Several months ago someone at our church shared the book “Faith the Cow” for the children’s message during a worship service. “Faith the Cow” tells the story of Dan West and the beginnings of what eventually be-came known as the Heifer Project. Dan West came up with the idea while serving as a relief work in Spain in the wake of WWII. Dan saw the refugees that were created out of that war and was moved to address not only their immediate needs, but also their need for long term stability and security. Heifer Project is a direct response to a refugee crisis that happened over 70 years ago.
In the last several months a group that I am a part of called “People of Faith for Peace” has been talking about finding a way to show our support for and welcome to refugees that may be coming to Wichita who have been displaced by the fighting in Syria. Through our conversations and some research we have learned that there are two organizations who have been in Wichita for a very long time who have already been doing the work of refugee resettlement. These groups are called the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM). What was interesting in our conversations with these two organizations is that while they are both thankful for our support, they have also both expressed some amount of caution because they had already received resistance from our community to resettling Syrian refugees.
And then the attacks in Paris happened.
As I write this article it is less than a week after the attacks in Paris. I have been watching the world react to and grieve these particular terrorist attacks. What I have found somewhat troubling is that many people in our country have not only begun to respond to these attacks with grief, but also with fear. And for a surprising number of people this fear has driven them to become more closed off, particularly to the idea of welcoming Syrian refugees into our country and our community. As I write it has even gone so far that over half of the governors of U.S. states have said that they would not accept any Syrian refugees into their state.
I see our country quickly becoming consumed by fear and anxiety, and it troubles me. Particularly as Christians, we should not be ruled by fear. Instead we should operate by a higher rule; which is the rule of Love.
Particularly, in relation to welcoming those who are foreigners in need, there are clear and important Biblical commands that show us the right path forward. Deuteronomy 10:19 says, “And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” In Matthew 25:35 Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you
As we turn our attention to the Christmas season and the birth of Jesus, we would even do well to remember that the birth story of Jesus has something to teach us about welcoming refugees. Mary and Joseph were, after all, two people who were forced to travel a long distance, who were in great need as she was about to give birth, and who were ultimately denied a welcome in the inn. After which, they fled to Egypt as refugees trying to escape the persecution of King Herod.
I know enough about our church and our denomination to have hope and faith that we will be able to respond both in Wichita and as a denomination. We have responded to many crises before with truly amazing acts of generosity and com-passion and I have no question that we will do it again. My question at this moment in time is simply; who will it be? Who is the person in our generation to step up, and what will our response look like?
Each month for our newsletter Pastor Alan writes a short article on a variety of topics. At times he will also create a video version of the article.