Mission to the Needy
One of the greatest joys for many refugees and immigrants is becoming a citizen of the United States. Over 700,000 new citizens celebrate that milestone every year. They often come to North America to escape war, political oppression or religious persecution. Their goal of U.S. citizenship is a daunting, but worthwhile, task. Groups such as the International Rescue Committee offer legal services and citizenship assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.
The process takes several years, and generally involves six stages. Applicants must meet basic eligibility requirements: exhibit a good moral character, have a command of English, and understand U.S. history, government, and the Constitution. They must pass background checks and an extensive interview process. After passing comprehensive civics and English exams, the last step is to take the oath of allegiance to the United States of America.
Then comes the celebration! Mulu Bahre, from Eritrea, recalls that great day in his life. “It was a big change for me, it was also a big commitment,” he said. “The day I went to be sworn in, that was full of joy for me. I was really excited and knew that there were more opportunities ahead. It made me feel like I belong here.”
That sense of belonging, especially when seeking asylum in a foreign land, is as timeless as human history.
As Christians, our ancestors often sought asylum as refugees. Abram found refuge in Egypt during an extreme famine in Canaan. Jacob found a safe haven in Paddan Aram when he fled Esau’s wrath. Another famine sent Jacob and his 12 sons to Egypt. In one of the most unlikely scenarios, David found protection from King Saul in Gath! And, of course, our European forefathers came to the New World seeking religious freedom.
As a people whose heritage is rich in such history, we should also recognize how important it is to extend a helping hand. Deuteronomy 10:18-19 instructs us regarding how to relate to the needs of immigrants and refugees—God loves aliens, and we are to care for them since this is our own spiritual heritage.
Jesus knows the plight of refugees intimately. God the Son came from heaven to earth and immediately fled to Egypt with Joseph and Mary to escape Herod’s rage.
We will experience the ultimate joy of finding refuge when we escape this dismal world for the freedom of heaven when Jesus takes us home. In the meantime, we can help others find a taste of that joy today when we work to meet the needs of aliens and the disenfranchised in our own midst.
Connecting: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have to leave your home, due to war or famine, and take up residence in another country? If you could only take a small suitcase or backpack of your personal items, what would you prioritize?
Sharing: How well do you think you would do taking the U.S. history and civics tests that we require of citizenship applicants?
- I loved my history and social studies classes, so no problem
- I don’t need to, since these tests are only given to weed out the less committed applicants
- I may not know much about the Constitution, but I can recite all of Taylor Swift’s lyrics
- Is it really important to know that stuff?
- Give me a week to cram and I’ll ace those exams
Applying: Do you have refugee groups in your community? Review the information on ideas for refugee ministry (https://shorturl.at/gnvL1) and determine if your congregation or study group can assist in this ministry.
Valuing: Honestly evaluate your own attitude toward immigrants and refugees. What has most greatly informed your position—news stories and political discourse, or biblical principles?
~ Chuck Burkeen