There were a couple thousand of us in a hotel ballroom for the Christian Community Development Association National Conference when the young man stepped to the microphone, guitar in hand, and began to share his family’s story of escaping the war. He was a Syrian refugee, son of a pastor, and gifted musician. As he finished recounting the dismantling of his community, he taught us a song of praise in Arabic. I joined him in worship, singing a language I did not understand, and while I stumbled with the words, finding my place in the rhythm, it was as if the song tethered me to the part of the Body of Christ I had seen so much about on the news but never met: sisters and brothers in Syria.
Singing praise to our Father in their language highlighted the reality that we are family. As the music continued and I was more familiar with the song, I felt aware of God’s children not only presently in Syria but throughout history. Suddenly I understood myself as part of a long line of believers throughout time, our stories connected from one generation to the next by faithfulness and grace. How many thousands of years have Syrian believers lifted up the name of Jesus? How ancient is their practice of following Christ? Singing in their language, I felt compelled to run the race of faith, to not break the relay of God’s Spirit throughout time and space.
An understanding of Christ’s Universal Church was revealed to me because a Syrian refugee testified to God’s saving goodness and led me in his song of praise.
I thought of this moment as I heard the news of President Trump closing our borders to refugees, even those already approved for visas. I thought of this young worship leader’s church back home in Syria and their song I sang briefly. I thought of the revelation of our connection, as real to me as any church connection here.
A mystery of our Christian faith is that we are one family, one body, one temple, fit together in Christ from all over the world. That truth compels me to care about what happens to those geographically far from me. Likewise, scripture often expresses the duty of God’s people to care for the foreigner and welcome the stranger with hospitality. The very definition of stranger is one that is different from myself. These tenets of my faith mandate care for the immigrant and refugee above any loyalty to country.
It is these truths that shape my plans about how to live in these times. Like many of you I have been asking, “what can I do?” I have spent the past couple of days culling simple resources that shape a path for action. Here are 4 next actions that we can take:
Next Action 1: Take the “I Was a Stranger” Challenge
If the phrase “tenets of my faith mandate care for the immigrant and refugee” is curious or new or offensive to you, than I invite you to take this challenge. It is a simple Bible study that looks at one scripture passage a day that speaks about God’s heart for the immigrant. Download a bookmark with the verses at this link, sit with the scripture, and let God’s word direct your next steps.
Next Action 2: Educate Yourself About the Current Situation
My friend Sarah Quezada has outlined a very clear understanding of what is currently happening with the new Executive Orders along with actions you can take to make change. It’s a short read with clear next steps that I encourage you to follow. I’m going to.
Next Action 3: Take the Matthew 25 Pledge
Several Christian organizations are calling people to simply agree to the statement: I pledge to defend and protect vulnerable people in the name of Jesus.
When you take the pledge they will send you updates and tools you can use to fulfill the pledge in your own context. The first toolkit is an immigration toolkit.
Next Action 4: Engage with Immigrant and Refugee Neighbors in your Community
Here are three organizations that I have learned from and highly respect. Each one of them can use your help to serve and stand with vulnerable neighbors.
Mika Community Development Corporation- facilitates language learning and friendship connections between immigrant and non-immigrant individuals and families
World Relief- settles refugees and connects them to host families who help them adjust to life in the US (they are nationwide- use the link to find your local office. OC is in Garden Grove)
CIVIC- visit immigrants being held in detention centers (they are nationwide with local affiliates)
What's your next move? I'd love to hear it.