Ted Oswald, World Relief Sacramento's Immigration Legal Services staff attorney, and Kevin Woehr, DOJ Accredited Representative with World Relief DuPage/Aurora, recently returned from Tijuana, Mexico as part of a team comprised of World Relief staff from across the U.S. advising asylum seekers at the border. Lea este artículo en Español, Aquí.
Ted Oswald, un abogado de la oficina de Servicios Legales de Immigracion en World Relief Sacramento, recientemente regreso de Tijuana, Mexico como parte de un equipo compuesto de personal de World Relief de todos los EE. UU. asesorando a los solicitantes de asilo en la frontera.
My pre-school-aged daughter made a compelling observation as she played with our nativity set a few years ago, rehearsing the Christmas story as it appears in her children’s storybook Bible. “Dad,” she observed, her eyes fixed on the collection of wooden shepherds, animals, “wise men,” and the holy family of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus, “We’re missing a figurine. We don’t have the ‘mean king.’”
This Wednesday is World Refugee Day. For many, if not most of us, it will pass by largely unnoticed, especially in the midst of such turbulent times. We are in the middle of a global refugee crisis of unparalleled scale, yet often, it seems we have become accustomed to the pictures and stories of suffering and immune to the pain. Perhaps this is understandable.
Earlier today, the Washington Post published World Relief’s full-page letter to President Trump and Congress, signed by evangelical leaders from all 50 states, urging action to help vulnerable immigrants.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security jointly released a new report focused on “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”
As we reflect on 2017, it’s impossible to deny that the past year brought a lot of pain, destruction, tension and misunderstanding to people in all corners of the world.
While it’s important to acknowledge the hardships faced in the last year, we find it even more crucial to focus on stories of hope, kindness, mercy and selflessness.
To celebrate the good we saw in each other, and in you, the World Relief community, here are 17 moments in 2017 we witnessed Love in Action.
Nine year-old boy pays for Irma evacuee’s lunch
Landon Routzong of Alabama, with the help of his mother, paid for the lunch of a man who had evacuated his Miami home and was traveling to stay with family. "I didn’t want them to waste their money on food because they’re trying to escape the hurricane," Landon said.
Walmart Cashier Helps Nervous Elderly Man Count Change
Spring Herbison Bowlin observed a Walmart cashier patiently help an elderly customer as he nervously struggled to count change to pay for his items. “This is not a problem, honey. We will do this together,” she told the man. The post was shared over 40,000 times on Facebook.
Over 500 evangelical leaders join World Relief in support of resettling refugees in the U.S.
A full-page ad published in the Washington Post signed by 500 evangelical pastors and 100 evangelical leaders expressed concern over the president’s executive order temporarily banning refugees. A wide range of leaders across many denominations, regions of the country and theological philosophies signed the letter in a strong support refugees, some of the most vulnerable people of our world.
Over 200,000 donors give $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief
On August 26th, J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans announced a goal of raising $200,000 for his Houston Flood Relief Fund. As word spread, the donations soared past his original goal and reached an astonishing $37,132,057 from 209,431 donors. “When times are the toughest, humanity stands at its strongest and you have all helped to prove that emphatically," Watt said.
Washington Post publishes open letter of repentance written by World Relief President Scott Arbeiter
In response to the act of hatred and terrorism which took place in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, World Relief President Scott Arbeiter penned a reflective open letter, grieving the affront of racism and committing to advocacy for just laws and rejection of unjust systems that perpetuate poverty, exclusion and bigotry.
Terminally ill woman writes dating ad for her husband in New York Times
Amy Krouse Rosenthal only had weeks to live, but she wanted the world to know how amazing her husband was in hopes that he could find love again. On Valentine’s Day, she wrote “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” Amy passed away five days after the piece was published.
Tens of thousands of you stand publicly with Dreamers
In response to the president’s decision to rescind the DACA program, over 20,000 of you shared our Facebook post in support of the Dreamers who would be affected. We thank you for standing with our immigrant brothers and sisters!
Supermarket employee has ‘dinner date’ with elderly man who has no friends or family
Ellie Walker, 22, invited widower Edwin Holmes, 86, to dinner after she heard he spends most days alone. “He said it was his first ‘date’ in 55 years and he was as nervous as a schoolboy. It made me cry because I could see how much it meant to him. For me it’s the most important part of my job to speak with customers and see how their day is going,” Walker said. Holmes showed up in his best suit and the two meet for coffee regularly.
Thousands of you advocate for refugees by calling your representatives
In response to the administration’s decision to limit admission of refugees into the U.S., you—thousands of World Relief supporters and others around the country—made your voices heard to stand with the most vulnerable and marginalized. Bestselling author Ann Voskamp and others joined the effort.
Foster father chooses to only take in terminally ill children
Mohamed Bzeek cares for his six year-old foster daughter knowing her time with him will be short. "The key is, you have to love them like your own," Bzeek said. "I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God."
NBA owner allows player to borrow team plane to fly relief supplies to Puerto Rico
Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, allowed Mavericks guard and Puerto Rico native J.J. Barea access to the team plane in order to fly supplies to those in need in the wake of Hurricane Maria. “I was really proud of J.J. and how quickly he got involved and how hard he worked to make all of this happen,” Cuban said.
Strangers on subway throw ceremony for student who misses graduation
When Jerich Marco Alcantara’s train broke down and caused him to miss his graduation ceremony, passengers on the New York subway decided to celebrate him by throwing a mock ceremony in his honor.
