Clarence’s Clarion Call – Immigration

     by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He….loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19). Two motivations are given for extending hospitality to immigrants. First, the people of God are to mimic the Almighty God in loving the foreigner. Second, people are reminded of their own oppression and suffering as immigrants and asked to turn that memory into compassionate action.

Hospitality to immigrants is not a minor concern in Scripture. This is one of at least fifteen paragraphs in the book of Deuteronomy alone. The prophets send reminders. “Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner” (Jeremiah 22:3). Jesus includes it as one of the primary criteria of God’s judgment. “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…” (Matthew 25:42-43).

How do these biblical instructions guide us as disciples of Jesus in the current national immigration debate?

1.      Action. The most powerful intervention by the church is simply living out the instruction of Scripture and the example of Jesus in extending hospitality and care to those who are most vulnerable in our neighborhood. I have been blessed by Western District Conference churches simply sharing food and faith and providing shelter and jobs to “strangers” they find in their communities. Being the good news is the church’s best initiative.

2.      Prayer. “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (I Timothy 2:1-2). Certainly, this is a time to pray God’s wisdom and mercy for our members of Congress as they seek to reform immigration law in ways that care for people. My daughter, a migrant worker attorney, noted that the recent Senate Immigration Bill “guarantees transparency and accountability in the hiring of internationally recruited workers” who have often paid high up-front fees to recruiters who in turn keep them permanently indebted in low pay jobs.

3.      Learn. I look forward to learning more by traveling to Mexico and to the border with BorderLinks during the Phoenix 2013 Assembly this week. At our Western District Reference Council in March, I learned that until the late 1800s there were no laws or limitations on immigration to the United States. I learned that wars and economics create the push and pull of immigration. People move seeking food and safety because of dire circumstances. Addressing those underlying circumstances is far more cost effective than building and maintaining fences. The Western District Immigration Task Force is ready to provide sermons and seminars to churches wanting to learn more.

4.      Advocate. Mennonite Central Committee continues to provide up to date information on how best to communicate our desires for immigrant hospitality to our legislators. Tammy Alexander from MCC will be with us at our Assembly on August 3 with a seminar “Immigration Reform: Where It Stands and How You Can Help.” The Task Force will also be there with information at a table display.

God “loves the foreigners residing among you…you are to love those who are foreigners.” How are you responding?