Rev. Hyoung Chel “Tom” Yang shared a wonderful devotion at our CCIW ministry team meeting. As your regional minister, for a beautifully diverse church, I thought you might like to listen. (Rev. Yang is our CCIW minister to our NAPAD communities– North American, Pacific Island, Asian Disciples.)
Like many immigrant communities in and across the country, the level of anxiety in the Korean immigrant community has dramatically increased in recent days, since the detentions and deportations occurred in many airports around the country. Newspapers in the community report about immigration raids conducted by the law enforcement agencies to arrest the undocumented immigrants in Korean-American communities in the New York, Los Angeles and Chicago areas.
Usually, those without proper documentation do not wish to reveal their legal status and it is hard to know or confirm the exact number of those in the immigrant community who are undocumented. However, it is a reality that both the undocumented and documented are afraid of the potentially going through or experiencing similar incidences, as they are increasingly learning of more cases in which even the documented are not totally free from being unexpectedly detained by hard-lined officials.
As a result, it is not uncommon to hear of people in the Korean community who have decided to stay home, giving up plans to visit their relatives in Korea or travel outside the country, all due to a prospect of trouble that they might encounter at their re-entry point to this country.
I cannot say that what’s happening in the country or what’s making people in immigrant communities fearful is entirely new to this country. And, the history of the country shows it. But then again, I cannot help thinking about questions that I believe sincere people of faith should not ignore: In this swirling of nationalism that generates fear in the minds of those in the immigrant community, as well as of those across the states who are concerned by what’s going on in this country, what does it mean to be a Christian and what does it mean to be the church?
In searching for an answer to those questions, I have wondered if there is any place or time where I can discover a hope, a hope that would provide those who are in fear with a silver lining, so to speak. And I have learned that God has surrounded me with moments opening my eyes and ears, so I can see such a silver lining. And, those moments, I have discovered, often come from those who are near to me.
To me, those moments have come even from the voices of the ministry team members here. For example, I found them when I was listening to the one who wished for the countrymen and women to look at the world in a bigger picture, and when I was listening to the one who offered the Bible verse that encouraged to stay in joy, regardless of any circumstance. And I say to myself, “Yeah, that is what it means to be a Christian and that is the way how Christians should live in the world.”
I found a similar moment, or a silver lining, from reading a newspaper report about a church in Sacramento. The report said, the church was offering beds for congregants who needed a safe haven from immigration raids. What was even more interesting to me was the fact that the pastor of the church was the one who led a prayer at Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony.
I do not know much about the pastor’s political view. Nor do I want to care about his reasoning to lead the prayer at the inauguration. But I found myself encouraged, and at the same time challenged, by the fact that he was doing something that shows what it means to be a Christian, and to be the church, for that matter. By providing protection for those who may be in fear of being arrested or deported, what the pastor and the church were doing, I thought, was a work of a sort that Jesus would have strived for ministering, that is, for giving his deliberate attention to and caring for the marginalized.
It is believed that some 800 churches have signed up to be sanctuary churches. The Disciples of Christ is one of those denominations that support them. I am proud and grateful for being a member of a region of the Disciples of Christ Church that wants to continue Christ’s mission and radiate the Creator’s love, by becoming a radically welcoming region where inclusive and multicultural talk is not prohibited but promoted, to which I say, “Yes, that is what it means to be the church.”
In this time of devotion assigned to me, I just wanted to share with you about my feeling of gratitude; so, thanking you all, I lift up the word of God from Isaiah 41:10: “Therefore, do not fear because I am with you.”
Gracious God, we recognize that there are people currently living in fear. They fear to go out to visit their loved ones and they are even fearful of going to work every day. Yet, you said, “Do not fear because I am with you.”
Gracious God, we know that you have surrounded us with those who would invest their time and effort to deliver your saving voice to those who are in fear. So, we give you thanks, God.
We pray that you enable us all to see the bigger picture that you desire for the world. We pray that you help those in fear see it as well and enable them to discover a hope, not because of, but in spite of, any circumstance.
Most of all, gracious God, we pray that you grant us the strength and the courage, so we could become your hands and feet delivering your saving actions for those who are in fear. So, help us God.
In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen.