I Was a Stranger


Gordon Samuel Bell (b. 1948)
I Was a Stranger (Syrian Refugee Child), Version 2 2018

Oil on linen, 24 x 36 inches (Available)

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35c)

In April, 2016, my wife and visited a small refugee camp in Lebanon. It was a beautiful day, and the camp was nestled in a vineyard between two spectacularly beautiful mountain ranges in the Bekaa Valley.

We were able to meet a Syrian refugee family and see a local church in action caring for the needs of the Muslim refugee families. The father of the family we visited was bedridden and disabled and one of the church elders came bring him a prescription. While I was there, I saw a little girl timidly peek out of one of the tents. When I pointed my camera in her direction, she started to cry, not knowing quite what to make of me. I felt bad but she soon calmed down once she realized I was a friend and not a foe. When I got back to the studio, I used one of the pictures as a reference for this painting.

The Syrian refugee situation is a great humanitarian crisis. At the same time, it presents a golden opportunity to for the Church to show the love of Christ to these desperately needy people who have come out of the region.

The title is drawn from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25:31-40:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…

Then the righteous will answer him, saying … when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’