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by Jee Wook Lee
MATERIAL STATEMENT

God honors the migrant journey and the humanity of all migrants.

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by Mondo Scott

Why I’ve Stayed in Japan for 5 Years

Michael Frazier

Michael Frazier is an award-winning poet & educator living in central Japan. He graduated from NYU, where he was the 2017 poet commencement speaker & a co-champion of CUPSI. He's performed at Nuyorican Poets Café, Lincoln Center, Gallatin Arts Festival, & other venues. His poems appear, or are forthcoming, in Poetry Daily, The Offing, Cream City Review, RHINO, Visible Poetry Project, & elsewhere. He also volunteers as a Youth Leader at a small cafe in Kanazawa City that’s on fire for Christ, and he’s working on poetry collection(s) about oyakodon, his hilarious mother, and being black in Japan. He’s uber passionate about anime, bubble tea, and, most importantly, the power of Christ to change lives. He also facilitates a biweekly zoom poetry book club open to the public. Message @fraziermichael or visit fraziermichael.com to join!

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Because I couldn’t follow Naruto to the Leaf Village, but I could fly to Japan. Mom, Dad, I’m going to live there one day! & they said, just make sure to come back, young man. Because instead of homework, I filled journals with notes on noodle varieties, how deep to bow, & religion demographics. Because GUM GUM ROCKET! GETSUGA TENSHO! KAMEHAMEHA! & other anime superpowers that started with a word. Because when I was eleven, I made one origami every day for a year & covered my wall with paper cranes, hearts, toads. Because I eventually went, & fell in love with conveyor belt yellow tail & matcha ice cream in cones. Because cherry blossoms in spring, & red maples in fall. Because every morning, my students shout with big smiles, MAIKERU SENSEI OHAYOU GOZAIMASU! Because I can’t teach poetry at the high school, but my students teach me the poetry of Kanji characters. Because I stay after school three hours to talk with coworkers about Korean dramas, local birds, & God. Because I found a cafe called Hope that serves curry bread during the week & the Word on the weekends. We have international potlucks after service, & talk so long we end up going out for dinner too. They speak in tongues & fifteen other languages & use their whole bodies when they worship like my mom & I do. Because my mom visited & now says, if you stay, I’m moving there with you. Because I was fed up with kids running wild during service so I started a Sunday School—three years strong. Not because the kids beat me with pool noodles or laugh when I speak Japanese. But because, after service, I noticed one boy singing the Armor of God song to himself. Because parents join Sunday School & afterwards say, it’s for the kids, but it felt like it was for me, too. Because the Pastor said, you’re an answered prayer. Because Yamamura’s eyes were clouded from glaucoma, but after praying, he could see! Because God gave me a Japanese brother who can snap my ankles on the court & fist fish out of rivers & weave his 5 years in Georgia into beautiful stories & crack jokes & cry & sing for Christ as if doing it for God, Himself. Cause I asked God for help with Children's Ministry & he sent a French Caribbean missionary who can put her foot in some couscous. Because when I had to quarantine, members of the church brought me Oikos & organic chicken, left thermometers & meds in my mailbox, & translated on three-way when I called the doctors. Cause despite COVID, the young adults in the church doubled. Now weekend board games nights that turn into spontaneous worship sessions. Because we’re believing for gallbladders to heal & cancer to disappear. A new building. A Bible & English school. For our attendance to triple. Because I didn’t go to seminary but can share sermons & lead Bible studies. Because when winter blues & homesickness came, the Holy Spirit reminded me, I will always miss home, because nowhere on this earth is heaven. Because God sent me a mentor. An Australian man who loves Papa & evangelizes through festivals. He taught me to always listen to the low whisper within me, because that voice is God. Because we message each other every day & when I have a problem, he asks, well what does your spirit say mate? Because he connects me with young Japanese guys who are so committed to seeing Japan saved, they shave their heads. Because after four years of growing my afro, I shaved my head as well. Because he’s staying to see the revival, & the low whisper said, you too. Because I sit in parks, at bus stops, along rivers, & men & women walk up to me wanting a conversation, & follow me to church. Because I pray with others in the staff room. Over tonkatsu. On street corners. In front of the cake aisle in Costco & there are always tears, & always the same question, what is this warm feeling? Because when I was ten, I learned Japan was one percent Christian, & I asked my Youth Pastor, what happens to the other 99? & he said, we pray for them. Because I prayed & the Holy Spirit translated & went a decade ahead to prepare my way. Because I met the 99. The 99 has three beautiful kids who make me banana cake & temakizushi. The 99 teaches me Judo & invites me over to play blindfold twister. The 99 lent me a road bike for a year when mine broke & I couldn’t afford another. The 99 leaves homemade kombucha on my desk with an encouraging note. The 99 builds a roller coaster in their classroom overnight & asks me to ride it first. The 99 takes me to the hot spring to spend five hours talking about ramen & our dreams. Because I love them. & was being prepared since birth. & if Jesus would leave the 99 for the one, what would He do for the 99 if they strayed?

