Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Spiritual Pilgrimage

I am horrible at fasting. Just ask my husband what I'm like after missing even just one meal. It's not pretty.

But I do love Jesus and I've got to tell you, I have been DESPERATE for more of Him lately.

I have been in this fight for Immigration reform for a few years now, and boy is it a roller coaster ride. One day there is all this excitement and hope because a Republican Congressman came out in support of reform, and the next it seems completely hopeless because another Congressman says Immigration Reform is dead. Things have really amped up in the last year and specifically the last couple of months. There was excitement as over 600 conservatives, including many Evangelical leaders, gathered in DC late October calling on Congress to pass reform by the end of the year. Yet here we are, December 4th with only a handful of days left in the year and we've got nothing. I have felt so discouraged and hopeless over the last couple of weeks. I have lamented to God about this and you know what He told me...pretty much as clear as day?

"Bethany, why are you putting your hope in man?" 

"What God, No I'm not!! I pray all the time for Reform."

"But Bethany, if you are hopeless because man is not moving, then will you only be hopeful if they are moving? Put your hope in Me."

Shoot. He's totally right.

It's so easy to say my hope is in Jesus but it's a whole other thing to actually put your hope in Him. Like fully and completely in Him. I want to though, so so badly. Like I said, I am desperate for HIM. I am confident that my passion for this cause is motivated by my passion for God, but it is so easy to get swept away in the fight and lose sight of why we are fighting in the first place. It's not about meeting with important people, planning events, or influencing legislation. I need to return to what this is all about: chasing after God's heart.

While I've been wallowing over here a group of people began fasting on November 12th on the National Mall. You can read more about that here. As I've followed the story, something really stirred in my heart. I felt something in me say, "Go. Join them." That voice kept getting louder and louder and finally, I decided to listen. It doesn't make any sense, I know I can fast anywhere, I know God is everywhere and I have a one year old, for goodness sake!

But when God says "Go," you go.

This is my Spiritual Pilgrimage. I am going with an expecting heart and if I am honest, a nervous one too. Like I said, I stink at fasting. I get cranky, forget to pray, and usually give up. This time though, I know I will have to stick it out because I will be sitting with people who have been fasting for days and will continue to do so long after I leave. I know I will stick it out because God is good and He will sustain me. I truly believe that.

I am fasting for families, for immigration reform and most importantly, to set aside a space and time to align my heart with God's. I am fasting because my hope is in God, and God alone.  Just as He will sustain me and the other fasters, He will sustain my friends and neighbors. He will deliver them. He will bring freedom. It's not a matter of if, but when. Even if man does not move, He will move.

Will you join me in this? Click here and see how you can!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Made in His Own Image: Guest Post

Please enjoy this guest post by a dear friend, Sarah Salcido 

After I returned home from a vision trip two summers ago, I started praying for an opportunity to get involved in our community with people who are marginalized in our society. I then became aware of Our Children Project, which is a ministry that involves spending time with children who live in a group home due to some type of immigration detention. What was unique about this ministry was that the volunteers would also meet together to go through a devotional guide on topics related to foreigners that are described in the Bible. Each volunteer came from diverse backgrounds that enabled us to wrestle through different cultural and political engrained views of immigrants, and helped us return to how God sees all people: made in His own image (Genesis 1:27). During these group discussions it become apparent to us that no matter what the situation, these vulnerable children at the group home are definitely loved and cared for deeply by our Heavenly Father because He created them.

I felt privileged to get to know the stories of the girls that lived at the group home and learned more about issues related to immigration. There was one time a young girl opened up to me about being devastated because she was going to be sent back to her native country even though all her immediate family are living here in the United States. I simply sat and listened to her pain. My heart broke for her and I felt like just listening to her story was not enough even though in that moment that was all I had to give.

Now that over a year has passed since I volunteered with Our Children Project I have seen how the Lord was doing a work in my heart as I sat in the pain of the young girl at the group home. Engaging in the pain and struggles that are often faced by immigrants has helped me to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading with other opportunities to engage with those that are different or unseen in our society. If it is simply inviting an outcasted co-worker to lunch, approaching and praying for a homeless person, or entering in the pain of a struggling immigrant; there are many ways to show Christ’s love to others. In the way that the Lord is relentless in His pursuit of us, we as Christ followers can be the hands and feet of Jesus by pursing meaningful relationships with others who may feel unseen.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Image Series at Newsong NOC

I recently had the privileged of teaching at my church, Newsong NOC during our "Image" series. I am so thankful and blessed to be a part of a church community willing to engage in difficult issues, like Immigration and willing to do so from such a biblical place. Throughout the 4 week series, we looked in depth at God's heart for the Immigrant, the value He gives each human being made in His Image, and who He is calling His Church to be. For your listening pleasure, you can find each of the following sermons here.