Your donations aid those affected by the African food crisis
In response to the devastating food shortages across multiple countries in Africa, inviduals and churches from all across the U.S. have sprung into action, donating to provide food and water for those in desperate need of it. Your support also allows us to continue developing long term solutions to combat the factors that have led to the crisis. Thank you!
Heroic man protects others during Las Vegas shooting, survives bullet to the neck
Jonathan Smith risked his life to save others as bullets flew through the air during the October shooting in Las Vegas. A bullet caught him in the neck and doctors have decided to leave the bullet in his body fearing that removal may lead to more damage. Some estimate that Smith saved up to 30 people during the shooting.
Four year-old girl donates piggy bank money to police officer with cancer
A Colorado police officer battling Leukemia received a surprise donation from an unlikely source. Sidney Fahrenbruch, a local 4 year old girl who frequently visits police officers, decided it was “the nice thing to do” to give the money in her piggy bank to Officer Kyle Zulauf to help pay for surgery. Sidney’s proud mother, Megan Fahrenbruch, said “She wanted to save the money for a toy but decided someone needed it more than her.”
22 year old rapper and 81 year old woman form unlikely friendship
Spencer Sleyon of East Harlem, New York and Rosalind Guttman of Palm Beach, Florida struck up an unlikely friendship after chatting with each other through the Words With Friends app. Sleyon said “A lot of people I saw online said, ‘I needed a story like this, especially with the race relations in this country right now.’”
Millions celebrate International Women’s Day by sharing our short film, Proverbs 31
Last March, World Relief debuted the Proverbs 31 short film on Facebook to celebrate and honor International Women’s Day. Viewers shared the film over 25,000 times and its message of strength, grace, grit and love of women has been viewed 1.6 million times.
For the past month, we've been featuring stories of individuals and communities putting Love in Action—bringing hope to the hurting and shining light in the darkest hours.
Learn more and put your Love in Action today.
"You have to keep holding on to HOPE to keep holding on.
You having to keep finding your HOPE when you’ve lost it, or you lose your way.
You have to breathe HOPE to keep your lungs and your dreams from collapsing.
You have to let HOPE always carry you or fears will carry you away.
And these days? The world needs less fear mongers and more HOPE Mongers.
Fear says our only choices are either fight, flight, or freeze, but HOPE says we always have the choice of optimism, options, and optimizing all things for good.
HOPE mongers knows there will always be obstacles in the way, but there is always still a way.
HOPE mongers believe The Way forward is always greater than any obstacles in the way.
HOPE mongers know there is always a way to get from here to there."
Love in 2017
As I read these words by Ann Voskamp over the weekend, I couldn’t help but think about the unprecedented year we’ve had at World Relief, and the love, hope and tenacity of our staff. I reflected on what we had been through together as an organization—as colleagues and as friends, often in the midst of hardship and uncertainty. I reflected on this love that has endured all things. And I was reminded of the deep pride and gratitude I have for our staff and volunteers around the world.
Love that "endures all things" is love that hopes in the face of circumstances that often seem dark. In the last year in particular we have faced a world which in many ways seems to have lost its bearings, but we have placed our faith in the Lord and we continue the work in the face of adversity, overwhelming challenges, and even hatred and physical danger.
A Defiant ‘Nevertheless’
We do this following the example of the Apostle Paul. When Paul writes his letter to the church at Philippi encouraging them to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4), he is writing from a dark cold prison cell, where painful chains, cramped quarters and the sickening stench from poor sanitation made sleeping impossible and waking hours miserable. And yet his focus is not this misery but his joy in seeing the gospel flourish. In fact, the words “joy” or “rejoice” are used 16 times in Philippians as Paul calls us, his brothers and sisters, to serve selflessly.
Of course the very same Person who inspired Paul to write those words and to overflow with love and joy in the midst of hell on earth is the risen Jesus. And if you believe in Him and are one of His own, He is with you to give you the very same supernatural, invincible, unconquerable and undefeatable joy and strength that Paul had.
Few of us will likely be called to such sacrifice. Nevertheless, this year across the globe our staff have endured imprisonment, been separated from their families and confronted famine, disease and suffering on a scale we have not seen in many years. At times they have even risked their own lives to serve the most vulnerable. Here in the U.S. in the wake of cutbacks in refugee resettlement, our staff have seen their friends laid off due to office closures, received hate mail and endured threats to their families and homes. As an organization, we have been the target of a constant barrage of vitriol from those who believe that security and compassion cannot co-exist, and that our security is more important than loving our neighbor or welcoming the stranger.
And yet, we endure all things, in love. And we claim joy as our “defiant nevertheless.”
We live in hope. We live on the shoulders of the saints. We live confident in Jesus's victory over the world as we know it. And so we hope, and we endure.
We choose to be “hope mongers” and people who "let our footsteps be our preaching." We choose optimism and the belief that there is always a way. We choose the path forward, the path of enduring love. Because to us, there is no other path worth choosing.
Whether in the midst of conflict in places like Yemen, South Sudan or Congo where our staff encounter genuine threats to life and limb, or in drought-stricken regions like Turkana, Kenya, where staff spend months at a time separated from families and loved ones to bring hope to communities in crisis, or even here in the U.S., where staff selflessly give of themselves in an environment that—after years of bipartisan consensus on our obligations to refugees—has in many places turned hostile to our ministry of helping foreign born vulnerable people, we choose enduring love.
Our staff chose to be defiant in the face of adversity and to be bold in faith. To, in spite of their circumstances, choose His joy. They dare to believe in our God, saying, as Swiss Theologian Karl Barth wrote in 1934:
“I will NOT let this beat me. I will make the choice to praise Him all day, every day. Yes, Jesus has allowed this into my life but I will trust Him. What the enemy means for evil, He intends for good. I will not deny that I am in a rough season. I will face it head on in the strength and power of His Name. For as long as I need to walk this difficult path, my spirit will be marked with a blazing NEVERTHELESS for all of earth and heaven to see. Jesus has never known defeat and I will not either as long as I am clinging to Him. He always leads me in triumph!”