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by Urias Abraham

The Bible: Stories about Immigrant People, by Immigrant People

Paola Fuentes Gleghorn

Paola Fuentes Gleghorn is the immigration and women and girls campaign manager at Sojourners. Paola is originally from Costa Rica but grew up in Nicaragua, where her family worked alongside local churches in pastoral training, youth leadership development, and addressing injustices in medical care access. She graduated from Calvin University with a degree in international development and a minor in business. Paola is passionate about equipping and encouraging people of faith to pursue God’s heart for justice through advocacy and systemic change.

Migration was a natural part of my family’s life as missionaries. I first migrated from my home country, Costa Rica, to neighboring Nicaragua when I was nine years old. At the time, I didn’t think of our move as migration or of myself as a migrant. My parents were following in the footsteps of missionaries all the way back to the early church, who migrated from place to place to share the good news.

But it wasn’t until after I graduated college in the US and fell in love with someone who happened to be a US citizen that I began to fully grasp my identity as an immigrant. I started learning more about immigration as we started going through the family visa immigration process.  

My story is not unique. Migration is not a new or modern phenomenon. Throughout human history, people have migrated from one place to another. Sandy Ovalle, the director of campaigns and mobilizing for Sojourners, says that the movement of people is as natural as the flow of water. In harmony with creation and the native people of the land, all people have the right to migrate, whether for survival or flourishing. 

Migration as Grace

The Bible is full of stories about immigrants and by immigrants. The message is clear: migration is central to our faith. God cares and provides for migrant people, calls us to welcome and support immigrants, and uses our stories of migration to further his reconciling work.

Dr. Robert Chao Romero speaks of migration as grace: “God uses the migration process to extend his unmerited favor, love, and compassion to both immigrants and their host countries.” We see this clearly in the story of Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament. God calls Abraham to migrate from his country, and from his people and household to an unknown destination that God will show him. God also tells him, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3, NRSV). God’s grace and blessings come hand in hand for the immigrants, but also for those in their host country.

Following God’s command required faith and trust, a hallmark of Abraham’s relationship with God that is credited to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). Throughout this journey, God provides for and protects Abraham and Sarah. In Genesis 20, Abraham is afraid he will be killed for his wife, so he and Sarah lie, saying that Sarah is his sister. When King Abimelech takes Sarah into his house, God steps in to protect her, coming to Abimelech in a dream and telling him the truth. Though Abraham gave in to fear, God protected them both. This experience helps Abraham trust God--even to the point of preparing to sacrifice his only son (Gen. 22:1-19). The experience of migration was crucial in building up Abraham’s faith, a faith that would one day bless all nations.

In the book of Ruth, we see both sides of the grace of immigration. When Naomi is forced to return to Israel after the death of her sons, she is so upset that she tells others to call her Mara, meaning bitter, “because God has dealt so bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20, NRSV). Ruth, a Moabite, moves to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law and becomes a great blessing to her. She cares for her mother-in-law, provides for her through gleaning, and follows her advice dutifully. Ruth, an immigrant, is a source of grace for Mara. 

Boaz, on the other hand, is a blessing to Ruth. He follows the laws of Israel and allows orphans, widows, and immigrants to glean from his fields and vineyards. He even directs his workers to leave extra behind for Ruth. Boaz lives according to just laws and blesses Ruth and Naomi. In turn, Ruth becomes a blessing to Boaz, becoming his wife and having children with him. Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of King David, and from her line comes Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. The book of Ruth clearly shows how both immigrant people and host people--and, in some cases, the entire world--are blessed by migration.

Migration as Blessing

Blessing is woven into the story of migration. When God commanded Israel to treat immigrant people the same as native Israelites, there was a provision for a blessed community. In both Exodus 12:49 and Leviticus 24:22, God tells Israel that “There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you” (NRSV). Additionally, the people of Israel had to make sure that immigrants, orphans, and widows had a way to provide for themselves. In Leviticus 19:9-10 and 23:22, Moses tells the people they cannot strip their vineyards bare but should leave produce behind for women, orphans, and immigrants to collect. And every three years, Israelites were required to bring one-tenth of their produce, grain, and livestock, kept as a tithe, and give it to the Levites, immigrants, widows, and orphans. The law required Israel to provide for immigrant people in the same way they provided for the Levites, their priests.

These commands flow from a consistent theme in the Bible: everyone should be treated with dignity and equity. God knows that we find it easiest to love people who look and speak and act like us. He names particular groups explicitly so we can’t forget about them. And orphans, widows, and immigrant people share something in common. They are separated from their families, either by distance or death, which can leave them vulnerable to exploitation. From biblical times to the present day, humans have found ways to scapegoat and exploit those who are vulnerable, so God provides specific protections for such people.

