Before we moved to Adel my family and I lived in a diverse suburb of Chicago. The majority of our neighbors were Hispanic. It was truly an immigrant suburb as it had a refugee resettlement agency in the neighborhood, and I worked for that agency. Seven years ago, we felt called by God to leave that city and move to a very Caucasian, homogenous small town in Iowa. The difference in these two cities is night and day.
While writing for the RJournal in a previous article (R blog immigration part 1) I kept thinking “what am I going to say about refugees?” I currently live in a place with very few foreigners in my midst. This would be so much easier to write about in a city full of immigrants like the one I used to live in. But leave it to God to shatter that notion and to remind me that foreigners are all around us.
A few weeks ago, I had a traumatic event happen. At the end of a long day, I drove down a rural, gravel road to check on a few things before heading home for the night. And the end of that gravel lane I found two men. One was going into cardiac arrest while the other was administering breaths. I called 911 and the full force of ambulances and police arrived. As we tried to sort out what was going on, who they were, and the necessary medical history, it became very apparent to me that these two men were likely undocumented workers. The calling of the ambulance was necessary but terrifying for them. The man who was ill had been sick for weeks, and his status as a foreigner kept him from seeking medical care. The healthy man was scared to get in the vehicle and follow his friend to the hospital because he didn’t have the documentation to have a driver’s license. After the ambulance and everyone left, I drove home in shock. I didn’t sleep well for days. After the shock wore off, I tracked the two men down. The ill man lived just long enough for his parents to fly here from their homeland and see their son as he took his dying breath. I learned that he had been working here for four years, supporting his wife and son back in their homeland. He had just saved up enough money to buy a truck and return home to visit his family. I wept and wept over the sadness of his circumstances.
This is not just a story of foreigners in a big city. This is a story of foreigners all around us. They serve us food, pick our crops, build our homes, and work on our streets. They are around us. I immediately felt like I was a part of something that was unjust. I didn’t even realize the possible exploitation happening right under my nose. Maybe, this is why, in the Bible God commands over and over again that his people must not exploit the foreigner. Leviticus 19:34 says it well, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Malachi 3:5 talks about justice for foreigners, “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.”
Leviticus 23:22 talks about leaving some of the harvest behind for the poor and foreigner. But I think loving the immigrant in your community is more than just giving food, money, and clothing. I think it’s also about using our status as residents of this country to make sure that immigrants around us are not being mistreated, paid lesser wages, or being exploited. It’s trying to vet out companies that we use to clean our homes, cook our food, and build our houses to make sure that we are supporting ones that are treating the foreign-born and native the same. You might be saying, “well how can I know what someone’s wages are versus someone else’s. But be judicious. Pay attention to your surroundings. What are the work hours and the labor conditions. Do workers look well? If not, then consider taking your business elsewhere. It may cost you more money, but then you must consider why the service is so much less when being done by immigrants than someone who looks like you.
Better yet, befriend the immigrants in your community. Most of our foreign neighbors are coming here for a better life, either by choice or by sheer need for survival. The beauty of this is that you are an expert at American life. This is your country, and you know how everything works. You have all the skills and knowledge to truly help a newly arrived immigrant adjust to life in America. It will be messy at times, but I can personally attest to this from having many immigrant friends throughout my life, it will be a beautiful relationship. Many immigrant cultures live life much more communally and they have much to teach us about how to truly love our neighbor.
One final thought... Have a heart for reaching the world for Jesus? Guess what? You don’t have to go overseas to witness to unreached people groups. They are arriving on our shores, and you get to befriend them and truly show them the love of Christ. You don’t have to learn a new language for two years in missionary school. You don’t have to spend years trying to figure out how to live in a new culture. You can simply seek out the foreigners already living among you and love them like Jesus does. The rest will come.
If you would like more resources regarding immigration and Christianity or refugee resettlement and immigrations agencies in your community, then feel free to reach out to Restoration Church by email and they can put us in touch😊 Go love your neighbors – both residents and foreign born!
Written by Jessica Delp