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Hope for the Immigrant…and for the Rest of Us

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lordthat will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life… Psalm 27:1-4

Honestly, it does not matter to me whether or not the current administration intended to bring about what I see as a positive thing happening on the issue of immigration. To me, what they intended is far less important than the fact: suddenly, a much larger percentage of Christians and churches have been mobilized to the borders with the most important message of hope any immigrant will ever hear. I say “suddenly”, because it is shameful how blind many of us have been to those issues at least throughout the course of my 58 years…probably more than that. So, seeing such large groups now mobilized toward a more compassionate response to the huge struggles of the immigrant is, in my mind, quite the silver lining to an otherwise startlingly dark cloud.

One of the important people in my own life is an immigrant. Tanzila (Tania) Kaiumova is very much like a third daughter to me and my wife. Tania currently lives with us. A few years ago, she and her single mom walked away from their home and most of their belongings in war-torn eastern Ukraine, not knowing if they would ever be able to return. They have still not returned. Tania is here in the U.S. now, having applied for asylum. Believe me when I tell you, getting here legally in order to apply for asylum is only the very beginning of the struggle. It is the tip of the iceberg.

The immigration process with the government (any government) is not about compassion. I am pretty sure it never has been. I don’t say that as an indictment. I say that as a mere observation. In the same way, there is nothing about your local DMV or Social Security Administration office that is about compassion. Government programs are bureaucratic systems by design. Except for the occasional front-line worker in those systems, they are cold, government processes without a heart and soul. I am not saying that is a good thing or a bad thing. It is a reality.

I have serious doubts about whether government processes are capable of providing any particular level of compassion, or even whether they are supposed to do so. That question, I suppose, is for the politicians to kill each other over. God knows I hate politics and am content letting them beat each other up over it. But I know this: if my hope for compassion and heart and love is in the government, then I am setting myself up for major disappointment. Bureaucracies and governmental systems cannot love people. Only we (you and I) can do that. And I am thrilled that Tania has opened my own eyes to better understand how I should respond, just as recent political events have opened the church’s eyes to the need for a compassionate response.

As a Christ-follower, if my eyes have been opened to the struggles of immigrants (legal or otherwise), that sounds to me more like a spiritual calling than a political war cry. How I respond to that calling matters. I can “rage against the machine” or I can demonstrate the very love and compassion that seems to me to be missing. Even in the midst of a journey to the border, I should be testing my heart and my motives. Am I on a quest to show love and compassion? Or am I on a quest to insist that these desperate brothers and sisters find compassion in someone (or in some system) other than me?

If I (or my church) want to show love and compassion to the immigrant, there is a host of ways to do that. The immigrant in your community has all the same needs anyone else does. He/she needs housing, work, medical care, childcare, transportation, language interpretation, and help with navigating all our complicated governmental processes. As my eyes are opened to these needs and my passions are ignited for seeing these needs met, I can get very busy very quickly. That, it seems to me, would be a genuinely loving and compassionate response.

As you can see, when it comes to love and compassion and my responsibility for both, I am not at all politically inclined. While I almost always exercise my right and responsibility to vote, I frankly do not see politicians as the hope for the world, nor for the immigrant, nor for you or me. When it comes to my safety and my rescue and my salvation and my protection, the Lord is my hope. He is the only hope. Anything else will disappoint. I learned that from David. And I am learning that from Tania. What a powerful message it is.

God, give Your church wisdom and strength to carry that message.

© Blake Coffee
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