All over the world our staff and volunteers choose to get up each day, to come alongside the most vulnerable, to touch people with compassion, to love, and yes, to hope as they serve them, resisting the currents of our time, believing in the goodness of our God and Jesus' call to "love our neighbor as ourselves," choosing the narrow path, choosing hardship in the face of skepticism, hostility and even danger.
And so I want to say thank you. Thank you for your choice. Thank you for your brave and defiant nevertheless. Thank you for your enduring love. The world is a better place because of it.
Tim Breene served on the World Relief Board from 2010 to 2015 before assuming the role of CEO in 2016. Tim’s business career has spanned nearly 40 years with organizations like McKinsey, and Accenture where he was the Corporate Development Officer and Founder and Chief Executive of Accenture Interactive. Tim is the co-author of Jumping the S-Curve, published by Harvard Publishing. Tim and his wife Michele, a longtime supporter of World Relief, have a wealth of experience working with Christian leaders in the United States and around the world.
2017 has been a difficult year. Mindful of this, we choose today to celebrate the undeniable ways in which we have witnessed kindness, patience and resistance to hate. That is Love in Action.
As you watch the film, we hope you'll be encouraged and inspired by the ways in which you and others have put love in action this year.
We also hope that you'll consider ways you can put Love in Action as 2017 comes to a close and we begin a new year.
This holiday season, bring your love to life. Take what you have and use it to transform lives. Give to those who have little, serve those in need—love in action.
"Immigration is not a political issue. It is a human issue. A biblical issue," says Liz Dong.
Liz is a Chinese American, and DACA recipient. Here she explains how a small clerical error thew her life into chaos, and how as a suddenly undocumented immigrant, she experienced God's profound love through the church as His people welcomed her in.
Reports from multiple news sources have confirmed that the Trump administration is poised to set 2018 refugee admissions levels at 45,000—the lowest in the nation’s history. Here’s what the administration has said in its report to Congress to justify these historically low numbers, at a historically high time of need, and the facts you should know:
There is no way to securely vet all refugees who come to the U.S.
FACT: The integrity of security procedures in the U.S. resettlement program is evidenced by the fact that, while over 3 million refugees have been admitted to the U.S. since 1980, not a single refugee has committed a lethal terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Refugees are a security risk as demonstrated by the fact that the FBI is investigating 300 refugees for connections to terrorism.
FACT: 300 refugees is an immensely small fraction of resettled refugees in the U.S. and is not representative of the population writ large. According to CATO, 300 refugees represents less than 0.009 percent of all refugees admitted to the U.S. since 1975. It is a far cry from a statistically significant portion of the refugee population and should not have any bearing on our understanding of the resettled refugee population. Even if those 300 refugees were resettled to the U.S. in a single year, they would represent less than 1% of the total number of refugees accepted on average per year since 1980. 
Refugees are not terror threats; they are fleeing terror. Refugees are civilians who have fled their country due to fear of persecution or violence. By definition, refugees have not engaged in violence, persecution of others, or serious criminality. Persons believed to have engaged in war crimes, crimes against humanity or serious non-political crimes are disqualified from refugee status.
It is more cost-effective to help refugees in the region, in their first countries of asylum*.
FACT: Refugee resettlement in the U.S. is a solution with one-time, up-front costs that ultimately result in net fiscal gain to the U.S. as refugees become taxpayers.  Resettlement requires a short-term investment, but allows refugees to become full-fledged members of our society and economy, providing the refugee with a path to self-sufficiency and benefiting the American economy.
In 2016, over 72 percent of refugees resettled to the U.S. were women and children.  Many are single mothers, survivors of torture, or in need of urgent medical treatment. Women and girls are subject to heinous forms of persecution in wartime (such as gang rape) and suffer severe trauma that cannot be addressed in camps or difficult urban environments. Survivors of rape are often ostracized in their host countries, making them priorities for resettlement. For these women, resettlement is the only solution. No amount of aid in their host country could guarantee their safety and psychosocial recovery.
12 refugees can be helped in the region for every one refugee resettled to the U.S.
FACT: The comparison of one-time costs associated with resettlement with the long-term costs of assisting refugees for many years on end is not a reasonable one.
Refugees spend an average of 10 years displaced outside their countries of origin. For those refugees displaced for more than five years, the average soars to an astonishing 21 years. Refugees in these protracted situations require assistance over many, many years.
In stark contrast to the 21 years that some refugees spend in host countries dependent on temporary assistance, over the same period, resettled refugees rebuild their lives and contribute $21,000 more to the American economy than they receive in benefits.
The aim of U.S. refugee policy is for refugees to return home.
FACT: Of the world’s 22.5 million refugees, less than 1% have access to resettlement. In 2018, 1.2 million face extreme vulnerabilities or family reunification needs for which they are in need of resettlement. Yet fewer than 200,000 resettlement slots are available annually.
Refugee resettlement of a few is necessary for the successful local integration or return of the majority of refugees. Refugee resettlement relieves pressures on host communities and contributes to overall regional stability—contributing to the conditions necessary for the majority of the refugees that remain in the region to either integrate locally in their host countries or return home when it is safe to do so.
Conversely, retreating from resettlement commitments can have dramatic consequences for the eventual safe return of refugees—prolonging and sometimes even reigniting conflict.
