Various church leaders frequently have asked for sponsors for Indochinese refugees. And we agree: sponsors are needed.

An estimated 375,000 refugees waited last month in transit camps in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Some observers believe an additional one to two million may attempt to escape from Communist rule. Especially as the mass media loses interest, Christians must keep their hearts and arms open to these freedom seekers.

But we have one tiny gripe about the repeated calls for refugee sponsors. Various spokesmen often make sponsorship sound like such a sacrifice—as if resettling a refugee is akin to spiritual masochism.

There is the idea that “This might cost some money and some time, but (sigh) it’s our Christian duty.” A local congregation signs up to be a sponsor, but at the same time regards the refugees as just so many Southeast Asian crosses to bear.

While any sponsorship that moves a refugee out of a disease-ridden, overcrowded camp is valuable, we believe the attitude mentioned blots out the real meaning of sponsorship—not to mention the humanity of the refugee.

Indochinese refugees are special people. They, if anyone, know something about sacrifice. For them, only the most basic values of life are of consequence. Refugees haven’t even thought about many things Westerners hold important.

Refugees don’t worry about jogging two miles after work: they already have run for their lives. They don’t fret over whether to buy a condominium or a split-level house in the suburbs: they’ll take any roof, even a cardboard hut if it’s available, in a detention camp.

Refugees don’t count calories, carbohydrates, or cholesterol. They count bowls of rice—making sure each family member receives his daily food apportionment.

Few refugees study the latest real estate values. But they do know something about risky investments. Many of them pay a life’s income to board a rickety boat to freedom, on which their chances for safe passage are low enough to make a Las Vegas oddsmaker sweat.

To refugees, education is “reeducation” in the Communists’ so-called New Economic Zones, not four years at a Christian college. For Indochinese refugees, living to Basics within the law means having enough latitude to raise a family, hold a job, and to mind their own business—without having the government mind it for them.

Life is precious to the refugees. Freedom is valuable; they are willing to suffer, even to die for it.

So maybe the refugees have something we don’t have. Maybe they have a fresh perspective on life that TV-dazed, pleasure-crazed Westerners have forgotten. Maybe they have a steel will and thirst for living that we Americans haven’t seen since our boat people ancestors crossed the Atlantic.

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In this respect, it isn’t such a sacrifice to let in the refugees. They can be an asset, not a liability. They can provide reinforcement to America’s sagging moral backbone.

Granted, sponsorship demands an investment of time and a modest amount of money (although government agencies, if drawn upon, can pick up much of the cost). To draw the whole matter into perspective we asked one refugee sponsor about his experience.

Bob Niklaus, managing editor of The Alliance Witness, said that having a Cambodian family in his home has, in fact, caused some degree of inconvenience. To compensate for a loss of privacy, he does evening work behind the closed door of his bedroom, attaché case on his lap.

Sponsorship has demanded from the Niklaus family a sense of responsibility. Bob, his wife Janet, and three teen-aged daughters have spent time helping their Cambodian couple and seven-month-old son adjust from a rural, almost primitive culture to a highly mechanized one. This has caused a few complications, like when the newcomers, not used to Western gadgetry, ruined the family’s vacuum cleaner and burned out the washing machine motor.

“But I put these things on a scale,” said Niklaus. “The small inconveniences on the one end are far outweighed by what’s on the other end—the elementary fact that people’s lives have been saved.”

Proselytizing should not be the motivation for sponsorship. Indochinese refugees, who are predominantly Buddist, should not be freed from the confinement of a transit camp only to become a “captive” audience here. But by ministering to the refugees’ obvious physical needs, a Christian sponsor has a built-in potential for witness when a refugee asks the reason for the sponsor’s interest and concern.

Niklaus asked specifically for a Christian refugee family, because he wanted an ex officio pastor of sorts who could minister to the 20 or so Indochinese adults and children living in his home town, Nyack, New York. The next family that he sponsors (he has sponsored, by contact with two relief agencies, a number of refugees), “might very well be Buddhist.”

Niklaus sponsored the family through his local church, in order to have “a supporting cast.” The church provided financial assistance, and such things as furniture, since the Cambodian family soon would be moving into their own apartment as a first step toward becoming self-supporting. Niklaus explained his family’s role: “It still takes a family willing to take the time with refugees, saying ‘These people are our responsibility.’ ”

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CHRISTIANITY TODAY hopes that other families will see refugee sponsorship as a Christian responsibility. For the Niklaus family, and many others like it, the experience has been enriching.

“My family has been able to meet people with firsthand experiences of brutality, violence, and the sheer fight for survival. I think our kids have begun to appreciate a little more of what they have: they have been able to reach out and think of others’ problems, not just their own.”

Which Is The Right Translation?

When Tyndale’s New Testament was reprinted for the twenty-ninth time in 1552, the printer Richard Jugge had written on the title page: “The pearle, which Christ comaunded to be bought/is here to be founde, not elles to be sought.” Many people, including Tyndale himself, have paid with their lives making that pearl available to the English-speaking world. Since Tyndale’s day, over 4,000 editions have appeared and year after year the Bible is the best-selling book in the English language. The Word of God written and available in English is the greatest spiritual treasure we possess.

The last hundred years have seen an explosion of interest in making the Bible understandable for the modern reader. No fewer than 50 different translations have been made, attempting to reach everyone from the farm hand to the nuclear scientist. Currently about a dozen translations are selling briskly at bookstores across the nation. If one wants a traditional Bible, there is the King James Version or New King James Bible. If one wants a revised version, there is the American Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, or the Revised Standard Version. If one wants a single-author translation, one can try Williams, Knox, Weymouth, or Moffatt. If a paraphrase is preferred, there is Phillips or the Living Bible. For a contemporary committee translation, one can look to the New International Version, the New English Bible, or the Good News Bible. Let no one say that what is needed is not available.

There is no easy answer to the question about which is the best translation. It is, finally, not a question of what one thinks but how God’s Word is translated into what one does. The real measure of our gratitude to God for this great treasure is how often we read it after we have decided which version is best for us; then let it be committed to memory and life. But why not go one step further and give one of our many Bibles away to someone who never reads it, or become involved in the translation of the Bible into the 2,000 languages of the world that have no Scripture at all. Let each one of us become, as Thomas Aquinas said, “Homo Unius Libri,” a person of one book, transformed by God to do his will, according to his Word. We will then have truly found the pearl Christ commanded to be bought.

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