The Immigrants I Know

“The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow.”

Psalm 146:9

I gathered with hundreds of people to worship and pray on a Wednesday night not long ago. Only a handful of us spoke fluent English and about the same number were legal US citizens. I spoke to them while a young woman stood next to me in the pulpit, interpreting my words into Spanish. Moments earlier, she had led us as we sang “The Revelation Song” in the same language. I was only 20 minutes from my home and my church.

That night, I again realized my city was more diverse than the mostly white, middle-class suburbia where I spend most of my time. That night, in my own city, I suddenly felt like the outsider, invited into a gathering where culture and language divided us. Our only common denominators were the scriptures we studied, the Christ we followed and the communal prayers that echoed upward into the cold night air.

These were not hardened criminals on the run, but families who had worked all day and studied in classrooms since early morning. They were grandparents, high school students, and married couples. I did not hear all their stories that night, but I heard a few. I met men who had built a successful landscaping firm with hundreds of clients and there was a woman who went from cleaning a few homes to running her own business with multiple employees. Her pastor had told her that America rewards honest, hard work. She believed him.

I found new friends that night and a new viewpoint. God knew I needed a new frame of reference in order to get a new perspective on the plight of immigrants in our country. I know many of my friends and those in my congregation will argue that “our laws need to be followed” and “we need those jobs for our own citizens”. I understand the anger and frustration caused by the broken promises from politicians and fanned by the fearmongering from pundits on TV. I just wish you had been with me that night.

Everyone does not fit neatly into my story. There are bad people who have come to our country illegally and have committed atrocities. They need to be deported and sentenced. Those are the few, though, and do not represent the remaining 11-million living here peaceably and quietly.

When I am caught in this tension, I sit still and listen to Jesus speaking to me in the scriptures. I know for certain he loves them as much as me. He wants them to thrive and not be subjected to threats and pain. He has watched them die from dehydration in the deserts. He hears their prayers and knows them by name. He speaks their language and understands their dilemma. He knows they miss their families and they feel unwanted and rejected in the only place they can go for help. Jesus also had to flee his country once and live in a distant Egypt. I am sure he and his teenage parents broke some immigration laws along the way. I am also certain someone in Egypt helped them because no one survives long in a distant land without some new friends.

I wish the immigration system was less expensive and easier to navigate. It is neither. I know this is a political land mine and I’m already bracing myself for the onslaught of comments meant to enlighten and correct me. I confess, I do not have all the answers to a very complicated social crisis, but I was there that night and I worshipped with them. I felt the same Holy Spirit at work that I sense every Sunday with my own congregation. I believe if we would gather with our brothers and sisters, hold hands and pray for one another, we could be a catalyst for hope in each other’s lives. We can help solve this. Jesus will not be offended, I promise.

 

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10 Comments

  1. This is beautiful. Humble, compassionate, full of grace.

    My faith was formed as a teen during mission trips to build houses for the poorest of the poor in Mexico — seven trips all together. Not until years later, while living in Mexico as an adult, did I realize that those families really didn’t need ME to build them a house. They could have done a better job without me if we had just given them the supplies instead of giving our time. But being there, side by side with those families? Singing worship songs with them in their language? It was such a gift. It shaped my heart and my faith in ways that books and lectures and sermons never could.

    When we meet people, when we really see them, we can’t deny that God loves them, too. We are all his people. Thank you for letting this be a priority in our church in this season. I am so thankful for you and your soft heart.

  2. Susie Jernugan

    August 3, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    This is the heart we are to have. Thank you Brady!

  3. After 4 years at New Life, this will be my last Sunday attending. Sin is sin pastor. You should know better but sadly want to win the world it seems. Ill continue praying for you and keep in touch with my dear friends but i cant support a pastor that encourages lawlessness, hence sin.

    Some things are black and white.

    • I am not encouraging lawlessness. I am advocating compassion for some very desperate people who are living peaceably among us. I hope you find a congregation that agrees with all your viewpoints. You are always welcome at New Life.