Today, this risk exists in the premature return of Syrian, Afghan, and Somali refugees, which could further destabilize fragile and conflict-ridden countries. Over 600,000 Afghan refugees were induced to return from Pakistan in 2016—a six-fold increase from 2015—as Afghanistan struggles with growing insecurity, instability and gains by terrorist organizations. Such premature returns come at a time when growing instability in Afghanistan has required an increase in U.S. troop levels to reverse gains by terrorist organizations.
The number of refugees resettled is of no consequence to American interests abroad.
FACT: Refugee resettlement is not just a humanitarian program and a moral choice, it is a strategic imperative that promotes regional stability and global security in some of the most challenging parts of the world. Refugee resettlement is a critical foreign policy and national security tool—alleviating pressures on critical allies, helping ensure the international community maintains its humanitarian obligations, encouraging responsibility sharing, maintaining cooperation with allies for U.S. diplomatic and intelligence operations, and sending the message to terrorist groups that the U.S. welcomes those who reject terrorist ideologies.
Maintaining resettlement commitments is critical to the effectiveness of military, diplomatic and intelligence operations abroad and the safety of U.S. troops. Tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan nationals have put their lives on the line to support intelligence gathering, operations planning and other essential services, especially translation. These individuals and their families are often targeted by terrorist groups as a direct result of their cooperation with Americans. Resettlement is instrumental in ensuring their safety—a testament to the U.S. military’s commitment to leave no one behind.
Refugee resettlement signals support for those who seek liberty and reject ideologies antithetical to American values. Just as the U.S. offered refuge to those fleeing communist regimes during the Cold War, so too must the U.S. open its arms to those standing against terrorist ideologies, many of whom refused to join or be conscripted into terrorist groups, militias and state security forces persecuting fellow citizens.
The last thing that terrorist organizations like ISIS want is for the U.S. to be a beacon of hope, acceptance and inclusion for Muslims.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cannot safely vet more than 45K given that improved security vetting being put in place during the 120-day ban is more resource-intensive.
FACT: Even in the face of the worst terrorist attack on our nation’s soil on Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush set an admissions ceiling of 70,000 refugees and continued to do so in the years that followed. Doing so signaled that the U.S. would remain a humanitarian leader and demonstrated that the administration understood the critical role resettlement plays in supporting our allies.
The global context was also different under President Bush. The global refugee population was nearly half of what it is today (12 million in 2001 vs. 22.5 million in 2016).
Refugees are too costly; they are a drain on local economies and take jobs away from Americans.
FACT: All evidence points to the fact that refugees benefit local economies and fill empty jobs in the workforce.
A July 2017 report by the Department of Health and Human Services, commissioned by the Trump Administration, found that over the past decade refugees have contributed $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost. 
Even with an admissions ceiling of 45,000 refugees, the U.S. will remain the world leader in refugee resettlement.
FACT: The average annual admissions ceiling since 1980 has exceeded 95,000. A refugee admissions ceiling of 45,000—the lowest level ever set—is a drastic departure from historic tradition, signaling a retreat in leadership on the world stage. Presidents from both parties in the past two decades have set robust refugee ceilings as a proud humanitarian tradition of welcome.
Last year, Canada resettled 46,000 refugees, more than the new cap. Canada is roughly one-tenth the size of the US population and economy (smaller, in both regards, than the single U.S. state of California)
Refugees are imposed upon unwilling and overburdened communities who wish to care for their own people first and foremost, not the foreign born.
FACT:. The private sector, faith institutions and local communities are all deeply invested and involved in welcoming refugees and helping them achieve successful integration in their new homes. They do so with a commitment and desire to reflect the values of America, and build better, stronger, more vibrant communities here in the U.S.
Communities are enriched—spiritually, socially, and economically—through diversity. Immigrants and refugees have enriched our nation, our community and our churches for generations through the unique cultures and traditions they bring. Hundreds of employers around the country work closely with resettlement agencies to systematically hire refugees (mainly in the manufacturing, hotel and food industries) in many industries that native-born Americans will not work in. Employers look to hire refugees because they find refugees to be among their most stable, reliable employees.
Thousands of volunteers and members of congregations donate tens of thousands of hours and in-kind contributions each year to support refugees, lowering costs to the federal government. Community members donate household items to help furnish a refugee family’s first apartment, teach financial literacy and cultural orientation classes, help new arrivals prepare for job interviews, mentor refugee families to help them adapt to the American way of life, and much more.
* UNHCR says "The ‘first country of asylum’ concept is to be applied in cases where a person has already, in a previous state, found international protection, that is once again accessible and effective for the individual concerned."
 “Trump’s claim that ‘more than 300’ refugees are subjects of counterterrorism investigations,” Washington Post, March 2017
 “These researchers just debunked an all-too-common belief about refugees,” Washington Post, June 2017
 “Fact Sheet: Fiscal Year 2016 Refugee Admissions,” U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration January 2017.
 “Rejected Report Shows Revenue Brought In by Refugees,” New York Times, September 2017
On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Those whom this directly affects have an all-too-clear understanding of the realities this decision creates. For those who may not fully understand DACA, The DREAM Act and Dreamers—and the issues surrounding each—we hope this brief primer will help.
What is DACA?
