As immigration reform gains more and more bipartisan support in Congress, I am encouraged by our lawmakers’ positive steps forward, and I can’t help but think of my own story on immigration.
When I first started working on immigration, I was naïve. My wife and I started ministering to immigrants in 2005, and I thought our work would be all about sharing the Gospel of Christ.
I thought we would share in word and deed and our acts of service would show compassion. I was sure moving to the neighborhood would help make us equal participants in our community together, but certain things would make this nearly impossible.
One of those things was the divide between legal and illegal, native born and foreign born, and affluence and poverty. I could proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and make disciples, but other realities were beyond my ability to change.
My heart became troubled over the circumstances that caused much of this and I began asking questions about why our system is the way it is and what we could do to respond.
I didn’t like the answers I was coming up with and in my desperation to understand I kept coming back to God’s love.
I saw the faces of my neighbors and I remembered the repeated call in Scripture to take care of the foreigner living among us; “the foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).
I was convinced of God’s clear call to care for the stranger.
Then compassion moved me to look deeper into the issue and I came to the conclusion that I needed to advocate on behalf of my neighbors.
This led me to my work advocating for immigration reform.
So I began sharing the stories and realities of immigrant lives with Mission Adelante’s church partners and volunteers in Kansas City. I testified to the brokenness of our immigration laws, which are rarely and randomly enforced and worked to dispel common myths.
And I was far from alone in my work. I found evangelical leaders across the country who were already part of a greater effort to reform our broken immigration system.
I traveled to Washington, D.C., three times this year with different local evangelical pastors to meet with legislators.
We never once tried to offer a magic solution; we sought change. We stood behind six basic principles of the Evangelical Immigration Table and asked Congress to draft and pass legislation with these in mind.
While I never intended for immigration advocacy to be part of our ministry, I cannot deny its importance.
I believe God looks down with concern on those who are vulnerable.
My hope and prayer is that as we love our neighbor as ourselves just as the Old and New Testament proclaim, we honor God’s concern for the immigrant.
May God show us how this looks in legislation and may God grant courage to our elected leaders who have an opportunity to bring about reform.
For our churches, our communities and our country, we need just and commonsense immigration reform this year.
Jason Schoff served as the Director of Latino Outreach at Mission Adelante in Kansas City for the past seven years.