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GraceLink: 2-2-17

A Message From Pastor Marty

Dear people of Grace,

My heart has been distraught by the refugee and immigration conversations. What I am sharing comes from my heart and not from a political position. We as followers of Jesus must come together with the truth and grace of God’s Word.

Recently, I saw a post on Facebook entitled: Three Things You Can Do Right Now to Show Your Support of Refugees.  I was intrigued.  What I found was the following: 1. Sign the Petition. 2. Contact your legislators. and 3. Share via social media.  As I read this I had a question: how does this help?  I understand the desire for unity and solidarity for those who are outcast. However, is that really going to show refugees I care? This issue has become political but at the heart of it is people not politics.

I’m concerned for people citing Scripture to prove a political position. If you do not agree with an open border approach or a temporary ban on entry to the United States, you are either not a follower of Jesus or very misguided in your understanding of Scripture.

At Grace we have people on both sides of the political spectrum.  My prayer is we find common ground on these issues and be unified with the ‘end game’ of refugees and immigration. Both sides want peace. Both want people to be cared for. Both want justice to prevail and life to be lived to the fullest. The continuous and contentious, point, counter point, “I can manipulate Scripture to prove my point,” is not helpful. Here is a recent blog post from Pastor Gary about social media that maybe helpful: https://garysinclairconnect.wordpress.com/

So, with this in mind, here is some thoughts to guide our discussion and actions as followers of Jesus.

First, the issue at hand is extremely complex. If it were not so, the issues would have been solved years ago. What isn’t helpful is the misinformation, rumors, half-truths, and myths that perpetuates division. When the issue of caring and supporting refuges is on the table, I want to defer to those who have been intimately and effectively involved, listening to their perspective.

Last August, I was in a meeting with 40 other pastors and Richard Sterns, President of World Vision International. World Vision is one of few relief organizations who are in the Middle East working with refugees. He shared, first hand, the needs of the refugees.  He made a statement that brought clarity to the issue. He said: “Over 90% of refuges when asked, ‘where would you like to live,’ responded, ‘In my home country or as closely to it as possible.’” I had to ask, why then do we think bringing people here is a great idea, if they would rather remain in their region? I since learned of the added expense, time, and trauma that exists when refuges relocated to the U.S.A. Here is a startling statistic from the Center for Immigration Studies: ”each refugee from the Middle East costs…$64,370 to relocate and sustain them for 5 years in the U.S. — 12 times what the UN estimates it costs to care for one refugee in neighboring Middle Eastern countries.”  The resources it takes to resettle 1 refugee could go to help 12 refugees settle in their region. Richard then challenged us to make a difference by going to or sending resources to these areas!

Second, we need Scripture to guide us. It reminds us to seek God when we are at a loss for what to do. Are we praying about this? Before signing a petition, contacting anyone, or posting anything, first go before a Holy, Omnipotent, Gracious, Loving God.

The Bible talks about refugees, aliens, foreigners, and those in need. We are to be compassionate and ready to give a cup of cold water in Jesus name. Scripture talks about being light where we are. Last Sunday, a woman approached me after the service and said: “Can you help me, I’m living out of my car?” I don’t want to  minimize the refugee issue but there are people here who are living as refugees, aliens, and foreigners. Could it be God IS giving us opportunities to be his hands, feet, and heart here? This is not to say we shouldn’t be involved with those across the ocean but what does it say if our attention is ONLY on those in Syria, Somalia, or other war torn countries while we neglect people here? Maybe it’s a both/and proposition!

Here is my challenge. First Pray. Ask God what he wants you to do regarding this issue. Next, become informed about the ways you can make a difference. A way that gets you personally involved. I have included in this letter a few links to help. Then, do something! If God leads you to sign a petition, contact a legislator, and post on social media, then do that. If he says, share what you have with who are near you, then do that. Or if he directs you, get involved with those who are on the ground in these war torn countries.

However God leads you, please know as your pastor I care about you and about

how we engage this issue and other issues with one another. Please keep in mind:

Colossians 3:12-17 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Each of us want to live out our faith in ways that make a difference and bring “up there down here.” We can do this in a way that brings people to Jesus and sees a church come together in love without having to agree politically.

To make a difference for those in our area living as refugees, foreigners, and aliens, DO NOT MISS SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12. You will be given a very practical, tangible, and possibly life changing opportunity. Bring a blanket to give away and be ready to rave about God.

Grace and Peace to You all,

Marty Longcor,

Pastor

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