[featured_image]Did you know that thousands of the world’s refugees are tucked into the suburbs of Los Angeles?
Did you know that persecuted Christian in Iran are fleeing to Los Angeles to escape for their lives?
These refugees are invited guests of the United States. They live with “anchor” families until they’re on their feet. The Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Services at an 80-year old Episcopal Church in Atwater Village runs one of five centers in LA county that assist refugees. Last year, 3, 241 refugees came to Los Angeles, according to an article in today’s Daily News (Worlds Refugees Building New Lives in L.A.).
Most are Iranian Christians and Jews who fled persecution under President Ahmadinejad’s Islamic regime.
President Bush determined last year that 70,000 refugees from approved nations could enter the United States, although just 40,000 came. The numbers are smaller, in part, because the process is complex.
Debbie Decker, resource director for the center in Atwater Village, explains that these refugees sell everything when they come here: “What they can fit in two suitcases is what they have. They bring pictures, small things, their treasures.”
Katrin Davoodi, a refugee from Iran explains, “It was hard, changing your country, your home, finding a good job. The problem in Iran wasn’t money; the problem was religious persecution.”
Jesus was an African Refugee
As I read this article, I thought of the numerous times I’ve heard Dr. Ray Bakke state that Jesus was an African refugee. Mary and Joseph fled their homeland to escape persecution. As I read of these refugees escaping persecution and coming to Los Angeles, I reflected on the reality that “the Christmas story is about an international immigrant” (A Theology as Big as the City, p 29).
Surely Jesus understands the pain of refugees and cares for them. As followers of Jesus, how can we become aware of the refugees that may lives in our neighborhoods, communities and city? How can we show that we care? How can we bring them the love of Jesus?
Love Those Who are Aliens
Today I was reading in Deuteronomy 10 and I was struck by these verses:
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing
And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. (Deut 10:17-19, italics mine)
I realize that I was never an alien in Egypt like the Israelites, but Peter refers to his readers as “aliens and strangers in the world” (1Pet 2:9) and Paul points out that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20). Since I am an alien who is just visiting this planet, and since I am a follower of the great God who “loves the alien, giving him food and clothing,” shouldn’t I be one who loves those who are aliens?
It seems right to love immigrants to America that are refugees, but shouldn’t we also love those who are aliens?
This concept struck me today because we are faced with many undocumented (illegal) aliens here in Southern California. My heart has not been the same as the God of gods and Lord of lords toward those who are aliens. He loves the alien! I’ve been indifferent. I pray that God will soften my heart toward those who are aliens and that I will remember that I too am an alien here.
In a real sense, the Incarnation is about Jesus becoming an alien here on earth. As we seek to incarnate the gospel, what should be our posture and position toward aliens?