Jesus the Migrant

In addition, Jesus himself identifies with the stories of immigrant people who are fleeing violence. Migration is a key part of Jesus’ life, from conception to death and resurrection. Joseph and Mary traveled while Mary was pregnant. The three of them migrated again when Jesus was an infant to flee persecution. As an adult, Jesus traveled widely, even venturing into the enemy land of Samaria. Then he traversed the depths of hell, returned to earth, and finally ascended to heaven. 

Throughout the New Testament, the authors write about hospitality. In Romans 12:9-13, we are told to “hate evil and love good, to serve the lord and rejoice in hope, and to extend hospitality to strangers” (NRSV). In Hebrews 13:1-3, we are told to “show hospitality to strangers, because in doing this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (NRSV). The Greek word for hospitality in Hebrews 13:1 is philoxenia, which means “to love the foreigner.” The word entertained, used just afterwards in Hebrews 13:3, is xenisantes, which means “receiving the foreigner.” 

The root word for both those verbs is xenos, or foreigner. In fact, xenos is used in Matthew 25:35: “I was a stranger (xenos) and you welcomed me.” Jesus is saying that he is the foreigner, the immigrant person. Jesus continually crossed borders, both physical and spiritual. Jesus’ reconciliation work is not just to reconcile us to God, but also to reconcile and unite us with each other across divisions or borders.

Migration Strengthens the Church

Sandy Ovalle also says that migration involves both loss and hope. This is probably another reason the experience of migration is central to our Christian faith. When we migrate to a new place or when we welcome and fully embrace immigrant people, our faith is made stronger. Through the journey, our trust in God and God’s people grows. 

Many immigrant people talk about how their faith was a part of what kept them moving forward during the hard trip to migrate to another place. Some will tell you that the coritos, Psalms, and songs of their faith communities were all they had during the long nights when their final destination seemed impossibly far away.

When we migrate or when we welcome immigrant people, our faith communities are made stronger. In literal ways, immigrant people are helping our churches grow. In 2013, 60 percent of all immigrant people arriving in the US identified as Christian. According to a 2019 Christianity Today article, “First-generation immigrants are leading the Latino evangelical expansion in the US--drawing in more unchurched believers and new converts than the average church plan, despite having smaller congregations, less funding, and tensions surrounding US immigration policy.”

More importantly, stories of migration teach us about God’s character. God is a God of creativity and unity. In order to see all aspects of who God is, we need to interact with the diversity of people and cultures that God created, treating each other with equity and finding unity across differences. When we look at the world through a new lens, we learn new things about God. We learn to trust God in new ways. When we leave our homes and families to travel to an unfamiliar place, we do so in faith, trusting God’s provision.

When we love immigrant people, we see harmful and unjust systems and laws through their eyes. Together, we expose injustices and make clear God’s heart for justice. We show God’s vision for a better world, where just systems and communities ensure that vulnerable people are not exploited but are given special care and allowed to flourish.

Migration was a natural part of my family’s life as missionaries. I first migrated from my home country, Costa Rica, to neighboring Nicaragua when I was nine years old. At the time, I didn’t think of our move as migration or of myself as a migrant. My parents were following in the footsteps of missionaries all the way back to the early church, who migrated from place to place to share the good news.

But it wasn’t until after I graduated college in the US and fell in love with someone who happened to be a US citizen that I began to fully grasp my identity as an immigrant. I started learning more about immigration as we started going through the family visa immigration process.  

The Bible is full of stories about immigrants and by immigrants.

My story is not unique. Migration is not a new or modern phenomenon. Throughout human history, people have migrated from one place to another. Sandy Ovalle, the director of campaigns and mobilizing for Sojourners, says that the movement of people is as natural as the flow of water. In harmony with creation and the native people of the land, all people have the right to migrate, whether for survival or flourishing. 

Migration as Grace

The Bible is full of stories about immigrants and by immigrants. The message is clear: migration is central to our faith. God cares and provides for migrant people, calls us to welcome and support immigrants, and uses our stories of migration to further his reconciling work.

Dr. Robert Chao Romero speaks of migration as grace: “God uses the migration process to extend his unmerited favor, love, and compassion to both immigrants and their host countries.” We see this clearly in the story of Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament. God calls Abraham to migrate from his country, and from his people and household to an unknown destination that God will show him. God also tells him, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3, NRSV). God’s grace and blessings come hand in hand for the immigrants, but also for those in their host country.

Immigrant people and host people--and, in some cases, the entire world--are blessed by migration.

