I’m sure that you are all well aware of the recent discussions taking place in our country regarding the appropriate treatment of immigrants and refugees. For those of us who claim to be devoted Christ followers, this is about much more than mere politics, demographics or statistical sound bites. These are real people with real names and real faces.
It would be good for all of us to remember that Jesus was one of those names and faces at one time as well, a Middle Eastern refugee whose family was temporarily displaced during a brutal despot’s reign of terror (Mt 2:13-18). It might also help us to gain a better grasp on why our Lord is so painfully clear and unequivocal in His declaration that the way we care for our most vulnerable neighbors (“the least of these”) is in reality the most accurate measure of how much we actually care for Him (Mt 25:31-46).
These conversations take on even greater weight for those Hispanic, Sudanese and Bhutanese immigrants and refugees who are part of our extended family of Friends here in Mid-America. I recently spent a weekend with some of these very real names and faces during my first site visit to St. Paul (MN) Friends Church, our newest body of believers here in EFC-MAYM. This is a fellowship comprised solely of Bhutanese refugees. Like nearly every other member of the group, their pastor, Kumar Tamang, was born and raised in the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. In the 1990’s, Kumar and more than 100,000 of his fellow countrymen were forced to leave Bhutan during a period of ethnic cleansing due to the fact that they are of Nepalese descent. Because the government of Nepal does not permit citizenship for Bhutanese refugees, they eventually become a people without a country, until they were granted entry to the United States.
Our new Friends in St. Paul provide us with a very tangible reminder that, as much as we might prefer to duck and run from these messy issues, we cannot do so without betraying those we have been called to embrace as our very own family members (Gal 6:10). And while we are always praying for new ways to take the gospel to the “ends of the earth” (Ac 1:8), we cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that we are currently living in a time and place when the ends of the earth are coming to us in record numbers.
So what does all of this mean for those of us who are called to serve as faithful and fearless witnesses to the gospel here in our own “Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria”?
While there are no easy answers to this question, I do want to commend the excellent work that is being done to address these critical concerns by our friends and partners at World Relief and the Evangelical Immigration Table. I would encourage you to visit their websites, where you can find additional information and valuable resources that may help you and your church family to offer Christ-like compassion and hospitality to the “aliens and strangers” who are currently knocking at our doors (Heb 11:13).
You may be surprised to discover how many angels you have been entertaining in the process (Heb 13:2).