Immigrants, strangers, resident aliens…home away from homeSeptember 26, 2018
The man furrowed his brow and spoke slowly, “You’re not from ‘round here are ya?”
I smiled. “Well, I lived here for a number of years, my parents live down on the lake, and we’ve got a house up on the mountain where we plan to retire. But no, right now, I live just outside of Nashville.” I paused and then added, “But I’m not really from there either.”
That was clearly more information and more conversation than he really wanted. But it got me thinking: even in the place I feel most at home on the earth, I’m not really home.
I was born in Muncie, Indiana, was raised in Tampa, Florida and have since lived in New Jersey, Texas, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee. I spent a summer during graduate school working in Southern California and my family now lives in Arizona. Where am I from, where do I belong and where is home? My most honest answer to that question is this: I am a member of the household of God, citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. I’m here as an ambassador of the King and His Kingdom in the midst of the kingdoms of this world. This world is not my home. I am but a sojourner here. I love it, but I live with a longing for the Father’s house, the fellowship of the Lord’s table, and the realities of the Kingdom where war and disease and pain and disappointment are no more.
Yes, I stand to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. I hold a U.S. passport and I love this land, but beyond my national identity, I recognize I have a family of faith living in nation under Heaven who one day will be gathered together a Kingdom not of this world. For me, that reality provides the background and foundation for conversations about Christian persecution around the world and the refugee and immigration debates here in the United States.
Recently on Connecting Faith we talked with Matthew Soerens, U.S. Director of Church Mobilization for World Relief, National Coordinator of the Evangelical Immigration Table and co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate about current immigration headlines.
Matthew shared about his personal connection to a recent headline out of Costa Rica about refugees fleeing Nicaragua. As he shared, I was struck by the transforming power overseas mission trips can have on Christians from America.
As our conversation proceeded, I asked Matthew to update us on the real numbers related to the reception of refugees from countries where the U.S. acknowledges Christians are being targeted for genocide. Year to date in 2018 as compared to 2016, there has been a 60% decline from 96,000 to 22,000. While Muslim majority nations like Jordan and Lebanon now have so many refugees from Syria and Iraq that their populations are 10% refugees, we in the United States take less than one tenth of 1% of the world’s displaced people.
If you want to know more, read:
- Religious Freedom Refugees letter – Evangelical Immigration Table
- Trump Admits only 23 Christian Refugees from Mideast in 2018 – Forbes
- Iran sentenced us to death for being Christian; We pray America will welcome more grateful refugees like us – Fox News
- Iraqi Refugees deserve special treatment – Wall Street Journal
You can find my prior conversations with Matthew Soerens here:
- Connecting Faith – Matthew Soerens – May 24, 2018
- Connecting Faith – Matthew Soerens – June 27, 2018
And you can follow him on Twitter @matthewsoerens