The short story is that DACA has provided a pathway for children and young adults who came to the United States with their parents to legally obtain a Social Security Number, driver’s license, enroll in college and work. While their parents either came to the U.S. unlawfully or overstayed their visas, these kids usually had no choice but to come with their parents, and this immigration policy helped provide opportunities for those youth who had already been in our country for years. DACA doesn’t offer a pathway towards permanent legal status or U.S. citizenship. It also doesn’t give individuals access to federal financial aid programs. It simply affords them the opportunity to further their own development, provide for themselves and their loved ones, and participate in their communities without fear of deportation.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), announced by President Obama on June 15th, 2012, has allowed immigrants who
were born on or after June 16, 1981,
arrived to the United States before age 16 and
have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007
to be eligible for work authorization in the United States and protection from deportation for two years. These individuals are generally called “Dreamers,” named so after the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation first introduced in Congress in 2001 that would afford these individuals permanent legal status.
How many people have DACA?
According to the Department of Homeland Security, as of March 2017, 787,580, individuals have been granted DACA. Individuals from Mexico represent the largest number of DACA recipients, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru and South Korea.
What does the termination of DACA mean?
It means that 800,000 children or young adults would––at a minimum––lose their jobs which may mean lacking the income to make payments on a car loan, rent, mortgage or school tuition or to help support their families. It could also mean being sent back to their countries of birth, even though many cannot remember living in any country other than the U.S., where they have grown up.
The White House and Department of Justice announced the termination of DACA on September 5, 2017. This means the Department of Homeland Security is no longer accepting any new applications for DACA. Those with DACA due to expire between September 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, can apply for a two-year renewal by October 5, 2017. For others, DACA could end as early as March 6, 2018. Work permits issued under DACA will be honored until they expire.
What is the DREAM Act?
A permanent solution.
The DREAM Act is a bipartisan bill that would offer a permanent solution for Dreamers by allowing them to eventually earn citizenship if they go to college, maintain a job, or serve in the U.S. military. The latest DREAM Act was introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on July 20, 2017, and a companion bill with bipartisan support has also been introduced in the House of Representatives.
What happens if Congress doesn't act?
If Congress does not pass a measure protecting DACA recipients, nearly 300,000 people in 2018 alone would lose their permission to work and be at risk for deportation, with DACA protections for all 800,000 individuals to be phased out by March 2020.
Both the Senate and the House need to pass it, and the President needs to sign a bill by March 6, 2018, in order for DACA recipients to continue to be protected from deportation.
But aren’t Dreamers here illegally? Why should the U.S. allow them to stay?
While their parents made the choice to enter the U.S. illegally or overstay a visa, Dreamers, who were children when they arrived, did not make that choice for themselves. There’s no place in American law that penalizes children for the action of their parents. For many Dreamers, the U.S. is the only home they’ve ever known. Passing the DREAM Act is an opportunity to fix the law so that Dreamers correct their situation, earn citizenship and remain the country they call home.
Where can I find more information?
The website of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services has more information on DACA. Also, the Department of Homeland Security has posted answers to a list of questions about its plans to rescind the program.
Individuals who believe they may be eligible to renew DACA should immediately consult with an experienced immigration attorney or a non-profit organization (including many World Relief offices and local churches supported by World Relief) that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice to provide low-cost immigration legal services. Refer to this map for a site near you.
I support DACA and Dreamers, but am not sure how I—one person—can help. Do you have any ideas?
There are many ways you can help. Here are five simple ideas:
To take action, write your members of Congress urging them to support the DREAM Act.
If you’re a church leader or pastor, consider signing onto this letter which we will send to your Representative and Senator.
Write and submit an op-ed or a letter to the editor of the local paper about why you support Dreamers.
If you have a story to tell about yourself or someone you know who has DACA, consider sharing how it’s helped your or their life on social media. This is a human issue and we need to keep it humanized.
To support the work of World Relief, you can donate today.
For me, immigration is not a political issue or a policy issue; it's a very personal issue. My own family's history has fundamentally shaped who I am as an American, and who I am as a Christian. And as an American Christian, my fear is that the conversation about immigration in this country has become so political that we have missed out on what God is actually doing through the migration of millions of people and may potentially miss the unique missional opportunity that is in front of us.
From Korea to the United States
I am the daughter of two Korean immigrants.
My father was born and raised in South Korea when Korea was in the midst of a significant war. My grandfather was a reporter for a newspaper, and during the beginning of the war, the military was targeting media personnel. When my father was three years old, soldiers pushed him aside as they went upstairs into the house, found my grandfather and pulled him out of the house. My father never saw his father again.
A few years later, my grandmother came to faith in Christ because of American missionaries sent to Korea at that time. Although my father and his mother were desperately poor and alone, they read Scripture and prayed together, and that is what sustained them during this troubling time without my grandfather. Sadly, my grandmother got sick and passed away, so at 7 years old, my father became an orphan.
As an orphan, my father heard about the United States of America, and knew that if he could make it here, he wouldn't be defined by his poverty or the fact that he was an orphan. After high school, he entered into a national car repair competition where he won first place. This was his golden ticket, his opportunity to move to a country he saw as the land of opportunity.
I know that my family is not unique: it's estimated that there are over 200 million individuals around the world that are migrating from one place to another to seek better opportunities for themselves and their families. And about 60 million of these individuals are people who are refugees or those who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. This is the greatest number of refugees and displaced since World War II.
But the history of displaced people stretches back much farther than the mid 20th century. In fact, forced migration runs through the very fabric of history itself.
A Biblical View of Immigration
From Genesis to Revelation, the entire Bible is fundamentally a book about immigrants and about immigration. In fact, almost every single Biblical character in the Bible was an immigrant at one point in another.
Abraham—who is considered the father of our faith—was called by God to leave his home and to go to another land that God would show him. Abraham didn't know where he was going or how he was going to get there. Becoming an immigrant, leaving behind everything that he knew, would be a test of God's faithfulness to him and his family.
