Embracing Our Neighbor

By Greg and Sue Smith & Kim and Marc Wyatt

Advocacy SquareOver 240 million global migrants crisscross our world today. Often because of forced displacement or seeking escape from the deadly realities of their homeland, global migrants appear on a country’s shores desperate to find the means to meet the many needs they and their families have. Yet many times, what travelers along the world’s migration highway need most is the welcome that Christ bids his followers extend in his name.

CBF Global Missions identifies global migration as one of the three contexts within which its work occurs. CBF field personnel around the world, including the United States, are faithfully serving among this vast population on the move. And churches in every corner of the world are, too. Serving migrants means welcoming into our homes and into our lives the immigrants and refugees who travel to new lands under God’s watchful eye. Being a Christian Advocate means taking the initiative to reach out and get involved with them. It means embracing our neighbor. It means listening to their stories, crying their tears, sharing meals around tables of deep fellowship, loving their children and praying for their needs.

And it means advocating on behalf of our migrant friends and neighbors when a strong voice of public witness is needed to address issues and concerns that impact their lives or run counter to the gospel of God’s Kingdom.

What is the global migration highway? The phrase ‘global migration highway’ refers the movements of the 244 million migrating peoples from their homelands to new ones. For some it is a matter of choice. There are few jobs or economic opportunities to enable them to support their children or aging parents, and little hope for a better future for their children. The increasing control by gangs makes normal life virtually impossible – and dangerous due to extortion, abductions, and acts of violence against individuals.

For others, there is no choice. They are those forced to leave their homes, communities and their countries of origin. They are people who have experienced the loss of homes, families, freedom and future. They have been forcibly displaced because of conflict, ethnic cleansing, genocide, political and religious persecution, terrorism and war.

Where does the global migration highway originate?  The short answer for immigrants and refugees is everywhere. If you have ever lived or visited in another country, served overseas or studied abroad for any length of time, you were a migrant and traveled the global migration highway.

The US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants states that people forcibly displaced hail from countries like Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Ukraine. Approximately 20-30% of displaced persons live in refugee camps. They stay an average of 17 years, which often means children of refugees are born in host countries. Living conditions can be under resourced and basic at best. Did you know that most refugees live in urban areas? In the cities of host countries, refugees often struggle to survive as unrecognized second-class citizens. They often find themselves unable to successfully integrate or contribute into the community. Refugees may live along the edges of society, in the shadows, vulnerable and fearful of deportation back to their unsafe countries.

Immigrants often gravitate to areas where a friend, acquaintance, or family member is already living and working. They rely on informal support networks within the immigrant community and resources in their native language to help with finding housing and jobs. Lack of English proficiency and fear of discrimination are the major barriers to integration into the community.

CBF Advocacy provides the means to speak effectively and organize strategically when migrants face the challenges of adjusting to new cultures and their strange, confusing norms and rules that often ensnare migrants and prohibit them from meeting their needs or realizing their full potential. CBF Advocacy responds to Global Missions’ commitment to serve migrants holistically by seeking transformational development, cultivating beloved community and bearing witness to Jesus Christ. Advocacy empowers CBF congregations to see the issues that impact migrants where they live, reflect on their reality in light of Scripture, and act in ways that bring real change.

In subsequent articles CBF Advocacy will be addressing a wide array of issues that surround global migration and a Christian response. Who is a global migrant? How far up and down the migration highway does God call us to walk alongside our migrant friends and neighbors? What resources can we count on to become a welcoming, embracing community of Christ followers for the sake of the migrant community? We invite you to join us as we embrace our neighbor.

Greg and Sue Smith are Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Fredericksburg, Va., where they serve first-generation Latino immigrant community through LUCHA Ministries. Kim and Marc Wyatt are Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, where they serve among refugees through Welcome House. The Smiths and Wyatts are members of CBF Advocacy’s newly-formed Advocacy Action Team for Immigrants and Refugees. 

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  • Chris Quinones

    And heaven help you if the return on your investment doesn’t measure up. I got my accounting degree from NYU in the hope that it would improve my job prospects, and that hasn’t proven true so far. I chose accounting in the first place so I’d never need to worry about finding work, and that hasn’t proven true. You know America’s in trouble when folks can’t even sell out successfully any more.

