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Why immigration? I’m not an immigrant or in a family of immigrants. Well, truth be told my mom grew up overseas, but she never changed citizenship. She thinks in Spanish but never had to deal with looking non-white. So why would a white guy from the suburbs start a third career to devote his life to immigration reform and helping immigrants? It’s not like it’s hip, cool, or popular.
I get this a lot.
But it’s still an important question. Why immigration and immigration reform?
Several years ago I relocated my family and the church I was leading at the time from the suburbs to be in an immigrant part of Atlanta. But at the time it was all about location. It was a series of tasks to be done.
But a person can’t sustain anything for long if it’s just a series of tasks. Or, if they do, they burn out fast, get a martyr complex, and live the rest of their life on other people’s sympathy for “how hard you tried when you – fill in the blank” (you were a missionary, did urban work, tried to help “those people”, whatever). I am intimately familiar with this particular self-delusion.
The tasks were important, but they weren’t the main point. The people were the main point. It was when the kids at Pearl Lane stopped being an after-school program and I learned their stories. When my heart, mind, and will saw how much of life they knew that I didn’t know. How wrong the injustices and circumstances were that they lived with.
It was when I stopped being quiet and started to get public with my love. I remember meeting Anton Flores on my first Immigration Pilgrimage. I remember the mothers in strollers committing so much to a simple proclamation of their humanity and dignity. Things changed when I stopped living in my head and started speaking out loud and putting my body where my mouth was.
Looking over my shoulder the narrative has definitely changed. Standing where I am now I can see that several years ago my life was changed by other lives. I met Jincia, Jennifer, Alex, Daisy, Orli, Bernard, Randy, Stephen, Susan, Susan, Susan…David, Peter, Jacob, Kim, Eric, Martha, Anton…and so many more. And I have to confess that I didn’t just meet them. I feel in love with them.
I owe them so much! They were God’s grace in pulling me from a life that was so contrary to what scripture says about what a life with him should be like. Their lives still confront points of pride in my life. Areas that I thought were strengths, but were/are really racism and privilege. I owe them for showing me a quality of life that I had never known.
And so here I am starting a new venture called Immigrant Hope Atlanta. There are several tasks involved in it – important things to do to bless others. But the real purpose is people. It is a way to harness the hunger and delight I experience when my life touches other lives. Not just anyone, but with outsiders – strangers and aliens who shine a bright light on everything I find most important in life.