  4. I agree that the ones who are already here need to be shown the love of God(as do the ones who aren’t) but it is a very fine line between doing that and encouraging continued lawlessness(Not saying you are but your words can be perceived that way). I don’t stand with that not because it’s what I want but because God says so.

    God bless you pastor!

  5. Chris,
    Remember, Christians were once illegal and considered bringers of lawlessness too.

    Have you considered that perhaps the laws are immoral? We have incredibly out of date laws that lead to inhumane consequences for millions of people, and there is no wrong or sin in pointing out that they need to be changed.

    The point in living in a democracy is we as a body politic shape the laws. Pastor Brady is simply saying that perhaps we need to be more open minded to revision. If you’re considering leaving a church just because of a stance on illegal immigrants, it brings to question your reason for attending the church in the first place.

    Pastor Brady, I commend you for standing up for what you honestly believe is right, despite the heat.

  6. Ok, so what about the people following our immigration laws waiting in line? Lets punish them in favor of those who knowingly broke our laws?

    The laws are fine. Legal immigration is a great thing that should be encouraged. If you want to be part of this blessed nation that is only blessed due to it’s foundation in our Lord Jesus Christ, follow the process.

    Black, white, brown all come together in this great nation with the belief in it’s ideals of freedom which are endowed to us from our Creator. That must be protected at all costs.

  7. With respect, I somewhat agree with Chris. My mother and uncles were born in Mexico and they did what they needed to do to become U.S. citizens legally. They learned the language and came here to become Americans. Not to ironically try to change America into the place they were fleeing from. Same with my grandparents from from dad’s side who came here from Russia/Persia.

    It is unfair to support those who come here illegally when there are many who are trying to do it the right way. Yes, we should love them, but doesn’t loving them also mean encouraging them to do the right thing?

    Immigration laws are also there for a purpose–to protect our borders. Would you leave the doors to your home open for anyone to just walk in? Why even answer the door when someone knocks? Why not just say,”Come on in!”?There’s even a background check if you want to volunteer at church (which I completely agree with). Something like that is in place for a purpose. It is not for bad intentions, hate, or to say that everyone who wants to volunteer is evil. It is just a screening process.

    Nobody is saying that immigrants are not welcome, people just want them to come into this country the right way. Because there is a way!! But if you do it illegally, you are blatantly cutting in line.

    Also, I do not believe that it is immoral to want to protect a nations borders. There will always be inhumane consequences whether our borders are open or not. We live in a broken world. People coming to America illegally will not fix that. But breaking a law (that does not go against any of the Lord’s laws, morally speaking) to bring your family to America is still wrong regardless of opinion. As a daughter and granddaughter of legal immigrants, I cannot condone their defiance. It is indeed encouraging lawlessness and once you do that, where does it end?

    Pastor Brady, I admire your heart and compassion. I believe you are coming at this from a genuine place and we should show love, care and compassion for those that are already here. But, I cannot agree with your support of people coming here illegally because that could just spiral into other issues and we could find ourselves justifying or even convincing ourselves that other wrongs are right and other rights are wrong. Isaiah 5.

    • I am not proposing open borders. However, for the past 40 years, American businesses have benefited from the cheap labor of illegal immigrants. Many of these families have been in the US for over 20 years, living peaceably, paying taxes and raising families. We should offer them a path to legal citizenship.

  8. Thank you for your time and clarifying response Pastor Brady. My family has a raisin farm in California and have helped many gain their citizenship. They have also both benefited and lost from illegal immigrants.

    I suppose some of the frustration may be coming from interactions and videos which have surfaced that pose an example of many illegal immigrants not having any kind of loyalty to America. Many are disrespecting and even burning our nation’s flag. We see many acts or lack-thereof, that display an entitlement attitude to be in our country while being here illegally. Not grateful–but entitled. Maybe the good people that you’ve spent your time with don’t feel/act that way, but it does surely exist and that may be what some people are remembering/thinking of when a discussion like this arises.

    With this being an election year, people are passionate about many issues for various reasons. Let us keep praying for our city, our nation, and for the world. May the Lord bless you and keep you. ❤️

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