Following God’s command required faith and trust, a hallmark of Abraham’s relationship with God that is credited to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). Throughout this journey, God provides for and protects Abraham and Sarah. In Genesis 20, Abraham is afraid he will be killed for his wife, so he and Sarah lie, saying that Sarah is his sister. When King Abimelech takes Sarah into his house, God steps in to protect her, coming to Abimelech in a dream and telling him the truth. Though Abraham gave in to fear, God protected them both. This experience helps Abraham trust God--even to the point of preparing to sacrifice his only son (Gen. 22:1-19). The experience of migration was crucial in building up Abraham’s faith, a faith that would one day bless all nations.

In the book of Ruth, we see both sides of the grace of immigration. When Naomi is forced to return to Israel after the death of her sons, she is so upset that she tells others to call her Mara, meaning bitter, “because God has dealt so bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20, NRSV). Ruth, a Moabite, moves to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law and becomes a great blessing to her. She cares for her mother-in-law, provides for her through gleaning, and follows her advice dutifully. Ruth, an immigrant, is a source of grace for Mara. 

Boaz, on the other hand, is a blessing to Ruth. He follows the laws of Israel and allows orphans, widows, and immigrants to glean from his fields and vineyards. He even directs his workers to leave extra behind for Ruth. Boaz lives according to just laws and blesses Ruth and Naomi. In turn, Ruth becomes a blessing to Boaz, becoming his wife and having children with him. Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of King David, and from her line comes Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. The book of Ruth clearly shows how both immigrant people and host people--and, in some cases, the entire world--are blessed by migration.

Migration as Blessing

Blessing is woven into the story of migration. When God commanded Israel to treat immigrant people the same as native Israelites, there was a provision for a blessed community. In both Exodus 12:49 and Leviticus 24:22, God tells Israel that “There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you” (NRSV). Additionally, the people of Israel had to make sure that immigrants, orphans, and widows had a way to provide for themselves. In Leviticus 19:9-10 and 23:22, Moses tells the people they cannot strip their vineyards bare but should leave produce behind for women, orphans, and immigrants to collect. And every three years, Israelites were required to bring one-tenth of their produce, grain, and livestock, kept as a tithe, and give it to the Levites, immigrants, widows, and orphans. The law required Israel to provide for immigrant people in the same way they provided for the Levites, their priests.

These commands flow from a consistent theme in the Bible: everyone should be treated with dignity and equity. God knows that we find it easiest to love people who look and speak and act like us. He names particular groups explicitly so we can’t forget about them. And orphans, widows, and immigrant people share something in common. They are separated from their families, either by distance or death, which can leave them vulnerable to exploitation. From biblical times to the present day, humans have found ways to scapegoat and exploit those who are vulnerable, so God provides specific protections for such people.

Jesus the Migrant

In addition, Jesus himself identifies with the stories of immigrant people who are fleeing violence. Migration is a key part of Jesus’ life, from conception to death and resurrection. Joseph and Mary traveled while Mary was pregnant. The three of them migrated again when Jesus was an infant to flee persecution. As an adult, Jesus traveled widely, even venturing into the enemy land of Samaria. Then he traversed the depths of hell, returned to earth, and finally ascended to heaven. 

From biblical times to the present day, humans have found ways to scapegoat and exploit those who are vulnerable, so God provides specific protections for such people.

Throughout the New Testament, the authors write about hospitality. In Romans 12:9-13, we are told to “hate evil and love good, to serve the lord and rejoice in hope, and to extend hospitality to strangers” (NRSV). In Hebrews 13:1-3, we are told to “show hospitality to strangers, because in doing this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (NRSV). The Greek word for hospitality in Hebrews 13:1 is philoxenia, which means “to love the foreigner.” The word entertained, used just afterwards in Hebrews 13:3, is xenisantes, which means “receiving the foreigner.” 

The root word for both those verbs is xenos, or foreigner. In fact, xenos is used in Matthew 25:35: “I was a stranger (xenos) and you welcomed me.” Jesus is saying that he is the foreigner, the immigrant person. Jesus continually crossed borders, both physical and spiritual. Jesus’ reconciliation work is not just to reconcile us to God, but also to reconcile and unite us with each other across divisions or borders.

Migration Strengthens the Church

Sandy Ovalle also says that migration involves both loss and hope. This is probably another reason the experience of migration is central to our Christian faith. When we migrate to a new place or when we welcome and fully embrace immigrant people, our faith is made stronger. Through the journey, our trust in God and God’s people grows. 

Many immigrant people talk about how their faith was a part of what kept them moving forward during the hard trip to migrate to another place. Some will tell you that the coritos, Psalms, and songs of their faith communities were all they had during the long nights when their final destination seemed impossibly far away.

When we migrate or when we welcome immigrant people, our faith communities are made stronger. In literal ways, immigrant people are helping our churches grow. In 2013, 60 percent of all immigrant people arriving in the US identified as Christian. According to a 2019 Christianity Today article, “First-generation immigrants are leading the Latino evangelical expansion in the US--drawing in more unchurched believers and new converts than the average church plan, despite having smaller congregations, less funding, and tensions surrounding US immigration policy.”

