Posted on Nov 29, 2018 by Emily Nelson Dixon
My family had such an incredible Thanksgiving break with LOTS of tree decorating, eating, playing games, snuggling, watching Christmas movies, snowball fighting, cooking, baking, eating more — It was awesome!
This week’s scripture is all about watching for signs — signs of Jesus on Earth. When I think of Jesus, I think of love. I saw so many examples of love on Earth this weekend. I saw people who hadn’t seen each other in a while hug with glee, I saw people brave their way to church in the middle of a blizzard, I saw friends make care packages for people experiencing homelessness, I saw our church bust our short-term goal of $2,000 for Pantry Pack (our weekly food pantry) out of the water!!! I read this incredible article about a congregation’s love for man and his family. I watched my 4-year-old’s face light up with delight as she felt her brother kick for the first time. I look around this time of year and see countless signs of love.
But an image I cannot get out of mind is that of the pictures of children and families fleeing from tear gas at the southern border of the United States. Tear gas. Tear gas was thrown at families seeking asylum. We did this — America, home of the brave. What has happened? Have I been so naive that I have missed this coming? Were there signs I ignored that led us to this place where we gas first and never ask questions of those seeking our help? When did we start meeting those fleeing violence with violence? When did we start justifying locking children in cages, and gassing them with cold shouts of “legal is legal”, and “don’t break the law, and you won’t have a problem”?? Where does this leave the church?
I can think of several examples of what Jesus says about how we respond to those who are not from our ’hood: Exodus 23:9, Exodus 22:21, Galatians 3:28, Deuteronomy 10:19, Psalm 146:9, and, of course, Matthew 25:35. There are so many more — check them out! :)
So what do we do? It’s hard for me to not feel overwhelmed by the sheer gravity of this situation, and my perception that I can’t possibly do anything to help.
But there are things I can do:
1. I can remind myself and others that we are talking about humans. Humans looking to survive. Just as I would do ANYTHING to keep my children safe, these are humans who were not born into the blessed situation that I was born into. They want their families to survive, rest easy away from violence, and play silly games while they decorate Christmas trees. I don’t deserve that more than they do because of where I was born. I will be sure not to refer to them as the caravan or illegal anything. I will call them asylum seekers and families. I will always remember they are human beings who have worth.
2. I can educate myself with as many sources as possible. I have the tendency to surround myself with people who think and act in what I like to call the “correct way”, meaning: just like me. That’s one way I miss the signs of the cruelty that Americans are beginning to accept as status quo. I know there is a problem at our border. But I also know that caging and gassing children should not be on the list of ways those problems are best solved.
3. I can donate to programs that are trying to help the group of asylum seekers before they get to the border. And others that are trying to help families legally migrate to America. These people will not only have better lives when they are safely here, but they will help make us better! “The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources — because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples.” (Lyndon B. Johnson) That’s who we are, America; we are a mixing pot of people looking for better lives for our families — let’s not forget.
4. I can volunteer for local programs that are helping people in our own community.
5. I can get to know people who aren’t like me — those who don’t come from where I come from, those who speak, appear, approach life, and worship in other ways. I can learn their stories and expand my understanding of the world.
6. I can call people of influence in my local government and ask what they are doing to move conversations about how we care for humans in this country.
7. I will continue to looks for signs of love. I will not let these deplorable actions by my country that I love lead me to be so discouraged that I miss this signs of Jesus. There is hope. There is love. No amount of darkness can drive out the smallest of light.
8. And, yes, of course, I will pray. I will pray for these tired, hurt, desperate families. I will pray for the people trying to help these humans survive. I will pray for our leaders. I will pray for people who are offended by my words. Thoughts and prayers are an important part of my to-do list, but they aren’t where I will stop.
I should get going, I have a lot to do. Let me know if you’d like to meet for coffee to share thoughts about any of this — I would love to!
Emily Nelson Dixon
Director of Teen Ministries and Outreach