No matter where one’s views fall on the spectrum of thoughts about immigration issues, members of our Lutheran faith family should be extraordinarily disturbed by the massive displacement of individuals and families across the globe. Not only are countless lives tragically upended, and the health and welfare of adults, children, and babies put at extreme risk, but they face manifest danger and intense discrimination in seeking the chance for resettlement. Granted, the world is full of troubles that seem immune to ready solutions. Yet, we cannot dismiss these human tragedies from our hearts and minds as too distant or too complicated for our concern and compassion.
A frequent question is: What can I/we do? A good answer is to go back to the basics – the power of prayer. Commendably, Church World Services, an increasing presence in our region, has developed a Worship Guide for reflecting and praying for the tens of millions displaced persons. The ELCA has taken on a role in circulating it.
The guide begins with applicable Bible verses, offers sermon starters, a variety of prayers, a litany prayer, prayer points for personal use, responsive prayer, hymn suggestions, and reflections, which involves a refugee simulation exercise. The old saw about putting oneself in the shoes of another has not lost its relevance. The meaning has increased in this age of bombast and belligerence. This guide is incredibly directed and utile. It is worth taking a look at and considering making a part of devotions.
In our Tree of Life congregation, concerns in other parts of the world are always incorporated into the prayers of the church during worship services. As with many parts of the worship service, we can fall into the trap of hearing the familiar but not really listening. When the significance is brought to our notice afresh, it hopefully causes us to think, and perhaps to respond.
By informing our minds and softening our hearts, prayers for refugees remove the issue of displacement from the hard world of partisan political discourse and bring it back to scriptural context. We can view the crisis through the lens of our religious beliefs, rather than our political associations. That plants the seeds for meaningful response, be it advocacy, volunteering, or contributing financially or materially.
The more deeply we become informed on immigration issues, the greater our appreciation for the dedicated organizations who are doing everything within the realm of possibility to welcome those who manage to find their way to America’s doorstep. The realization sinks in that there are many ways in which we can contribute constructively and live out the precepts of faith and stewardship. This is the often not so apparent blessing – the chance to bear witness – for which we should be grateful daily. We often think of prayer in terms of prayer requests, but here prayer can be a motivator for caring and giving. Will we prayerfully accept the challenge of going forth?