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Immigrants and Refugees— Why Do We Care?

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We in The Alliance share the conviction that immigrants of any type are above all else God’s image bearers. As such, He also deems them worthy to partake in and benefit from His ultimate act of love: the giving of His only Son, Jesus Christ, as the atonement for our sins (John 3:16).

God’s will is to save mankind from the eternal consequence of sin—separation from Himself. In so doing, He has established that “[s]alvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This name is “the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (Acts 4:10).

For all people to know this wonderful news of God’s provision for salvation, Jesus Christ commissioned and empowered His followers to go and make disciples of all nations.

The Alliance family has more than 700 commissioned international workers serving in more than 70 nations around the world. We are part of a mighty, global movement of Christ followers being mobilized from various churches and denominations to fulfill this Great Commission.

Moreover, God orchestrates massive movements of people around the world so that they may find Him (Acts 17:24–28). He masterminded:

  • Abraham’s Exodus from Ur to Canaan,
  • Joseph going to Egypt and later Jacob’s and his remaining sons’ migration to Egypt during the great famine,
  • The Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt and the subsequent 40-year desert wanderings,
  • Israel’s Babylonian captivity, and
  • Jesus’ time in Egypt as a boy to escape Herod’s persecution.
Immigrants and Refugees— Why do We Care?
At the sight of ships docking in New York’s South Street seaport, Alliance founder A. B. Simpson became deeply burdened for the spiritual states of arriving immigrants and the families they left behind.

The Jews, less than 40 years after Jesus’ Crucifixion, were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire after the destruction of Herod’s temple in AD 70. This dispersion continued until May 14, 1948, when David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the state of Israel, which in turn marked the beginning of another massive movement of God’s people back to Israel that continues to this day.

Therefore, since God is ultimately the one orchestrating massive population exoduses throughout history, we as followers of Jesus Christ must love, welcome, and care for the foreigners among us as conduits of God’s grace toward them.

Who Is My Neighbor?

All throughout Israel’s history, God repeatedly reminded them that because they were once “aliens in Egypt” (see Lev. 19:33–34), then they could not mistreat foreigners living among them. Matthew Soerens, in the book he coauthored with Jenny Hwang titled Welcoming the Stranger, makes a strong case for what he calls “the biblical mandate to care for immigrants.” He points out that immigrants are recognized in Scripture “as being particularly vulnerable, and God therefore commands the Israelites to take special concern for them.” Special provisions were spelled out in Deuteronomy 24:19–21 to provide sustenance to “the alien, the fatherless and the widow” in their communities during harvest time. In the New Testament, the mandate to care for the stranger is also emphasized in Luke 10:25–37, through the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. The law expert’s provocative question still resonates today: “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus insightfully replied with a parable depicting three different classes of people common to the Jewish society of that day, namely a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. Based on these characters’ actions in the parable, Jesus asked the law expert, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

This parable has far-reaching implications for the Alliance family as we seek to answer that very same question: Who is my neighbor that I can reach with God’s love and compassion? Who around me is on the move, overlooked, or lacking gospel access?

The Sheep and the Goats

Another New Testament passage addressing the mandate to care for the stranger is found in Matthew 25:31–46, known as the parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus teaches about the importance of caring for those in need, including “strangers.”

The Son of Man rewards the righteous people and despises the unrighteous people from among all the nations who lovingly cared for or blatantly overlooked the needs of those within their reach. This parable highlights the reactions of those gathered before King Jesus’ throne to the right (the sheep) and to the left (the goats). The righteous and the unrighteous both asked the King the same question:

Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? [italics mine].

It is important to note the King’s reply to the righteous: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

It is perhaps even more important to note the King’s words to the unrighteous ones gathered to the left:

Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

These sobering words should inform and guide a Christ follower’s response to the current plight of millions of displaced immigrants and refugees around the world. Please note that Jesus identifies “the least of these” as “brothers of mine.” This expression takes us back to our original conviction that all immigrants are God’s image bearers.

