Stay here, be missional and engage
There is a Yiddish proverb you may have heard, “Man plans, and God laughs.” Is it possible that this is what has happened to the church that resides in North America? I remember as a kid sitting through many missionary presentations where I would enjoy the pictures and stories of exotic places and faraway adventures. Stories telling of people who had not heard the Good News that God loves them. I would often imagine what it would be like to travel to places and meet these people. Woven into the fabric of these services was always the imperative to “Go”!
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16
I am aware of Christ’s admonition in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16 to go and preach the Gospel yet I am curious if now is a time when the command is “stay”? If not stay, what if God is saying, “Engage here for I’m bringing the nations to you?”
Right now immigration is a hot topic. Celebrities speak about immigration in their acceptance speeches and interviews. Immigration is an issue that is mentioned throughout the day on most news stations. Some would say immigration is one of most pressing issues for voters in the 2020 Election. Immigrants are cast in a limelight, spotlight, and dark light. Photos and videos of immigrants suffering fill my newsfeed.
Immigrants have become our neighbors, co-workers, and a key part of our communities. Our children go to school and play together, we share life together and become more than acquaintances, but friends. Vibrant, life giving cultures are here and the opportunity to touch the world for Christ has come to us.
Politics and media aside, how do you relate to the plight of immigrants (the people, not the system which would be immigration)? More importantly, do you know what the Bible says about immigrants? And yet, sometimes one may have the facts and the spiritual prompting, and still be uneasy (is that you?).
To serve or not to serve immigrants?
As immigrant communities have grown in rural, suburban, and urban America, some churches across the United States of America have faced two options:
(1) enjoy your vast church building with your dwindling congregation or
(2) fling open wide your doors, embrace and engage your new neighbors (including their new language and new foods), and grow your congregation into a new vibrant one.
Some early adopter church and community leaders skipped over these two options listed above. (Side Note: early adopters, we need you to circle back and run the next lap with a sister or brother who is starting the journey now!)
Many church and community leaders want to help immigrants and yet they are not sure what their first or next step should be? Maybe they tried a first step and it backfired or never took traction – if that is your case, please do not give up. Other leaders for certain reasons feel inhibited from serving immigrants? Maybe they are afraid of breaking the law, maybe they feel overwhelmed by the immigrant’s plight, or maybe they just don’t know who to trust to help them help immigrants .
The Immigration Alliance
The Immigration Alliance equips church and community leaders across the country to provide legal and other holistic services to under-resourced immigrants. We are passionate about helping church and community leaders identify their next step in immigrant ministry. We understand that you may be weary to step into the field of immigrant ministry, however we are committed to partnering with our members along their journey of ministry.
Why did TIA form?
The Immigration Alliance (TIA) sprung forth in response to:
1. GOD'S CALL for all believers to love immigrants with Christian love and charity
2. GROWNG NEED for immigrants to access legal and holistic services.
We believe that these two points are woven together. Point one is affirmed through study of the Bible and point two is best understood in the context of today’s remarkable demographics.
God’s word tells us to love all people (Luke 6:35), and strangers especially (Lev 19:34). It tells us to be fair to foreigners and stand for justice (Duet 10:18-19). It commissions us to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20), across the world and in our own backyards (Act 1:8). It offers grace and mercy to all, whatever we have done (Ps 103:10-12). It shows we belong to one humanity (Acts 17:26), made in God’s image and deserving dignity (James 3:9).
More than 44.5 million immigrants resided in the United States in 2017. One in seven U.S. residents are foreign born, according to 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) data. While immigrants’ current share—13.7 percent—of the overall U.S. population (325.7 million people) has been increasing since the record low marked in 1970. (1)
How does TIA work?
TIA’s commitment is to equip church and community leaders by providing relevant tools and resources aligned with their specific interest. We provide counsel and coaching to members while also fostering coordination and collaboration between members, partners, field experts, and network immigration attorneys. Our members are actively cultivating relationships with immigrants in unique ways. Our cohorts and one-on-one coaching provide opportunities for networking, sharing resources and best practices, requesting support on cases, sharing announcements for needs.
