Thursday, October 4, 2007

Children of God


The ICE (used to be INS) have been in my community lately. Not in the church -- but in the neighborhood, looking for "illegal aliens" or "undocumented workers." At first, it seemed they were after people who were involved in gang activity, something everyone (including most of the immigrants) would be happy about. But the other day someone said she saw a woman being taken away while her teenage daughter watched. And there are reports of schoolchildren coming home to find their parents missing. I don't know if they are just isolated incidents. It's hard to find out the facts because there's not much information out there.

An Hispanic Seventh-Day Adventist church worships in our church building. Every Saturday morning, from 9:00 to 12:00, and sometimes even later, they come to church. They also have Wednesday evening Bible studies and a Saturday night youth group. They have revival services. They also volunteered to clean the building for us on Saturday night or early Sunday morning, after their sabbath is over. They are about the most earnest, serious Christians I have ever met. They believe in bringing people to Christ, having a personal relationship with Jesus. And I can't imagine that they ask people for immigration papers when they walk in the door. Should they? Of course not. We know as well as they do that the church's basic responsibility and reason for being is to preach the good news -- to tell about Jesus' life-giving love: and that love knows no limits.

I can't imagine that this Hispanic church doesn't have some "undocumented immigrants" among its members.

Now I have certain beliefs about doing justice in the world, but I am not a policy wonk. I have my set of "facts": things that I know about immigration. And I know that others have their own set of "facts": things that they know about immigration.

But I am a pastor, which means that I deal with sinners every day. In fact, as far as I know, those are the only people I deal with. Sinners.

But also, children of God. People who God loved enough to walk with, feed, forgive, and die for. As a pastor, I can only think of immigrants as children of God. If others are offended that I think that, so be it. They are also children of God.

And because I think of immigrants as children of God, I also think of them as worthy of food, clothing, a good job, and a voice to tell their story. I think of them as worthy of protection from those who would exploit them.

It doesn't mean that I don't believe in law and order, or that the policy issues regarding what is just are going to be easy to figure out.

But just because I can't figure it all out, doesn't mean I can't stand up and call them my sisters and brothers. Children of God, immigrants -- and sinners.

Just like me.

11 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Diane, I have heard other stories like this. I can't think when or where right now, but this is not the first I've heard that folks are being picked up and families separated - and not for committing crimes, except the crime of being here.

Wyldth1ng said...

You are rightand just.

P.S. an after-thought said...

If we all remember that all people are children of God first, then we'd all modify a lot of our thoughts and maybe some behaviors. Thanks for the reminders.

Tribal Church said...

Oh no. Our janitor went through something like this. Too long to post, but what's happening is a crying shame.

I'm glad they get a bit of refuge from the storm in your building.

Kievas said...

It's happening all over. Immigration policy over the past couple of decades has created the problem, and now this is the "quick fix" solution.

Katherine E. said...

Thank you, Diane. A wonderful and courageous post.

"PS" said...

"And because I think of immigrants as children of God, I also think of them as worthy of food, clothing, a good job, and a voice to tell their story. I think of them as worthy of protection from those who would exploit them.

It doesn't mean that I don't believe in law and order, or that the policy issues regarding what is just are going to be easy to figure out."

You nailed it.

Marsha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rowan The Dog said...

Well, this is a tough one. It is. But, I think you are on the right track in just doing your job with as much love and care as you can. Others will do theirs and probably with love and care too. In the end God will sort it out and I don't think His criteria will be policy based. Nor, do I think He really cares who lives where. If I am right, and that remains to be seen, but if I am, God is looking for places where He can be present. Any person -- the pastor, the ICE agent, the person in question -- can be an agent for that. So, while you all may seem to be working at cross purposes, there is a common task that all can participate in. A time may come when some policies and laws conflict with your job of making Christ known. That gets very, very sticky. But, you will know what to do at that time. No use worrying about it now. You'll know what to do because you're already clear about your task. Is it possible for there to be a connection between ICE and the church? They have a hard job. What kinds of outreach can you do with them? People who do that kind of work see themselves as doing a service for the rest of us and I am sure they see bad things. They will need to be cared for too. I don't know how to go about working in a federal agency like that. It's easier in institutions like a prison. But, you're innovative. We had some raids near Lake Travis last year. I tried to protest but it was so hush-hush I couldn't even figure out what to do, who to protest to. I just heard from a few people who were there and saw it and got away. The officials wouldn't own up to it. It's hard. And, I don't have anything helpful to say.

Pastor Eric said...

We have had a lot of immigration raids around here in SW MN. it bothers me that they separate families like that.

Thanks for the post. As others have said, you nailed it.

FranIAm said...

Amen sister. We are all children of God. I recently wrote on my church blog that some of us (not me) might be surprised to see Jesus eating today, not with tax collectors and prostitutes but with gay folks and illegal immigrants.

Just my thought. Peace to all.