Greetings from CHM Director David Byrne!
Lately, several people have suggested to me that I say something about the immigration issues. That was surprising to me because of the many references I have already made about immigration and immigrants in formats from workshops to articles that deal with many aspects of this issue in the United States. But as any pastor knows, if something is worth saying, it is worth repeating over and over in the hopes that someday it will be remembered and applied. So please indulge me as I dedicate almost this entire newsletter to the issue and opportunity of immigration in the United States as it affects Christ's Body and His ministry in the world. This is a complex situation with no easy answers either for the church or for the U.S. government, but Christians need to have a voice in this. For our international readers, hopefully this will be educational about the struggles over what is happening here and can also challenge you to consider other issues that are in your own sphere of influence that can be addressed in your country and community. Thank you for taking the time to consider our call to the entire community around us.
Dr. David C. Byrne
(--See a previous newsletter--)
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Dr. Karl Newman
Dora Gutierrez Kerr
IS IT REALLY BROKEN?One of the phrases that is thrown around a lot recently is that “the immigration system is broken,” but what does that really mean? Recently for me what it means is that a leader who is legally in the U.S. on a student visa couldn’t be a part of a church planting project I’ve been involved with. After years of work, we were denied our petition for a religious worker's visa because of what we believe is a misreading of the statutes by a USCIS immigration agent. For millions of undocumented foreigners now living in the shadows in the U.S., it means that there is (and has been) no opportunity for them to come out of the shadows in this nation that they call home or to even initiate a process to receive permission to live here.
If there were a “legal” way to immigrate to the U.S., even if it were difficult and expensive, most people would go through the process. But with years of lax enforcement due to the need for workers in a booming economy, people came to this country from all over the world. About half of the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. came here with valid temporary visas, but have not renewed (and most could not renew) those visas to extend their stay. I recently attended a workshop for immigration lawyers at a local law school and was surprised to find that even the lawyers typically only specialize in one small area of immigration law because it is so complex with close to 200 types of visas available.
With the numbers of people and the politics involved it is admittedly a monumental task to design a system for immigration that actually works well, and much will need to be done to make progress toward that goal. One thing is certain: in too many respects, the immigration system is broken and we need to encourage and pray for those who are working to do something about it. Any political solution will be a temporary solution, but as Christians in a democratic society, we have the privilege to call for something that is both realistic and compassionate.
WHY DO WE CARE?
I asked a friend who is a pastor of a Hispanic church what percentage of his congregation was undocumented. He guessed about 80%. Should the pastor send them away? Should he recommend that they repent and go back to their places of origin? Or should he receive them, as he has done, as those who have been redeemed by Christ’s victory over sin and death? These are often people who have been in this country for many years, even decades, and who often have a sense of calling and destiny about being here.
They are people who are afraid to travel. Many times a husband and wife will go to church or shopping in separate vehicles just in case one or the other is detained and deported, so that there will be someone left to care for the children. Drivers’ licenses may or may not be available. Jobs are often paid at a low wage. One friend of mine works a management position for minimum wage. In my work with the Coalition for Hispanic Ministries I see how the instability and pressure on immigrants affects the churches that minister in these communities. There is uncertainty and risk at every turn for these immigrants, and that means that the opportunity for Christ’s church to fulfill God’s calling to the stranger is not a distant missionary dream. The stranger is our neighbor.
We have people who have come to our country, who have contributed to our country. Yes, they broke the law. They broke the law in order to work as opposed to our homegrown criminals who break the law in order not to work.
Richard Land – President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention speaking at the Evangelical Immigration Table in Washington D.C.
In Matthew 25, Jesus gave 3 quick eschatological images of God’s ultimate judgment that can be summed up in three questions: Are you faithful and prepared? (1-13) Have you invested your God-entrusted resources in His business? (14-30) And; Have you cared for the needy? (31-46). In this third area, Christ takes time to spell it out so that there is no doubt or justification in anyone’s mind. Both positively and then negatively as in verses 42-43: “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” The stranger, the weak, the needy, the broken are the proving ground of our true faith and relationship with God. It is not popular these days to even consider the judgment of God or His requirements for us. Our Jesus was loving enough to warn us of the consequences of a life that demonstrates unbelief through disengagement. Loving and serving are our calling, and they are our natural condition “in Christ.”
|A NEW MIND
One of the critical things to remember for those of us who call on Jesus as our Lord is that ultimately whatever expediency there might be in a course of action, we are people of the Word who seek to be led by God’s Spirit. That means that at times we may be standing outside the political debate. We have another way of thinking about things with a perspective that takes into account the realities of God’s Kingdom and His righteousness that will never be understood by those whose only claim is in this world.
In this Spirit, the National Association of Evangelicals has put together a 40 day “I was a Stranger” challenge that consists in reading and checking off a passage of Scripture every day for 40 days. The verses listed are some of those that speak clearly to God’s people about how we are to treat the stranger and those in need. It is a powerful exercise that can help clarify for us how, whatever comes out of the political drama about immigration, we are to treat those who are strangers and needy in our communities.
To take this challenge, go to:
|Both the Oklahoma City new church plant and the San Antonio Hispanic ministry are starting new leadership. Of course this will mean transitions for both groups, but also new opportunities for growth and outreach. Pray as these groups go forward with renewed ministry.|
|We thank God for outgoing board member Tom Hoke and for Tom's service on the CHM board. When we added up the years, we realized that he served 16 years on the board of this ministry and 7 of those years he has been the board chairman. We had a special recognition for him at the end of April to thank him for his service and the way that God has used him in this ministry. Pray for Tom as the Lord continues to lead him and to bless others through his hard work.|