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.