Jesus’ reconciliation work is not just to reconcile us to God, but also to reconcile and unite us with each other across divisions or borders.

More importantly, stories of migration teach us about God’s character. God is a God of creativity and unity. In order to see all aspects of who God is, we need to interact with the diversity of people and cultures that God created, treating each other with equity and finding unity across differences. When we look at the world through a new lens, we learn new things about God. We learn to trust God in new ways. When we leave our homes and families to travel to an unfamiliar place, we do so in faith, trusting God’s provision.

When we love immigrant people, we see harmful and unjust systems and laws through their eyes. Together, we expose injustices and make clear God’s heart for justice. We show God’s vision for a better world, where just systems and communities ensure that vulnerable people are not exploited but are given special care and allowed to flourish.

The Bible is full of stories about immigrants and by immigrants.
Immigrant people and host people--and, in some cases, the entire world--are blessed by migration.
From biblical times to the present day, humans have found ways to scapegoat and exploit those who are vulnerable, so God provides specific protections for such people.
Jesus’ reconciliation work is not just to reconcile us to God, but also to reconcile and unite us with each other across divisions or borders.
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by Urias Abraham

Land, Covenant, and Humane Policies for Migrants

Noemi Vega Quiñones

Noemi Vega Quiñones is the oldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Vega, and immigrated to the United States at the age of five. She is coauthor of Hermanas: Deepening our Identity and Growing our Influence. Noemi is a PhD student in religion and theological ethics at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, and serves on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the Latino Fellowship department. When not reading or writing, Noemi loves to catch up on the phone with her family and friends.

Two areas of tension arise for Christians when confronted with the issue of migration: the biblical and the geopolitical. While US Christians vary across race, class, and ethnicity in their political values, the Lord is clear on the ethical treatment and care of the sojourner. God’s love and identification with the migrant impels Christians to seek just and humane policies for the transformation of our societies. Migration affects all regions of the world, but I will focus on the US history of land acquisition and immigration policy.

Any deliberation of migration inherently includes the lands and the indigenous peoples of the lands. As Native American scholars like Mark Charles and Sarah Augustine exposit, the Doctrine of Discovery exploited native lands for the profit of empire. The question of dignity for the migrant is not separate from the question of dignity for the Native American. Rather, they are connected by the same forces that strip away the dignity of these two communities: the pursuits of wealth and power. We must ask if our immigration policies are primarily driven by wealth and power, or the biblical vision of caring for the sojourner.

God’s Divine Ownership of the Land

God is the owner of the land but also miraculously chose to become God With Us as a migrant. God is aware of the vulnerability, risk, and exposure of the migrant experience. God also chooses to remain present during this experience as Immanuel with all who call on the name of Jesus. As a result, God compels Christian partnership with the sojourner and teaches us how to steward the land.

Lutheran theologian Munther Isaac intricately describes God’s relationship with the lands of the earth in his dissertation and recent book, The Other Side of the Wall. Isaac asserts that the Yawhistic treatment of the lands reflects a unique authority. Christians, therefore, are called to remember this divine ownership and ask the Lord for wisdom on how to steward the lands with God’s justice and righteousness.

For those who do not maintain this holy covenant with God, there are consequences. Ill treatment of God and God’s neighbor will impact the health of the land. Christians are called to consider how to live on the land in our countries in a way that reflects our covenant with God and the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.  

A History of Migrant Exclusion

Even as fully beloved people of God, migrants have long faced prejudice and exclusion. After the European Thirty Years’ War in the seventeenth century, the Peace of Westphalia created sovereign states, further concretizing borders between nations. Consequent wars, usurpation of lands, and reinforcement of national identities resulted in even more stringent ideas about borders. They serve to protect, to maintain sovereignty, and, more insidiously, to maintain ethnic and cultural purity of lands.

In the United States, the Naturalization Act of 1790 restricted naturalization to free white men of “good moral character” who had lived on the land for at least two years. Forty years later, the Indian Removal Act confiscated Native lands west of the Mississippi, displacing millions within indigenous communities. In the nineteenth century the Marshall Trilogy, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the Chinese Exclusion Act essentially treated Native, Mexican, and Chinese peoples, respectively, as unwelcome strangers. In 1894, three Harvard graduates founded the Immigration Restriction League to limit migration from southern and eastern Europe. Over the course of the twentieth century, immigration laws would continue to impose limits and quotas on particular countries.[1]

Every nation has the right to envision their own immigration system. But we must ask: are our nation’s policies congruent with our call to love God and neighbor?

The current US system supplies a limited number of visas to countries without special attention to those experiencing extreme hardship, such as poverty, hunger, and political turmoil. Out of desperation, many migrants choose to cross the US border from Mexico through the desert. The US Border Patrol reports that more than 7,000 migrants have died along the US-Mexico border between 1998-2020, with 2020 being the deadliest year on record. Today, detention centers near the Texas border housing unauthorized migrant children are being investigated for sexual abuse, assault, and neglect.  