Ruth was a Moabite woman and a migrant worker gleaning barley in the fields when she was noticed by Boaz. Boaz noticed her as a migrant worker, as someone whose character and dignity was worthy of respect and of love. And it was through her experience as a migrant that she was able to meet the love of her life.
Joseph was a victim of human trafficking. He was sold into slavery by his brothers and was transported across borders, and that fundamentally shaped his experience as an immigrant.
Jesus the Middle Eastern refugee
Perhaps the greatest immigrant of all in Scripture was Jesus himself. He was a single, male Middle Eastern refugee. He fits into every category of an individual whom we have said that we don't even want to come into our country. So my question is: “If Jesus were born today, would we as a country even welcome him into our community?”
Immigration: A missional opportunity
At World Relief, we've resettled over 300,000 refugees from all parts of the world. We've resettled individuals from Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan—places where it's very hard for the Church to thrive.
What we have found is that the mission field is not just overseas anymore. Because of migration to the United States of America, the mission field has literally arrived in our own backyards. It is an incredible opportunity for the church.
Dr. Timothy Tenent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary, said: “86% of the immigrant population are likely either to be Christian or to become Christian. And that is far above the national average.” He said that "The immigrant population actually presents the greatest hope for Christian renewal in North America. This group of people we want to keep out is the group that we actually need the most for spiritual transformation. We shouldn't see this as something that threatens us. We should see this as an incredible, missional opportunity.”
It isn’t only refugees who have never heard the Gospel who are coming to the U.S. Many refugees are arriving with a vibrant Christian faith that is renewing the life of the church. Refugees and immigrants are not just the recipients of mission, but they are also the agents of mission.
As an example, Abundant Life Church in San Antonio started with a few hundred members but within the span of five years grew to over 1,300 members, offering both English and Spanish-speaking services. The immigrants coming into this church community are actually reviving the spiritual life of the church. And it's not just these small immigrant churches that are experiencing tremendous growth and spiritual renewal. Megachurches across the country, like Willow Creek Community Church, are also experiencing a transformation and revitalization of their ministries.
A test of faith
When we talk about immigration, I believe it's not just a test of our politics. Our response to immigration fundamentally is a test of our faith, what we fundamentally believe about the gospel and about people who are made in the image of God.
Are we willing to risk our own comfort and security to welcome our neighbors into the kingdom of God? Do we really actually believe that Jesus died for people of all nations and of all ethnicities and of all cultures and of all languages? Because I believe if we do, we will choose to welcome and love the very people the world wants us to hate. In fact, when we as a church love and welcome the very people the world wants to marginalize, we will advance the mission of God.
This post was adapted from Jenny Yang’s talk at Cru 17. Watch the entire talk.
Jenny Yang provides oversight for all advocacy initiatives and policy positions at World Relief. She has worked in the Resettlement section of World Relief as the Senior Case Manager and East Asia Program Officer, where she focused on advocacy for refugees in the East Asia region and managed the entire refugee caseload for World Relief. Prior to World Relief, she worked at one of the largest political fundraising firms in Maryland managing fundraising and campaigning for local politicians. She is co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate, serves as Chair of the Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) Africa Work Group, and was named one of the “50 Women to Watch” by Christianity Today.
“I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and with palm branches in their hands.” — Revelation 7:9
This is the picture of eternity that the Apostle John paints for us when he writes of heaven. A beautiful array of colors, culture, languages and peoples. Distinct, yet one in Christ. Once strangers, now integrated and united under God.
The Immigrant Image
Despite the strong political divides facing the nation today, many Christians across the U.S. have accepted God’s call to “welcome the stranger.” Many of us are learning through personal service to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to serve “the least of these” as we would serve Jesus himself, in the process learning more about Jesus himself.
As we do, we see Jesus as he is, but we do not make him in our own image. For we would not share a drink, or provide clothes or make a visit to Jesus only if Jesus was willing to become like us. Yet, we run the risk of doing just that if we do not consider how we will welcome immigrants into our communities.
The Questions We Must Answer
Two key questions lie at the core of how immigrants will acculturate into a new society:
Are immigrants allowed to be a part of the community and connected to other groups?
Are immigrants allowed to maintain their cultural identity and characteristics?
If the answer to both of these questions is “no,” then immigrants will forever stay on the margins of society. They will not be welcomed as part of the community, nor will they be allowed to maintain their identity.
But even if the answer to only one of these questions is “yes,” then integration will still fail. Because if immigrants are allowed to maintain their own cultural identity, but not allowed to become part of the larger society, they remain a separated group—ethnically, socially and economically.
We’ve Seen This Before
As an example, following World War II, immigrants from North Africa were invited into Europe to help to rebuild war-torn infrastructure and revive cities and towns. 70 years later, many of these groups in France remain separated from French society. This separation has kept entire cultural and ethnic groups from becoming fully-participating members of society, opening up breeding grounds for discontent and violence. Consequently, today, we see native-born Europeans perpetrating acts of violence and terror because they were kept separate from mainstream society in isolated ethnic ‘clusters.’
Integration is Who We Are
On the other side, many in the U.S. today argue that immigrants should be allowed to become part of the community and be connected to others, but only if they give up their past culture and identity in a process of assimilation. Some of these same individuals would state that this has been the way of America since its inception, but an honest look at our history reveals that each new group has enriched and contributed to culture and traditions that have come to be embraced by all. The strength of immigrant generations is that, despite the discrimination they often face for their cultural norms, language and values, they have contributed to what it really means to be American.
Historically, the United States has integrated, at least at some levels, one immigrant group after another – allowing each successive group to become a part of the community and allowing them to maintain their cultural identity and characteristics, which they have shared with others.