M. Daniel Carroll R. gives a valid word of caution in his book Christians at the Border (second edition). He discusses some of the implications of the concept that all immigrant refugees and exiles bear God’s image: “to turn away or to treat badly one made in the image of God ultimately is a violation against God.” Therefore, even in the midst of the current global discourse on immigrants and refugees fleeing from war-torn countries like Somalia, Afghanistan, and Syria, just to name a few, love and compassion should govern a Christian’s response.

A Tradition of Hospitality

The U.S. Alliance church has a historical tradition of welcoming immigrant families into God’s Kingdom through effectively demonstrating God’s love and faithfully proclaiming the gospel. Our founder, Dr. A. B. Simpson, himself a Canadian immigrant, sensed God directing him to focus his ministry toward neglected and unreached people. This calling became clearer during his pastorate at the Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church in New York City from 1879–1881.

The turning point happened, as reported in All for Jesus, when he “asked permission of the [church board] to bring into the church about 100 converts from the Italian quarter.” These new Italian converts were products of his street preaching in the poor neighborhoods of the city. Our founder’s determination to “reach the unchurched masses” still rings loud and clear 129 years later. (Read more about our history of caring for immigrants and refugees in Matthew Soerens’ article “The Church and the Huddled Masses” published on ChristianityToday.com October 12, 2016.)

The U.S. Alliance is home to more than 800 churches that are distinctively non-majority culture. They represent 41 percent of all U.S. Alliance churches and more than 46 percent of its baptized members. More than 37 languages and dialects are used to worship the Heavenly Father on any given Sunday among U.S. Alliance churches.

The Hmong District (114 churches) and the Vietnamese District (106 churches) are the third and fifth largest districts among all 28 districts in The Alliance. Moreover, the Hmong District with 35,906 inclusive members is the largest C&MA district in the nation. Both of these districts were the outcome of a ministry of refugee resettlement started in the aftermath of the Vietnam War by two former Alliance international workers to Vietnam. Rev. Grady and Evelyn Mangham labored tirelessly to find thousands of caring families in the United States that would welcome and sponsor immigrant families seeking refuge. This outpouring of love also included Montagnards (from the highlands of South Vietnam), Lao, and Cambodian refugee families.

Recently, three recipients of the Dream Incentive Grant, highlighted in the July/August 2016 Alliance Life, were affirmed in their service and outreach to immigrants surrounding their communities. Faith Alliance Bible Church (Des Plaines, Ill.) and Ministerio Nuevo Amanecer (Paramount, Calif.) have already secured certification from the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to provide legal advice and counsel to immigrant families preparing and submitting their visa applications. Madison Community Church (Everett, Wash.) is in the process of securing BIA certification. We endorse such kinds of initiatives that seek to provide a loving, caring, and Christian solution to a very complex problem faced by immigrant families arriving to the United States.

In addition to those ministries, three Alliance geographical districts are sponsoring the establishment of Arab-American Welcome Centers. One is already running in Sacramento, California, as part of the Central Pacific District; another center just opened in El Cajon, California, as part of the South Pacific District, and a third center was recently begun in Dallas as part of the Southwestern District.

Similar stories are repeated in many cities across the country, reaching immigrant families from Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, the Philippines, several countries in Africa, Laos, Haiti, Brazil, and more than 21 Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

God is using the C&MA to express His loving care toward thousands of immigrant families both here in the United States and around the world. May He continue to bless us with many more opportunities to launch new and innovative ministries that will welcome thousands of immigrant families into God’s Kingdom and our Alliance family.

6 responses to Immigrants and Refugees— Why Do We Care?

  1. “Moreover, the Hmong District with 35,906 inclusive members is the largest C&MA district in the nation”.

    All glory to our Father in Heaven. It takes 40 years to change from praying as a refugee for clothing and food to prayer requests to build the biggest church, fulfill academic dreams, be the best athlete and for safe travel on an expensive vacation.

    The gift of friendship and understanding through the word of God was enough but thanks for the rest…our C&MA brothers!!!

    May the Hmong reflect on God’s love and be reminded to return in mass to tend the mission fields. Amen

  2. I was aware that most of our CMA family lived outside the US, but didn’t realize how diverse we are within the US until I read this article. Thank you. I pray that our diversity continues to grow as we accept all people like Jesus did.

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