What do today’s immigrant ministry leaders need?
The prophet Isaiah spoke of God’s ability to create new opportunities where there previous were none. He writes:
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)
Caring for the immigrant in a holistic way can be the “something new” that He is calling us to step into. Holistic services have always been a need however two factors today have deepened a divide and carved out this growing opportunity – (1) backlog in the immigration courts and (2) uncertainty and fear over current and future changes to immigration law.
Church and community leaders are choosing option two in response to biblical commands like Matthew 28 and Mark 16. They go out to cultivate relationships with immigrants (1) in obedience of God’s command to care for the vulnerable, those without a home or family, is realized and (2) to make disciples of all nations (reasons are different for everyone, these are the general reasons that we are discovering). It is important to note that sometimes number two may never occur however we must always be ready, just as the bible says.
What are holistic services?
If we are to care for the stranger among us, we are to care in the manner that Jesus shares in the gospel of Matthew. We must care holistically which means to care for the whole person, spirit, soul and body. As Jesus describes in the passage below, we are to care for the physical needs like food and drink, the emotional needs such as safety and covering and the spiritual needs of relationship and justice.
“For I was hungry, and you fed me.
I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.
I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.
I was naked, and you gave me clothing.
I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25:35-36 (NLT)
A church or non-profit that seeks to meet the holistic needs of the immigrant looks beyond any political agenda, economic impact or cultural differences and seeks to care for the person as simply a person.
How holistic services makes a difference?
Often, we convince ourselves that there is nothing we can do, the problems are too large, the need is too great, and our resources are too few. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to what we can do. Let me use myself as an example of how meeting a small holistic need can make a critical difference in the lives of others.
A few years back I was part of a church planting project in Aurora, CO. We were in a multi-cultural neighborhood of new immigrants where 160 languages were spoken in the public schools. Each day as I went to the church office, I noticed a group of men hanging out down the street a block from our front door. One morning I walked down the street and introduced myself.
Every morning approximately 50 men would meet on this block hoping for a day job to earn money just to live. Winter was just around the corner, so I had the thought of giving them a cup of coffee. Soon the church members were making lunches and providing bottled water. After a while many of these men became friends and I began to hear their life stories. My heart became open to their needs and we were able to journey alongside them through life’s ups and downs. Our church became Christ to them in an international “mission-field” that came to Aurora. One simple act of coffee made a huge difference in the lives of these men and the life of our church. We began to care for the “stranger among us.”
More intriguing is that a simple cup of coffee changed me. My heart was softened, and my passion was kindled to engage in helping those who are disenfranchised and taken advantage of by others. Since that first cup of “café con leche” and those early bottles of “Agua”, God has opened my eyes. My heart and mind learned how I could befriend, care for, and walk alongside the immigrant in their journey toward understanding God’s love and grace.
A walk down the block changed everything. What might be your next step? Is God calling you to reach the world that is now at your doorstep? The Immigration Alliance wants to come alongside you and your church to begin to test the waters for being missionaries in your community with immigrants who God has brought near to you. We would like to help provided resources and services that can help you offer holistic ministry to the mission-field God has brought to your neighborhood.
Where do you go from here? What is next, are you ready to extend and expand your reach to immigrants in your community? Is God stirring a desire in your ministry to embrace immigrants? The good news is that you don’t have to journey alone. Here are a few action steps that you can take for equipping:
First touch: Each month we send out a monthly digest with recommended media, reading, and resources. Click here to join our mailing list.
Second touch: Contact us today for an initial consultation. On this call we identify what type of service you are positioned to start down the route of providing - of course you, the caller, leads in that decision, we offer advice and context.
Third touch: The newest and quickest way to connect with us, yet more importantly with other church and community leaders involved in immigrant ministry is through our new cohorts.