For instance, I am not of Irish heritage, but I enjoy the annual tradition of turning the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day. I am not of Chinese heritage, but am grateful that there are many, wonderful Chinese restaurants in my neighborhood. I am not Burmese, but I am inspired to help my neighbors because of the amazing examples of sacrificial service I see in this more recently arrived immigrant group. Far from assimilation, the history of America is one of immigrant integration that we would do well to continue today.
Drawn By Our Values
It is the core American values—those of religious freedom, opportunity, freedom of the press, the rule of law, and participation in government—that draw immigrants to want to be a part of the United States. Many refugees come to the U.S. having been persecuted for their faith, and the fact that immigrant churches are the fastest growing churches in the U.S. shows how much this freedom is valued. The fact that 25% of venture-backed U.S. public companies were started by immigrants clearly demonstrates the commitment to hard work and providing for family. The number of immigrants who willingly go through the long process (minimally 5 years) of becoming a U.S. citizen shows the desire to engage as a part of their new country. They bring these values with them to the U.S., and those values are strengthened in relationships with native-born Americans.
But for integration of immigrants into the U.S. to be successful—and to avoid the pitfalls of marginalization, separation and assimilation—the receiving community must be ready to see the distinct gifts and value of these “new Americans.” Love and affinity for one’s past is not a rejection of the values that characterize the U.S. Instead of criticizing or doubting that immigrants share core American values with the larger society, we should build relationships with our new neighbors to see how these values are expressed in the unique culture and traditions they bring. In the United States we are “Of Many, One.” But true unity is not expressed in dress, or food, or in religious expression. These are the “many” different expressions we have had as a people since this nation was founded. As we welcome immigrants to the U.S., we learn and add their distinct culture to the greater good of this country and find the unity that truly makes us one.
From Every Nation, Tribe and Language
Let us return to the picture in scripture of what this type of integration looks like:
“I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and with palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9)
In this description of the ultimate, eternal society, the distinctiveness of God’s creation is not lost. The Apostle John could clearly identify ethnic groups, language groups and nationalities in those he saw before the throne of God. In this scene God is not being praised by a single, homogenous group, but by one that is made up of the entire array of colors, cultures, languages and peoples God created. They are united in the act of unceasing praise, but they have not lost, nor been forced to deny, the distinctiveness of what God gave them.
For Christians, this is a picture of the eternity we anticipate. The United States should never be compared to heaven, but our history as a country gives us the freedom to begin practicing for that eternity here in our churches and communities. By welcoming those who represent the distinctiveness of God’s creation and learning, together with them, we practice living in a society that is built not on loss of identity, but on glorious sharing together. In so doing our nation can truly be “Of Many, One” and the church can reflect, even here, the eternity for which we long.
Prior to becoming the SVP of U.S. Ministries, Emily Gray served for six years as the Executive Director of World Relief’s offices in DuPage County and Aurora, Illinois. She is a former full-time missionary to Central America and is a founding member of Mission Lazarus, also serving on Mission Lazarus’ board for 15 years. Emily is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, earning a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Abilene Christian University, a Master of Social Work from Boston University, and has completed doctoral hours at the University of Texas at Arlington. She has been married for 30 years to Cary, a Computer Scientist, teacher and scholar of Christian hymns.
We are called to care for our neighbor, both American and foreign-born.
“To care for both/and. Not either/or. But both/and.”
That’s the message Pastor Bill Bigger preached to his church, Hope Valley Baptist in Durham, NC, as the congregation underwent a 5-month discussion and discernment period on whether to build a temporary shelter for incoming refugees on the church’s property.
“I preached on the biblical call to welcome the stranger, and to be a neighbor to people regardless of their background…” Bigger recalls. And despite initial congregational concerns, 84% of the church voted in favor of building Hope House last year.
“It’s my faith in God that shapes my commitment to refugees,” Bigger explains.
Watch Hope Valley’s story in this video recently produced by UNHCR:
In his farewell address to the nation in 1989, President Ronald Reagan, borrowing a line from Jesus, described the United States as a “shining city on a hill” for those seeking freedom, a place “teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace” whose “doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”
Over the course of centuries, the United States certainly has been a place of refuge for many fleeing persecution and “yearning to breathe free,” which is an honorable legacy. But when Jesus talked about a “city on a hill,” he was not referring to the United States of America, nor to any other nation-state. Jesus told His followers that they—those early disciples who would go on to form the earliest church—were the light of the world, which, like a city atop a hill, could not be hidden." (see Matt. 5:14) “Let your light shine before others,” Jesus told them, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
Faced with a global refugee crisis unprecedented in recorded history, now is the moment for the church to shine, not to hide our light. Millions of displaced people, desperate for hope yet reviled and feared by many, will decide what they think of Jesus based on how His followers throughout the world respond to this crisis, whether with welcome, love, and advocacy, or with apathy, fear, and scapegoating. Across the nation and the world, local churches are seeing this moment of crisis as a chance to live out Jesus’ instructions, shining their light, so others may look to and glorify God.
“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus told His followers, each of us—you. He continued: "But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:13–16)
Our ultimate hope is that the church would shine its light through the refugee crisis. As we access the same power that rose Jesus from the dead, we pray God’s people would rise up as never before to welcome strangers, each doing what God has called all of us to do:
To bind up the brokenhearted.
To love our neighbors.
To do justice.
To love mercy.
To pray without ceasing.
To practice hospitality, and to learn to receive the hospitality of others.
Maybe just to take a plate of cookies across the street, trusting that smile can overcome a language barrier.