Christians living in the United States are required to answer for how we are stewarding these lands and showing kindness to the strangers among us.

Implications from God’s Covenant

Deuteronomy 4:5-8 indicates that, as Israel observed Yawheh’s laws and covenant, other nations would take note and consider the Lord as a God who is present and near. Isaiah 10:1-2 warns against nations that make unjust laws. The biblical narrative is filled with the Lord’s love for people and desire for all to know this intimate covenant of belonging. 

Christians are called to remember the Lord’s covenant with us and to act in line with God’s justice and shalom (Mic. 6:8). But this call might raise biases, fears, and questions about how to welcome migrants. Perhaps we are hesitant to embrace migrants because of their authorization status. Maybe we simply do not know where to begin, or we have been taught that our borders will be compromised if we welcome in migrants.

There are complex push-and-pull factors involved in migration. But the current legal process of entering the United States is virtually impossible for extremely vulnerable migrants fleeing persecution, abuse, or food insecurity. This process can take up to ten years or longer.

Work through your concerns, but know that Scripture is clear on what the Lord requires. Migrants are protected from oppression (Ex. 22:21, Lev. 19:33-34), ought to be provided with food and shelter (Lev. 19:9-10), and have the right to worship God (Num. 15:14-16).

If you are unfamiliar with migration issues, learn about the history of migration in your own family and in your city and state. Unless you are an indigenous person who can trace your family to one location for generations, there is a high likelihood that you are part of a migrant history.

Implications from the Early Church

Acts 6 presents several possibilities for just policies. As the early church grew across cultures, Jewish Christian leaders sought to live justly. They enacted a system of provision for the widows among them. But Hellenistic (Greek) Christian widows were being overlooked. After discernment, the Apostles agreed to have the Hellenists select seven of their own leaders to oversee food distribution to their widows. These leaders were then publicly commissioned by the Apostles.

From this account, we see that migrants need representation. Acts 6:1 notes that the Hellenists complained about the neglect of their widows. For communities to thrive, they need representation and a system of voicing concerns.

When US politicians publicly discuss immigration policy, some focus on the problems rather than the dignity of the individuals. They listen to their current constituents but do not hear the stories of those who greatly desire to be their constituents. Thus, the voice of our migrant neighbors is not always heard.

One way of seeking just and humane policies for migrants is to ask for their input. What do they need from their community? From their politicians?

Another way is to volunteer at an immigration resource center. Many nonprofit organizations speak with and on behalf of individuals seeking authorized residence, representing them with the inherent dignity they deserve. There are also opportunities to go and see detention centers, border shelters, and unmarked graves in the desert, to hear and then share the stories of our migrant neighbors.

Just as the Hellenists raised their voice to change an unjust system, migrants have agency to raise our voices, directly and indirectly, publicly and anonymously. Revealing the harmful treatment of migrants in detention centers and at the hands of ICE officials brings attention to the suffering of our migrant neighbors. This task is not for journalists alone but also for Christians called to show hospitality to the sojourner. 

Like the Acts 6 community, who devoted themselves to the teaching of the word of God and embodying just practices, you can ask your church leadership how they are embodying justice for the migrant. Ask if they are familiar with God’s care for and identification with migrants. If not, that is an important place to start. If they already know God’s teachings, then partner with your church in a justice ministry that shows hospitality to the migrants in your community.

A person’s dignity is not a right that can be taken away. It is a gift from the Lord that is inherently, always present in someone. Nations have the right to borders, but Christians should consider and address any inhumane actions against migrants among us. Remember that the Lord owns our lands and calls us to steward the lands with love and care. Faithful stewardship of the land is deeply intertwined with the actions and policies we choose to pursue the dignity of our migrant neighbors.

1 See White By Law , the 1965 Johnson Hart-Cellar Act, the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, and the 2002 creation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Two areas of tension arise for Christians when confronted with the issue of migration: the biblical and the geopolitical. While US Christians vary across race, class, and ethnicity in their political values, the Lord is clear on the ethical treatment and care of the sojourner. God’s love and identification with the migrant impels Christians to seek just and humane policies for the transformation of our societies. Migration affects all regions of the world, but I will focus on the US history of land acquisition and immigration policy.

Any deliberation of migration inherently includes the lands and the indigenous peoples of the lands. As Native American scholars like Mark Charles and Sarah Augustine exposit, the Doctrine of Discovery exploited native lands for the profit of empire. The question of dignity for the migrant is not separate from the question of dignity for the Native American. Rather, they are connected by the same forces that strip away the dignity of these two communities: the pursuits of wealth and power. We must ask if our immigration policies are primarily driven by wealth and power, or the biblical vision of caring for the sojourner.

