No one left behind
The people of God are called to love the sojourners in our midst, offer them God’s grace, and see in them the face of Jesus.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.Hebrews 13:2
I believe this more than ever after joining 40 others at a workshop presented by Minnesota Annual Conference’s Church and Society team entitled “Immigrants and Refugees: No One Left Behind” held mid-January.
The Rev. Gary Lueck began by reviewing the more than 300 references to sojourners, exiles, aliens, foreigners, fugitives, strangers, immigrants, etc. throughout the Bible. Lueck said, “It seems as if God is pretty interested in them!”
He then focused on four things:
- The Genesis account of how God created all humans in God’s image, thereby each being worthy of respect and dignity.
- God’s command to Israel to enact justice for orphans and widows in response to receiving their freedom from the Egyptians.
- Human’s subsequent propensity to fear others as opposed to fearing God.
- God’s love for the whole world as expressed in Christ Jesus and God’s desire to leave no one behind.
These themes came to mind as Joyce, a refugee from Liberia, spoke to us about overcoming her fears after being embraced by dedicated, God-fearing Christians in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. She described her life’s journey as having childhood dreams, then having them dashed, and finally being able to relive them again. Likewise, we heard from Anna, an immigrant from Bulgaria. Her experience was different, but the journey of life, oppression, and new life was the same.
Then we learned about a group of people who are making a difference in the lives of people like Joyce and Anna. One of many is Colleen Beebe, an attorney who coordinates a group of lawyers that volunteer their time in Minneapolis to provide free legal advice to the “least, left out and lost,” including the immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers and displaced among us. They inspired all of us in the room and helped us understand the different types of services available to all who are in need.
After moving through a theological framework, a couple of testimonies, and some practical information and advice, we’re ready to act!
Volunteer Lawyers Network, an approved Advance of the Minnesota Annual Conference, can be contacted at vlnmn.org.
The Rev. Lyndy Zabel is the director of missions and community service of the Minnesota Annual Conference.