Throughout the Bible, we see stories of immigrants -- people called to settle in new lands and begin new lives for a variety of reasons; people who trust in God's protection along the way. Abraham and Sarah heard God's promise of a new land. Exodus is the story of God's people being led from slavery to the freedom of the Promised Land. Later, Ruth went with Naomi, her mother-in-law, because her love of family led her to take risks and leave the home she knew for a new home. Jesus himself was a refugee in Egypt when his parents had to flee from Herod for his safety. Jesus taught that one of the greatest commandments is to love our neighbors; these neighbors include foreigners (Luke 10:25-37, with references to Leviticus 19:18, 33-34). Jesus also taught that all people will be judged on their compassion for those in need and their welcome of strangers (Matthew 25:31-46).
Today, people are immigrants for many of the same reasons that these biblical people were. The church is called to follow the Bible's teachings by welcoming and supporting immigrants today. Here is a hymn of welcome for immigrants:
Abraham Journeyed to a New Country
BUNESSAN 220.127.116.11 D ("Morning Has Broken")
Abraham journeyed to a new country;
Sarah went with him, journeying too.
Slaves down in Egypt fled Pharaoh's army;
Ruth left the home and people she knew.
Mary and Joseph feared Herod's order;
Soldiers were coming! They had to flee.
Taking young Jesus, they crossed the border;
So was our Lord a young refugee.
Some heard the promise -- God's hand would bless them!
Some fled from hunger, famine and pain.
Some left a place where others oppressed them;
All trusted God and started again.
Did they know hardship? Did they know danger?
Who shared a home or gave them some bread?
Who reached a hand to welcome the stranger?
Who saw their fear and gave hope instead?
God, our own families came here from far lands;
We have been strangers, "aliens" too.
May we reach out and offer a welcome
As we have all been welcomed by you.
Biblical references: Genesis 12, Ruth 1; Matthew 2:13-16, 10:40; 25:31-46; Hebrews 11, 13:2; Leviticus 19:18, 33-34
Tune: Gaelic melody
Text: Copyright © 2010 Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is the author of Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor (Discipleship Resources/Upper Room Books, 2009) and Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today's Worship (Geneva Press, 2000) and the co-pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware. This congregation includes first generation immigrants from Brazil, England, Ghana, India, Scotland, and South Africa, and provides space for a Ghanaian Presbyterian Fellowship. A complete list of Carolyn's 160+ hymns can be found at www.carolynshymns.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Permission for free use of this hymn is given to churches that support Sojourners and/or Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.