By Jane Donald, prayer team member
Originally Published December 2016
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Sound familiar? These are the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty welcoming refugees to the United States. The United States has always been a place of safety for people fleeing from oppression and war.
The wave of bombings in Paris has unleashed fear in the hearts of many people, including leaders in our country. As often happens in times of fear, people channel that fear into anger, and often that anger is directed toward a certain thing, or, in this case, a specific group of people who are unknown to us. Fear is a powerful thing and these atrocities strike deep.
In the past, we, as a nation, have made errors in times of fear by excluding specific groups of people. Think about 1941, when we, here in Washington State, rounded up all the Japanese from Bainbridge Island and Seattle and locked them up in internment camps for years. The Japanese lost their homes and property, ironically enough, while many Japanese young men were fighting for the US. We look back at this time with regret, as a time when fear took over and we lost our way.
It is easy to lose our way during times of crisis or when we are fearful. But God has called us to a higher level of life, a life of love toward our neighbor. God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
There are several scriptures which exhort us to welcome the stranger and the alien including both OT and NT:
Leviticus 19:34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Matthew 25: 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
Many people from Syria and Afghanistan are fleeing the horrible atrocities that are occurring in their country. They are sacrificing their homes, country, leaving friends and often relatives to get to safety. The International Organization for Migration estimated that 473,887 people reached Europe by sea in 2015 through mid-September and more are coming. It is clear that Europe cannot handle accepting all these refugees and that many people will be coming to the United States.
We, at Bethany, have a long history of helping settle refugees, first from Laos (back in the 1980’s) and more recently from Burma, Iraq, Iran and Eritrea. This included welcoming refugees in our homes, helping them get acquainted with American culture and taking them to appointments. It also included many enjoyable outings, such as biking, barbeques and taking children swimming in the Lake Washington. One amazing home group even started and maintained the Indochinese Farm project which included helping farmers rent farm land, grow flowers and vegetables and sell them in the Pike Place Market. A Mein (people from Laos) church was started by Cal Uomoto and others. It is located at Japanese Presbyterian and is still going strong today.
Many of those seeking asylum here in the United States will be Muslim. What would it look like if Bethany opened its doors and hearts to these people? What message would they receive if they were welcomed into our community with love, especially after fleeing such atrocities? God is calling us to welcome these people into our midst. Right now, home groups at Bethany are meeting and praying about welcoming refugee families that are coming from war torn areas. Would you prayerfully consider what God may be calling you or your home group to do to help these people?