Week 1 - Peter Park

Week 2 - Tommy Nixon

Week 3 - Bethany Anderson (ME!)

Week 4 - Benjie Kim

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hope on a Tuesday

It was a Tuesday night and I planned on meeting with a small group of neighbors who I thought might qualify for the new Deferred Action Immigration Policy.  I had talked to maybe 20 people and expected about that many to show up. I set up a few chairs in the living room of our Solid House and waited for our new lawyer friend, who graciously agreed to help our neighbors file, to arrive. You see, normally how these community meetings go is maybe about 50-75% of the people we expect to show up actually do, and usually they are 15-30 minutes late. It's the way of the neighborhood and something I have come to embrace.

But this Tuesday was different. It wasn't even 7:00pm yet, the scheduled start time of our meeting, and the little living room was packed. People were overflowing into the patio and we definitely did not have enough chairs for everyone. It was hot and muggy, but the energy was high. We decided to move our meeting to the church down the street so everyone would fit. All SEVENTY people walked through the neighborhood to the church. It looked like a parade! When the lawyer arrived, he went right into introducing himself and sharing about the basics of the new policy. There were arms flying up left and right with questions about themselves or "their friends." I couldn't quite put my finger on it at the time, but something was special about this night. A group of people who daily feel the weight of their societal labels, like "illegal" and "criminal", were eager, anxious, and excited. There was fear in the room, but as the night came to an end, it hit me: for the first time, a room of undocumented immigrants from our neighborhood were gathered together and the normal overwhelming feelings of struggle and fear were strongly overshadowed by hope.

Hope is powerful thing. Hope gives you confidence, drive, and determination. As I scheduled individual appointments for each potential applicant that night, I heard countless people talk about how they were going back to get their GED now, re-enroll in college, or apply for a job in the field they love, have a degree in, but could never pursue without a work permit. Hope was in the air and it was a beautiful thing to be apart of. 

As the night came to an end and as I locked up the church, feeling physically tired but emotionally rejuvenated, a mom and her 13 year old daughter came up to me. They had just heard about the meeting and were wondering if I could help the daughter apply. I explained that she was too young right now, but as long as the policy was still in place when she turned 15, I would definitely help her. I gave her the basics of deferred action and her face literally lit up as I explained the potential for a work permit and driver's licence...things this girl didn't dare dream about. Her mom looked at her daughter as she put her arm around her. She didn't have to say it but I knew what she was thinking.

This is why she made the difficult decision to come and dangerous journey here...for hope. 

And this is why I got involved in this work to begin see that look of hope on the faces of my friends and neighbors.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I recently heard my friend David's migration story and to be honest, it made me uncomfortable.

David's family came here from Peru, because they felt called. Legitimately and genuinely called. David's father is a pastor and heard about a church here in Southern California in need, and decided to answer the call by moving his entire family thousands of miles away from home. They were not able to get the proper visas to come legally, but felt strongly that if the Lord was calling them, they must go. 

As I listened to his story and wrestled with my feelings of discomfort, I pretty quickly felt convicted as I began to realize what it was that offended me. 

My initial thought was, "We don't need missionaries. We are the missionaries." I was offended that this family thought God would call them here, as if our country needed them. We are the ones who send missionaries all across the world, often times fudging the truth on our visa applications, claiming to be tourists or coming to do business, and therefor, entering under false pretenses and committing a federal crime. I know I've done it before. But it's ok when we do it, because we are the bearers of truth...of hope...of Christ. God couldn't possibly be calling this family to do something illegal for his Kingdom too, right? 

I admit, friends, I am broken. I am a work in process and have been struggling with my identity as a white, Christian, American and the power and privileged that comes along with that for some time now. It's easy to get sucked into the world's, and sometimes even the church's, perspective of who I am.  "I am the one with the answers. I am the missionary. I am the Savior." As I repented of these feelings and tendencies to see myself as greater than I am, I felt God assure me of my true identity. I am beloved and valuable in His Kingdom, just like David's family who risked it all to minister to my country. 

I invite you into an embarrassing and vulnerable part of my journey, because something tells me I am not the only one who feels this way. I am not the only one who felt offended by David's story. I am not the only one who struggles with a narrow view of the world and God. I have to be willing to accept the fact that if God can call me to do something "illegal" for His Kingdom, then He can most certainly call a family from South America to do the same. We are, after all, given the same value, worth, and purpose through the cross. 

Not to mention that our country probably needs more missionaries than we are comfortable to admit.