To write a letter to a congressperson, or gently speak up at the workplace water cooler when someone repeats a false rumor about refugees.
Perhaps to forego a vacation to give sacrificially for those whose travels were involuntary.
To stand with our persecuted brothers and sisters, mourning with those who mourn, rejoicing with those who rejoice.
To proclaim the love of Christ in word and deed to those who don't yet know Him.
Our prayer is that as the church lets her light shine and steps into the good works God has “prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10), the displaced of our world will praise our Father In heaven.
Adapted from Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, and Dr. Issam Smeir, available on Kindle for $1.59 throughout the month of July. For more about the book including a Bible reading plan and small group discussion guide, visit www.worldrelief.org/seekingrefuge
For the better part of my life in ministry, churches, including that ones I have served in, have taken the very reasonable view that they should not dive into politics. Politics are divisive. Political rhetoric eschews with “alternative facts,” and our role as church leaders is to extend welcome to anyone seeking the grace of Christ—we do not want to alienate based on party. Pragmatically, this makes sense.
But what is the role of the Church when politics and clear Biblical teaching collide? How do we respond when the explicit commands of Scripture—to respect the sanctity of life, to welcome the stranger, and refugee, and care for the poor, but up against discourse in the public square?
For many church leaders, including myself for many years, we choose to direct attention elsewhere, avoiding the thicket of these issues, citing with resolute pragmatism that we do not want to be a stumbling block. This has weakened our voice and done a disservice to our congregations.
When politics and the Bible collide, it is an opportunity for discipleship.
I do not think that it is the role of the church to endorse politicians or political parties. But the Church must teach the Scriptures and provide practical ways for its community to reach the lost and hurting in the world. In this way, many of us have failed. I have failed.
Take the recent crisis with refugees and immigrants. Right now there are more people forcibly displaced from their homes than at any other time in recorded human history. The Bible speaks clearly to the issues of human suffering, welcoming the stranger, and the role of the Church to provide relief. But a recent survey by Lifeway Research shows that only 21% of American Christians have been challenged by their pastors to explore the Scriptures and to reach out and serve refugees and other immigrants in our midst.
Let’s take the most uncontroversial thing that a church can ever do—pray. A survey conducted at the end of 2016 by World Vision, found that only 19% of committed Christians prayed for Syrian refugees in the previous 12 months. Only 1 in 5 people from the most well-educated, most well-resourced group of Christians to ever live, took a moment and prayed for the world’s most needy and violent areas last year.
This is a crisis of discipleship.
This is thorny, it’s complicated and like almost everything in life, there are many shades of grey. But what is clear, is that the Bible is clear.
Church leaders—your job is hard and the number of things you have to navigate is astounding. So, we are going to make our call simple. Will you sign this letter saying that you will commit to praying for refugees and immigrants during your services over the next few weeks? If you want to teach further on this—GREAT—and we have resources below for it.
We cannot stay silent and abdicate our responsibilities as leaders of the Church to deepen discipleship in our congregations by addressing issues that the Bible clearly and unequivocally addresses—even if those issues have political dynamics.
Sign on now!
Livestream Recording with World Relief’s Jenny Yang, Matthew Soerens, and James Misner
Learn from Gabe Lyons (Q Ideas) as he speaks with Rich Stearns (World Vision U.S., CEO), and Stephan Bauman (World Relief, CEO) about how the church must play a key role in engaging in the current Middle East refugee crisis. This webinar explores core issues behind the headlines surrounding the U.S. refugee program and potential security concerns, and provides perspectives on and presents a clear call to the Church to raise its voice as one this Christmas.
Jenny Yang, Vice President of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief, joined Suzanne Meridien of Syrian American Council on Hashtag VOA (Voice of America) earlier today to bring clarity on how the Paris Attacks have created an uncertain future for Syrian Refugees in the United States and what we, as Americans and Christians, can do to welcome refugees."One of the hallmarks of our country is actually to welcome the persecuted." - Jenny Yang
Nashville. Known for its music, comfort food and unique southern culture, Nashville is also home to one of the fastest growing immigrant populations in the United States. Since the early 80’s, Nashville has been a prominent and welcoming city to new families resettling in America and according to the 2010 U.S. Census, 1 out of every 8 people in Nashville was born abroad and 16% of the city’s residents speak a language other than English at home. Since 2012, World Relief Nashville has seen an average of 39 refugees arrive each month. That number has continued to grow as the community comes alongside those forced to flee from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Having experienced persecution, food shortages and war, these families are greeted by smiling faces as they are welcomed into a community that celebrates diversity.
With 17 families arriving in the month of January, World Relief Nashville has been working with various organizations, churches, institutions and volunteers to find job placements for adults and school arrangements for children over the age of 5. In addition to placement services provided by World Relief, Nashville’s Mayor recently started a Mayor’s Office of New Americans with the goal of engaging and empowering immigrants. Libraries have added “Newcomer Corners” with resources for refugees and immigrants, as well as contact information for agencies, services and churches. Businesses have been talking about diversity. Youth Programs have been implemented. The city has made a true effort to welcome these new neighbors.
Judah Baird, World Relief’s Basic Needs Coordinator in Nashville, knows how helpful these kinds of services can be for refugees. As he prepares apartments for newly resettled refugee families, he notices that, “If I were in their shoes, that might make me feel a little more welcome - not necessarily at home, and not necessarily safe - but a little more welcome. Clean sheets don’t have to be a battle that they have to fight.”
Nashville is thriving as refugees continue to resettle and community members increasingly stand alongside and empower families through this life altering transition.
To learn more about life-giving opportunities in your city, contact a World Relief office near you.