God’s Divine Ownership of the Land

God is the owner of the land but also miraculously chose to become God With Us as a migrant. God is aware of the vulnerability, risk, and exposure of the migrant experience. God also chooses to remain present during this experience as Immanuel with all who call on the name of Jesus. As a result, God compels Christian partnership with the sojourner and teaches us how to steward the land.

We must ask if our immigration policies are primarily driven by wealth and power, or the biblical vision of caring for the sojourner.

Lutheran theologian Munther Isaac intricately describes God’s relationship with the lands of the earth in his dissertation and recent book, The Other Side of the Wall. Isaac asserts that the Yawhistic treatment of the lands reflects a unique authority. Christians, therefore, are called to remember this divine ownership and ask the Lord for wisdom on how to steward the lands with God’s justice and righteousness.

For those who do not maintain this holy covenant with God, there are consequences. Ill treatment of God and God’s neighbor will impact the health of the land. Christians are called to consider how to live on the land in our countries in a way that reflects our covenant with God and the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.  

A History of Migrant Exclusion

Even as fully beloved people of God, migrants have long faced prejudice and exclusion. After the European Thirty Years’ War in the seventeenth century, the Peace of Westphalia created sovereign states, further concretizing borders between nations. Consequent wars, usurpation of lands, and reinforcement of national identities resulted in even more stringent ideas about borders. They serve to protect, to maintain sovereignty, and, more insidiously, to maintain ethnic and cultural purity of lands.

In the United States, the Naturalization Act of 1790 restricted naturalization to free white men of “good moral character” who had lived on the land for at least two years. Forty years later, the Indian Removal Act confiscated Native lands west of the Mississippi, displacing millions within indigenous communities. In the nineteenth century the Marshall Trilogy, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the Chinese Exclusion Act essentially treated Native, Mexican, and Chinese peoples, respectively, as unwelcome strangers. In 1894, three Harvard graduates founded the Immigration Restriction League to limit migration from southern and eastern Europe. Over the course of the twentieth century, immigration laws would continue to impose limits and quotas on particular countries.[1]

Every nation has the right to envision their own immigration system. But we must ask: are our nation’s policies congruent with our call to love God and neighbor?

Christians are called to consider how to live on the land in our countries in a way that reflects our covenant with God and the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The current US system supplies a limited number of visas to countries without special attention to those experiencing extreme hardship, such as poverty, hunger, and political turmoil. Out of desperation, many migrants choose to cross the US border from Mexico through the desert. The US Border Patrol reports that more than 7,000 migrants have died along the US-Mexico border between 1998-2020, with 2020 being the deadliest year on record. Today, detention centers near the Texas border housing unauthorized migrant children are being investigated for sexual abuse, assault, and neglect.  

Christians living in the United States are required to answer for how we are stewarding these lands and showing kindness to the strangers among us.

Implications from God’s Covenant

Deuteronomy 4:5-8 indicates that, as Israel observed Yawheh’s laws and covenant, other nations would take note and consider the Lord as a God who is present and near. Isaiah 10:1-2 warns against nations that make unjust laws. The biblical narrative is filled with the Lord’s love for people and desire for all to know this intimate covenant of belonging. 

Christians are called to remember the Lord’s covenant with us and to act in line with God’s justice and shalom (Mic. 6:8). But this call might raise biases, fears, and questions about how to welcome migrants. Perhaps we are hesitant to embrace migrants because of their authorization status. Maybe we simply do not know where to begin, or we have been taught that our borders will be compromised if we welcome in migrants.

The current legal process of entering the United States is virtually impossible for extremely vulnerable migrants fleeing persecution, abuse, or food insecurity.

There are complex push-and-pull factors involved in migration. But the current legal process of entering the United States is virtually impossible for extremely vulnerable migrants fleeing persecution, abuse, or food insecurity. This process can take up to ten years or longer.

Work through your concerns, but know that Scripture is clear on what the Lord requires. Migrants are protected from oppression (Ex. 22:21, Lev. 19:33-34), ought to be provided with food and shelter (Lev. 19:9-10), and have the right to worship God (Num. 15:14-16).

If you are unfamiliar with migration issues, learn about the history of migration in your own family and in your city and state. Unless you are an indigenous person who can trace your family to one location for generations, there is a high likelihood that you are part of a migrant history.

Implications from the Early Church

Acts 6 presents several possibilities for just policies. As the early church grew across cultures, Jewish Christian leaders sought to live justly. They enacted a system of provision for the widows among them. But Hellenistic (Greek) Christian widows were being overlooked. After discernment, the Apostles agreed to have the Hellenists select seven of their own leaders to oversee food distribution to their widows. These leaders were then publicly commissioned by the Apostles.

From this account, we see that migrants need representation. Acts 6:1 notes that the Hellenists complained about the neglect of their widows. For communities to thrive, they need representation and a system of voicing concerns.