  • Reagan

    You’ve nailed it. As a student in a PhD program, I know that I want to make a difference in the world, make some discovery that will have a real positive impact on society. The problem of how to make that a reality is clear even at this early stage of my training. Pharmaceutical companies can have that impact, but it is secondary to their real purpose of creating profit for shareholders. Academic institutions have a great potential to make that impact, but choosing that road can make it difficult to provide for a family. And that’s to say nothing about the role alumni/ae play in the sustaining of education at their respective schools.
    In a few years I’ll have an answer, I suppose.

  • steve

    This seems to point to the worth of the concept of AmeriCorps…
    Since education is so expensive, why not have a government program to reward graduates with some debt reduction in exchange for a couple years of public/community service jobs. I’d love to see this this program championed and expanded. Those couple years of community service work could really help breed a generation of people that look beyond themselves and what’s in it for them.
    How long ago it seems that we had a president that challenged us to “Ask not…”

  • Steve

    This reminds me of a good Tony Campolo story (Eastern College/University alumnus and professor):
    After a sermon challenging young people to choose a path of service to others, rather than simply careers where they can make a lot of money, a man came up to him and said sarcastically “So, what do you want? My daughter to become the next Mother Teresa?”
    To which Tony responded: “What would be wrong with that?”
    To which I add: what WOULD be wrong with that?

  • Matt

    If you make less than $30,000 as a public interest lawyer, the government will pay off you law school loans

  • carla

    Ah, now there’s a deep question: What is education for?
    Yes, on some level you’re correct about high-level vo-tech schools, but keep in mind, (1) these jobs don’t just pay better than HVAC or auto repair, they also are in general more interesting, and (b) the degrees, along with the earlier degrees the person possesses, are likely to enable a wider variety of occupations than the usual vo-tech degree. So it’s not a simple equation of high-power school = lots o money.
    Second, just because one has gotten the education doesn’t mean one will actually get to use it. The accountant in the earlier comment is one such, and I’m another: I wanted to be a professor, got the degree from one of the high-power institutions (and did well in that process)–but finished at the absolute nadir of hiring for my discipline and ended up doing something entirely else just to eat. Then again, most professors don’t exactly make a lot of money, so maybe your original equation doesn’t quite work in this case.

  • Chris Tessone

    My school, Knox College, has this same sort of dual-intent thing going on. We send plenty of students on to Harvard, Yale, Chicago, and so forth. Then plenty of them enter public interest work or academia. It seems like we mostly get by on the contributions of a few of the more materially-minded, who still have good hearts as a result of coming here, but our endowment is smallish.
    Wouldn’t that be the ideal, though? Graduating students who are looking forward to pursuing lucrative careers in corporate law and business and so forth, but community-minded enough to turn around and give that money away, to the college, charities, etc.?

  • gazould

    My school, Southwestern Law, gives scholarship to students who are serious about public interest, and provides grants to those working in public interest during the summer and after graduation. Unfortunately, when loan forgiveness programs are too generous, people have an interest in povery law for just long enough to get their loans repaid. At least I know for sure that my colleagues in public interest will be motivated by something besides money.

  • Charles

    “The very structure of American higher education only allows one answer: college is a means of increasing future financial potential. This reduces education to mere career preparation.”
    I only partially agree, even though my existence proves your point. As an adult student, I am pursuing my degree in healthcare informatics in hopes that I will never again be laid off. I have broken my teenage vow that I would not go to college unless I could go solely for the love of learning; degrees and graduation and fatty paychecks be damned. I’m in it for the money. (Though it’s wonderful being at a gourmet feast of knowledge every night!)
    But as disgusting as I find my own attitude, I am far more repulsed by America’s growing belief that higher education is a right, not a privilege. I know dozens of people for whom college was their time to “come of age”, a place to drink and screw and break all of the rules that mommy and daddy made rather than study something about which they are passionate. I’m not opposed to drinking or sex or breaking rules, but I am opposed to people who drop 25K every year so they (or their kid) can do it in the guise of education. It would be lovely to see a movement towards high school grads joining AmeriCorps or some other well-intentioned organization before they head off to college. This way, they’d get a much more honest view of the world, and some good might come from their late-teen rebellion.

  • http://cmuncey.ManilaSites.Com/2003/11/18#a326 One Pilgrim’s Walk

    Soaked with the grace of God

    One thing I love about the Internet is that on any morning you can be inspired by the life and work of someone you had never heard of before, with little effort.