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Home > 2013 > May Online Only > We Couldn't Stay Silent

Over the past several years, our church, located in Chicago's western suburbs, has begun to engage with the under-resourced areas surrounding us. Our church—mostly middle class, Caucasian families—is embarking on a journey to love our neighbors like Jesus commands. The uniqueness of our situation rests in the fact that our church campus is located right on the border between one of the most affluent neighborhoods and one of the most under-resourced neighborhoods in Chicagoland.

This was the reality 11 years ago when our church building was built, but it was just a few years ago that we recognized that our context presents a unique opportunity. We discovered that this calling would mean bringing justice to broken systems while working to restore relationships to a community torn apart by joblessness, racial divides, overcrowding, and an inadequate education system.

We've all heard it said, "It's not about the destination, but rather about the journey," and that has been true for us. Our journey led my wife and me to relocate in East Aurora, the under-resourced area, because I've found when these problems become personal, your advocacy becomes much more potent.

Hard realities

Our neighborhood is more than 80 percent Hispanic; many of the families we know are undocumented. These families care deeply about providing a better future for their children and have a deep sense of community with one another. Many are among the hardest working individuals I've ever known, waking up very early each morning, working long into the evening in physically demanding jobs for minimal pay.

We work with many students who have little hope for a prosperous future because of their immigration status. We've seen students who have an A and B average in high school literally give up because they realize that they have no chance of ever going to college (because undocumented students cannot apply for federal loans or grants). If on the slight chance that their family can afford to pay for college, they realize they'll never get a decent job because they don't have employment paperwork.

In our neighborhood, we see low parental involvement rates in the school system. It's not just because our kids' parents are working two or three jobs, and it's certainly not because they don't care enough to get involved. Rather, they live in constant fear that they'll be "found out" and sent back to the land they worked so hard to escape to provide a better future for their children.

As a pastor, and more importantly as a Christ-follower, it's my job to "do justice … [to] do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow" (Jer. 22:3, ESV). In almost each Old Testament book, the plight of the oppressed and defenseless is a major theme. God specifically highlights three groups of people who are vulnerable and in need of unique protections: the fatherless, the widow, and the immigrant (Ps. 146:9, Deut. 10:18-19, Ezek. 22:7, Mal. 3:5). Recently, God has given our church the opportunity to be a part of a bigger movement, dedicated to bringing justice to a broken immigration system. Leviticus 19:33-34 commands us to not take advantage of foreigners who live among us. We're to treat them like native-born and love them as we love ourselves.

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Posted: May 20, 2013

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James Eliason

May 31, 2013  2:04pm

Any Christian dialogue on the presence of upwards of 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States must begin with the questions of sovereignty and the law. The discussion should have nothing to do with the suffering that people willingly endure just to be in this country, or how hard those people work. This is not about how nice illegal immigrants are. (Or how evil some are.) Every country in the world declares state boundaries, and requires legal entrance. Mexico has rather strict immigration laws, but there is no discussion going on about getting illegal immigrants accepted into Mexico. As a Christian, I am to love my neighbor as myself. As an American, I agree that my country has the right to require laws to be obeyed. My belief is that before any bill can be considered in Congress about the 11 million plus illegal immigrants, the borders must be closed. That must be fixed first. Once that is fixed, then begin the discussion about the illegal immigrants - but not until then.

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