When news broke this past week that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers would begin knocking on people’s doors to arrest them, I recalled the story of a scholar I met a few years ago. He had completed his doctoral education by writing a dissertation on the signs and symptoms that went unnoticed in Germany’s political landscape at the time when Hitler’s rise to power unleashed the Holocaust. He said, “I know too much to pretend that it couldn’t happen again.”
In the New York Times last Saturday, a reporter said that Department of Homeland Security officials hoped that images of children and parents being hauled out of their homes would discourage other people from entering the United States illegally. I do not believe that inflicting trauma will deter the thousands of people who are fleeing even worse persecution and death in their homelands.
This week at church, I will be preaching a third sermon of four about Christian perspectives on trauma and healing. Our focus will be on a dozen scripture texts about treating strangers with welcome and kindness. After all, Jesus was from a family of refugees.
To address the arrests of illegal immigrants, non-profit groups are urging those who are at risk of deportation and arrest to not open their doors. I recall that Hmong families in Laos who were fleeing for their lives after assisting U.S. soldiers in Vietnam found safety in Christian homes. They knocked, doors opened, and they were feed and assisted.
I know a woman who was a child in England when German planes were bombing her city. And I know a person from Poland whose parents hid in a basement before their escape. And another man whose Russian family fled for their lives as their town burned. Most of us don’t have to go very far back in our family stories to find a time when someone experienced a terrifying knock on the door. Many were saved by knocking on a door where hospitable strangers helped them.
I am on my knees about this turn of events. I’m thankful for churches who are willing to shelter asylum seekers along our borders, even when they are now being fined by the government and threatened with the loss of their non-profit status. I’m thankful for a married couple in Phoenix Arizona who started a warehouse for clothing, strollers, shampoos, diapers, bikes, lamps, couches –the things refugees need to establish a home with their children. They are United Methodist’s, by the way, and they have been given a closed school building in which to store and distribute needed items. My sister and her church friends all volunteer there, sorting packaged underpants and pajamas by sizes.
When we stay focused on the good we can do, we are more likely to stay out of despair. A donation for a hygiene kit is a wonderful way to do that. I invite you to join your church community in giving generously. And since Jesus may be in the heart of someone knocking, let’s be ready to open our doors. See you in church,