Once We Were Strangers

What Friendship with a Syrian Refugee Taught Me about Loving My Neighbor

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In 2012, Mohammad fled his Syrian village along with his wife and four sons. Four years later he sat across from Shawn Smucker in a small conference room in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Though neither of them knew it, Mohammad had arrived in Shawn's life just in time.

This is the story of a friendship. It is the story of a middle-aged writer struggling to make a living and a Syrian refugee struggling to create a life for his family in a strange and sometimes hostile land. It's the story of two fathers hoping for the best, two hearts seeking compassion, two lives changed forever. It's the story of our moment in history--and the opportunities it gives us to show love and hospitality to the sojourner in our midst.


"A glimpse into the bridge-building, fear-silencing, life-affirming gift of cross-cultural friendship. This is an important and timely message."--Peter Greer, president and CEO, HOPE International; coauthor of Rooting for Rivals

"This intimate portrayal of a friendship at a time when too many fear 'the other' in their midst . . . is illuminating--and necessary."--Anne Bogel, author of I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life

"This story needs to be told--and then? It needs to be replicated in some way throughout all our communities."--Tsh Oxenreider, author of At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe


Shawn Smucker is the author of the novels The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There. He lives with his wife and six children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. You can find him online at www.shawnsmucker.com.


Endorsements

"Once We Were Strangers offers a glimpse into the bridge-building, fear-silencing, life-affirming gift of cross-cultural friendship. This is an important and timely message. I highly recommend that you read this book and step into the transformative process of loving your neighbors."

Peter Greer, president and CEO, HOPE International; coauthor of Rooting for Rivals

"In this gentle, compelling story, Shawn Smucker brings an ongoing tragedy many of us only experience in the headlines vividly to life. This intimate portrayal of a friendship is at a time when too many fear 'the other' in their midst. Smucker's emotionally rich portrayal of a friendship with a Syrian refugee and his family is illuminating--and necessary."

Anne Bogel, author of I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life

"We humans are hardwired to best learn through story. I can't imagine anyone not learning through Shawn's storytelling the truths about what it means to live in community with our neighbors, to understand how differences sometimes overshadow our vastly larger similarities, to be at home, and ultimately, to be human. This story needs to be told--and then? It needs to be replicated in some way throughout all our communities. I'm grateful Shawn has shared his story with us."

Tsh Oxenreider, author of At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe

"As politicians turn their backs on the suffering people of Syria, this compassionate journey into a refugee's experiences is what the church needs to stir us into action so that we can rediscover what it means to act justly and to love mercy among those who are suffering. I hope that every church in America will own a copy of this book."

Ed Cyzewski, author of Flee, Be Silent, Pray: An Anxious Evangelical Finds Peace with God through Contemplative Prayer


The Author

  1. Shawn Smucker

    Shawn Smucker

    Shawn Smucker is the author of the young adult novels The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There, as well as the memoir Once We Were Strangers. He lives with his wife and six children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. You can find him...

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