It’s no secret that immigrants are near and dear to my heart. I work with immigrants, I live in a highly diverse part of town, I lived as an immigrant in another country last year. I, on a small scale, understand the heartbreak and difficulty of life as a foreigner, and I care deeply for those who are experiencing that here.
It’s also no secret that immigrants are near and dear to the heart of God. In both the old and new testament, there are many references to foreigners, encouraging followers of God to be welcoming, accepting, and loving.
And yet the border crisis continues to grow. The number of child migrants is rising rapidly and, by and large, we are turning them away. Discrimination and racism against Muslims, Iraqis, and anyone who wears a turban has become something of a fact of life here in the US.
Once, when visiting a church, I was making small talk about what I do for a living and he asked what countries my students were from. I told him many were Latin American, many were from Myanmar, and a few were Kurdish, from Iraq. Without hesitation, his response was, “Why are we teaching those people English? Do my tax dollars pay for that school?”
Yes sir, they do. And we teach them because they are legally required to receive a free and appropriate public education while they live on their soil, and because they are five years old and have no idea where they are from or why they are here. Personally, I teach them because they are made in the image of God and I get to see that every day as a teacher, in their love for one another and for me. Looking for glimpses of the Creator in my students is my favorite thing about teaching, hands down.
I believe the Kingdom of Heaven will include people from every tribe and tongue and nation and background, and that means that if we aren’t consistently working to build the kingdom of heaven in those regions, we are not following God. What an incredible opportunity we have, living in a country with such diversity and influence, to meet and build relationships with those whose experiences have been so different from our own.
How can we be turning them away?
The church should be the first place these people can go for help, refuge, and support, not a place that preaches closed borders and fear of differences.
In Nashville, there are more organizations than I could possibly tell you about working hard to help the immigrant and refugee in our communities. If you live around here, I’ve listed some below that I’ve worked with or heard wonderful things about. They can always use volunteers and donations, if you’d like to do something practical to help the foreigner in your midst. If you’re from somewhere else, a quick Google search will almost definitely turn up organizations in your area doing similar things.
Y’all know I love our little church of the misfits, and everyone is welcome here. But let’s work on getting some of our misfit friends welcomed everywhere else, too.
Photo by Icars, via Flickr.