was established by Dutch settlers in the 1840s. The community retains its Dutch identity and with that identity comes a strong Calvinistic base. Indeed, all of the churches within the village limits represent various branches of Calvinism. No Catholic churches. No Baptist. No Methodist. It has been this way as long as I remember.
From my perspective, the lack of diversity has often led to suspicion about outsiders. There seems to be a sense that people who do not fit the mold will ruin utopia. People different from the norm have felt marginalized and often judged. As a child growing up there, I was one of the few kids whose parents were divorced. After she divorced my dad, my mom was given the message in no uncertain terms, that she was no longer welcome in the church. She needed compassion... she got judgment. She needed Jesus...she got the Pharisees.
While I was completing my residency, Heather, Grace, and I moved to Oostburg. I was one of Oostburg's sons returning home and was welcomed with open arms. Heather, on the other hand, was an outsider. People looked at her with suspicion. Where did she come from? Who was she? With whom was she connected? Once the connection with me was made, she too was welcomed.
I share these back stories because I want to write about some recent developments in Oostburg. There have been discussions in the works to establish a mosque near Oostburg and the response has been unfortunate, if not predictable. In a story from the Sheboygan Press, they quoted a local pastor from his church's website:
- "Does this group of Muslims denounce violence against Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims? If so, how much of a paper trail in English and Arabic has the group already written about such matters as 9-11 or the treatment of Jews and Christians in Muslim-majority countries? How much is presently written about these issues on their website? Even more importantly, what kind of accountability will be in place? Will there be a non-Muslim county or village official (that fluently reads and speaks Arabic) who will certify annually that this group is not teaching fundamentalist /terrorist ideologies? If so, who will be paying for this service? Will they seek to have legal exemptions for or special treatment because of their Muslim faith?"
I think that the story of the woman at the well has much application here (John 4). Jesus was passing through Samaria and stopped at Jacob's well. A Samaritan woman approached and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." She was taken aback because Jews did not talk to Samaritans--it was simply not done. She was also a woman, which was another strike against her. It turns out she had been married 5 times and was now living with a man who was not her husband. Another strike. She said to Jesus, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?"
Then Jesus switched from asking to offering. He told her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." In the next paragraph, he revealed himself as the Messiah and offered her salvation. She ran off to tell her people about Christ, leaving behind her water jar in the process. Verse 39 reads, "Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony". Jesus broke tradition. He loved the marginalized.
When Jesus called us to go and make disciples of all nations, he didn't mean countries, he meant people groups. That includes Dutch settlers in Wisconsin and Islamic doctors working in the US. We all need Jesus. Do not refuse a drink to others because of fear. I John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."
If you get a chance, read these passages in their entirety:
I John 4
Take some time and watch this video as well.