We had spent the week meeting our neighbors. Most of the neighbors we had met didn’t look like us, speak the same language as us, come from the same places as us or worship like us. We had worked in a community garden that is gardened by refugees who had been farmers in Nepal and Bhutan and who were missing the food that tastes like home. We had danced with Marvin after he told us the story of how his kids and wife were finally able to join him in Texas years after he had escaped persecution in Zimbabwe and became an asylee in the USA. We had made puppets and laughed with kids whose parents had supported our military in Afghanistan and now had to move halfway around the world because their lives were in danger at home.
This was day 3 of Saint Andrew and Overland Park Christian Church’s youth mission trip with Connect Ministries at Ridglea Christian Church. After 3 days of building friendships and relationships with their neighbors they were starting to have some questions. Why did so many people have to leave their homes they loved just to find safety? Why do policies sometimes make it unnecessarily difficult for our neighbors to thrive and succeed in our country, especially after they have already experienced such trauma? Why aren’t we as Christians doing more to follow the biblical call to love our neighbors and welcome the stranger until they aren’t strangers anymore?
They had learned that service means meeting an immediate need and justice means solving the problem at the root cause. To do justice they knew they had to ask questions and go upstream to see where the problem originated and then talk to the people who had power to change things. They had been doing powerful service with our refugee neighbors and they were ready to start doing justice!
So we turned to Rev. Sharon Stanley Rea who leads Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries to ask what we could do. She shared with us all of the amazing ways Disciples are actively involved in working for justice in this area and have been for decades. Then she gave us a challenge, to lead a prayer vigil praying for our and with our neighbors
who are refugees and immigrants, sharing the biblical call to welcome the stranger and love our neighbors, reminding people that Jesus was a refugee, sharing some of the stories we had learned during our week and then calling our churches, friends and family to action to speak out for just and faithful policies for our refugee and asylee neighbors!
The Saint Andrew and Overland Park youth planned and led a powerful vigil that Wednesday afternoon that they shared on Facebook live to inspire others to pray with them. They ended by writing their own letters to send to their representatives telling them how their faith called them to welcome and love their neighbors and asking them to use their power and voice to make our world more like the world God dreams of!
You can watch their vigil here:
If your church and youth wants to put your faith into action in this way check out Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries’s website for resources, tips, and guides.
If your church and youth want to participate in a trip like this consider signing up for your own Connect Ministries Mission Trip this spring break or summer.
Whatever you do, let the youth in your congregation be your guides and set the example of how to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. Follow them as they prophetically speak and live God’s unconditional love and welcome for all people
Connect Ministries Founder & Executive Director
Rev. Allison Lanza