When US politicians publicly discuss immigration policy, some focus on the problems rather than the dignity of the individuals. They listen to their current constituents but do not hear the stories of those who greatly desire to be their constituents. Thus, the voice of our migrant neighbors is not always heard.

One way of seeking just and humane policies for migrants is to ask for their input. What do they need from their community? From their politicians?

Another way is to volunteer at an immigration resource center. Many nonprofit organizations speak with and on behalf of individuals seeking authorized residence, representing them with the inherent dignity they deserve. There are also opportunities to go and see detention centers, border shelters, and unmarked graves in the desert, to hear and then share the stories of our migrant neighbors.

Migrants have agency to raise our voices, directly and indirectly, publicly and anonymously.

Just as the Hellenists raised their voice to change an unjust system, migrants have agency to raise our voices, directly and indirectly, publicly and anonymously. Revealing the harmful treatment of migrants in detention centers and at the hands of ICE officials brings attention to the suffering of our migrant neighbors. This task is not for journalists alone but also for Christians called to show hospitality to the sojourner. 

Like the Acts 6 community, who devoted themselves to the teaching of the word of God and embodying just practices, you can ask your church leadership how they are embodying justice for the migrant. Ask if they are familiar with God’s care for and identification with migrants. If not, that is an important place to start. If they already know God’s teachings, then partner with your church in a justice ministry that shows hospitality to the migrants in your community.

A person’s dignity is not a right that can be taken away. It is a gift from the Lord that is inherently, always present in someone. Nations have the right to borders, but Christians should consider and address any inhumane actions against migrants among us. Remember that the Lord owns our lands and calls us to steward the lands with love and care. Faithful stewardship of the land is deeply intertwined with the actions and policies we choose to pursue the dignity of our migrant neighbors.

We must ask if our immigration policies are primarily driven by wealth and power, or the biblical vision of caring for the sojourner.
Christians are called to consider how to live on the land in our countries in a way that reflects our covenant with God and the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The current legal process of entering the United States is virtually impossible for extremely vulnerable migrants fleeing persecution, abuse, or food insecurity.
Migrants have agency to raise our voices, directly and indirectly, publicly and anonymously.
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On the Front Lines: Grief and Transformation in Serving Immigrants

In this panel discussion, frontline immigration workers from three well reputed, faith-based nonprofits provide the inside story on what's happening today with migrants and refugees coming to the US. Hear how real individuals and families are being impacted by the broken immigration system and the practical ways in which Abara Borderland Connections, Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE Justice), and the Immigration Resource Center of San Gabriel Valley are standing in the gap.
Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun is an award-winning writer, editor, and communications consultant. She has served in the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors for more than a decade, including stints in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Kenya. Dorcas is the author of two books, Start Love Repeat: How to Stay in Love with Your Entrepreneur in a Crazy Start-up World and Let There d.light: How One Social Enterprise Brought Solar Products to 100 Million People. Her next book, Social Justice for the Sensitive Soul, will be released in 2022. She is an editor with Pax and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two hapa sons.

Jonathan Fung

Jonathan Fung serves as the director of legal services for the Immigration Resource Center of San Gabriel Valley, a nonprofit legal services provider and ministry of Mountainside Communion, a Church of the Nazarene in Monrovia, CA, where he has been on staff since 2016. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a BS in accounting, and the University of Michigan Law School, where he earned his JD. His experience with immigration law includes working in the private sector with immigrant investors before transitioning to the nonprofit sector to provide services for the undocumented community, with a particular focus on benefits for mixed-status families, Dreamers, and for survivors of trafficking and domestic violence.

Bianca Castillo

Blanca Castillo was born in Honduras and immigrated to the United States at the age of three. In college, Blanca studied government with a concentration in Western legal traditions and minored in Spanish. She then moved to El Paso, TX, for a post-graduate fellowship program with Ciudad Nueva Community Outreach. Through the program, Blanca gained extensive experience studying the migrant crisis along the border and the impact of immigration on a city like El Paso. Her passion to connect with and support the shelters in Juárez, Mexico, is what drives her work with Abara as a shelter connector. Her greatest hope is to educate as many as possible on the crisis at our borders and bring back the human aspect of immigration.

Guillermo Torres

Guillermo Torres has been working for CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice) since 2011, and is currently director of the immigration campaign. He educates congregations about immigration issues, trains clergy and lay leaders around sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation, recruits clergy and congregations to support asylum seekers and to visit immigrants in detention centers. Guilllermo also serves as the coordinator of CLUE’s Black/Brown Clergy Committee. Through his advocacy, he coordinated the interfaith UCARE Coalition for refugee unaccompanied minors and their families from Central America and successfully organized clergy in Long Beach, CA, to help hotel workers win living wages and better working conditions.

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