There are too many people in the world—7 billion—for the resources available, especially since some of us live with little regard for others. There are too many places where war threatens and displaces people, and hence migration of unprecedented proportion is occurring. The images of people fleeing Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan (the most prominent exporters of refugees), as well as the Rakhine State in Myanmar, sear our consciences. What desperate families go through is unimaginable, and we often turn our gaze.
European and Scandinavian countries (Christian in heritage) have offered asylum, and they are finding ways to house and assist the strangers in their midst. I applaud their humanitarian perspective and willingness to put their national resources at the disposal of concrete relief. It is complicated, and it will only grow more so.
Approximately 10.5 million persons are refugees world-wide, and the 2015 US cap is 70,000. This seems to be too few given our land mass, resources, and social service opportunities—in addition to government agencies. And then there are the churches.
It would be a wonderful Christian witness if each church would sponsor a family. It is an achievable and transformative action. Welcoming the stranger is at the very heart of the Gospel. We have all we need to be the hands and feet of Jesus in such a project. How helpful it would be to listen to the stories of those who have left home in search of a future story.
Presently there is a political candidate who spouts venom about deportation and his intent to build high “keep them out” walls. This nativist rhetoric is compelling for some who refuse to acknowledge the trauma convulsing our world. It is a shameful response to the real exigencies of so many.
The lesson from the Hebrew Bible for next Sunday recounts the departure of Naomi and Ruth. They are refugees and make their way from famine to more hospitable environs. Actually, it was famine that drove Naomi’s family away from their homeland in the first place.
Ruth and Naomi understand that their future is more secure if they journey together, and they creatively hatch a plan that will sustain their livelihood—and participate in the lineage of the Davidic dynasty--and beyond. It is a narrative of promise, and it displays the resources available in communities when trust and receptivity are present.
Central is engaged with many who have made their way from Myanmar to the US. Karen, Chin, Kachin, and other tribal groups are moving into US communities, linking arms with Baptist churches, and establishing their identity in an adopted land. (I am always astonished that Karen can move from steamy Myanmar to frosty St. Paul, MN!)
It is time for congregations to act with welcoming compassion. We can make a difference and offer families a new horizon of promise.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares ministers to craft the future with God.