I always said I would never write a post about politics, but nevertheless, here I am. My hope is that instead of forcing my personal stances at you, the stories will soften your heart and allow you to think a little deeper or from a more real-life perspective.
This is the third in a series of posts exploring the issues of social justice. I don't claim to be an expert, and this isn't really an academic resource, but rather a collection of stories-- a few beating hearts and faces to the flat and emotionless statistics we are all sick of.
She is only 11-years-old, living in the United States, and she is terrified.
She worries about things I only began to think about as an adult— presidential elections, foster care and gang violence.
“Why does he hate us, Ms. Johnson?” a 6th grader asked me the other day.
I had no answer, because it is obvious one of our presidential candidates doesn’t see the deep value of hispanic lives. And how do you tell that to a child who is so full of culture— and trying desperately to learn English and be more “American."
“Tiene papeles, Ms. Johnson? [ do you have papers? ] ” another child asked me.
They can’t even comprehend the life of a normal child because theirs is so defined by their immigration status-- the status that they didn’t even choose.
“Do you have papers, Ms. Johnson?” another child asked me.
“I’m just scared of him, because I will have to move into a foster home if he becomes president,” said a child who was born in the US, and is therefore legal, unlike her parents.
I know you are sick of seeing parodies and posts and jokes about this man and walls and immigration— but for some, these things define their very livelihood. It the thought of them living oppressed by a president who doesn’t see them as valuable. For innocent [ and legal ] children, it means some of their parents being taken away.
I come home everyday with my heart breaking from their stories wondering how I got so lucky-- how I am a citizen of America with family who won’t be taken from me, and mostly how I don’t deserve it at all.
I tell my friends in America I head to Honduras in a few days and they praise my humanitarian act, but the boy from Guatemala's big eyes looking up at me, asking if I will fly in an real airplane bring me back to earth.
He came to the US from Guatemala to reunite with his family, but it cost all of their money. His parents are illiterate and they drove 3,500 miles in various cars. Airplanes are an idealistic thought reserved only for the privileged.
It took two weeks, he told me, through Guatemala and Mexico and Texas and Arkansas. He is brilliant and already speaks Mam, in addition to Spanish, but in America he is seen as a burden to our society. I watch him practicing over and over his list of English words. I see his eyes light up when he hears that he can go to college here. He wants to be a teacher. He wants to speak English.
Choosing your stance on any issue, especially immigration, is difficult and complicated and it has to be personal. Your worldview, your view of God, your experiences— I think it all comes into play.
One of my favorite resources is World Relief. They work primarily with refugees, empowering them to be members of society simultaneously giving Americans the opportunity to help them adjust to a new culture through friendships. They do a great job of showing how the Americans benefit and learn just as much as the refugees or immigrants-- beginning to deplete the "us-and-them" mindset.
Welcoming the Stranger is a book by Matthew Sorens and Jenny Hwang, staffers at World Relief who provide a great overview of the immigration crisis, justice and the response of the Church. This is a great book because it’s coming from people who don’t just sit at a desk, but rather work on the front lines with an organization that is mobilizing people to make personal and tangible differences in the lives of immigrants right here in our cities. No one is saying anything about opening up the borders to everyone, but they also aren’t talking about building walls [ metaphorically or physically ].
Where do you even begin with social justice? Immigration, trafficking, death penalty, disease, education, health care… they all come with a hundred different opinions and stances and perspectives. Anyone can prove anything, either way. There are so many statistics and news stories that it's almost impossible to know what is true or right. [ a very basic overview of some relevant issues ]
This is the second in a series of posts exploring the issues of social justice. I don't claim to be an expert, and this isn't really an academic resource, but rather a collection of stories-- a few beating hearts and faces to the flat and emotionless statistics we are all sick of.
Then again, a lot of times there are multiple solutions, and there is a lot to be gained from difficulty. Moreover, while we tunnel our vision thinking we have it all figured out and that our society was or is the picture of what should be, we best think again.
John 16 says that sorrow is the crucible of joy. Without pain and struggle we won’t ever fully experience the fullness of joy here on earth. This joy comes not instead of trial, but through it. [you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy John 16: 20 ]
I love Jesus because of poverty.
I know that sounds weird and insensitive, but it’s true. The faith, contentment, love, and desperation I saw in an impoverished community changed my view of God. A lot of people see poverty and wonder how a loving God could truly exist. In poverty I see Jesus because I see people who know their need for a higher being.
Their createdness for worship.
and their humbleness that manifests the truest love.
It’s in places like America that bring me to doubt— how so many people can claim a god they only see occasionally. There is no dependence or mystically close spirituality— but rather loud prayers, Facebook posts and tv programs. It's the ones who trust for their very well being, their next meal and their childrens' education that know God with an intimacy we all long for.
She rode the bus with all the other students from their impoverished Honduran neighborhoods for a "fun day" with the North American mission team. It was the end of my first week out of America and my head was spinning with statistics and what I saw out my window as we drove through the city. I knew most of these kids were lucky to get one meal a day.
Social justice must start with grace— grace in bringing justice to imperfect people. Grace for all the people who have confused or messed up your mission under the guise of helping [ why you should consider canceling your short-term mission trip ] and grace for yourself when your goals are just too big and you feel like a failure.
This is the first of a series of posts exploring the issues of social justice. I don't claim to be an expert, and this isn't really an academic resource, but rather a collection of stories-- a few beating hearts and faces to the flat and emotionless statistics we are all sick of.
Because before we ever even begin to help, we have to accept that we will never fix the problem or save the world and thankfully we aren't called to that.
We need grace as our plans go awry; when we plan to save a hundred people and end up helping just one. There is grace for us.
The Bible says to love, to sacrifice, to give, and to pray, but says nothing about obliterating problems of justice in the entire world. Poverty will never end. Abuse and bondage will continue. People will believe false doctrines of legalism and personal justification. All of that is heartbreaking, but that isn't the battle we’re fighting. We have to fight on a personal level. One person at a time.
Here's what I mean.
For example, the education system in our country is in a bit of a mess (which is another issue for another time). In my city, gifted and passionate teachers complain about a system that doesn't meet the needs of their students, their demographic or their culture. Very simply stated, the government creates an education system that looks pretty great on paper. It covers all the bases and supposedly no one is left behind— on paper.
The problem? People. Real people, stuck in a whole lot of different realities. These systems, regardless of such good intentions can't possibly account for the plethora of learning disabilities, learning styles, and complicated home lives.
A system doesn't know how to help a little girl who was born in Chicago but moved back to Mexico for 8 years and shows back up in middle school only half literate in each language.
All this to say, helping people is messy. Any type of justice is complicated and unfortunately never really follows a system. Plans look great on paper, but often crumble to the ground when they meet people. If you live only by numbers and checklists you will burn out in frustration, but if we start with love, accept grace over our inabilities and imperfections, and focus first on the real needs of real people-- it sure won't be easy, but it might just be a place to start.