Tribute to my First Youth Pastor and Letter to Hispanic/Latino Pastors

US citizen

 

I remember when I first met her. She SANG at a wedding and was wearing a dark red dress.

She was LOUD and had BIG dreams. She LOVED in a way which many of us were unfamiliar with. I remember when she “discovered” me and a few of my other tween friends and our “musical” ability. She took us in and boy did she fight for us. She made sure we learned and made sure we served. I know we are the cause of many of her gray hairs and any wrinkles which may be present this day.

I think at some point we all took her for granted but as I have gotten older I’ve been able to see the tremendous influence she has had on my life and countless others. She has stood by me in many of my victories and has embraced me when I have failed. When I gave my life to Jesus she took me under her wing and cried, laughed and taught me the Word of God. At one point her Bible study was filled to capacity where not even standing room was available. As she reads this I know she will cry and then call me to “matarme” over the phone.

But you see I left out the reason as to why I am writing this – She is an undocumented American and is not in the United States legally. As I read the headlines I have been very hesitant to post what I am posting today. I did not want to speak out of anger or frustration and I wanted to speak from a place of love, but then I remember the many who like my dear friend are a part of this country and feel voiceless.

On April 27, 2017, Senate Bill 4 (SB4) passed in Texas. SB4 is a bill that goes into effect on September 1, 2017, this bill allows police officials (including university campus police) to inquire about an individual’s immigration status [CSSB 4, Sec 752.052] as they pull them over for a broken head light or wrong turn. This week the news broke that Donald Trump pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio was a person who was convicted of racial profiling, abuse of power, disobeying federal orders and making inmates who were under his jurisdiction suffer inhumane conditions. Yesterday as a life threatening hurricane took place the U.S. Border Patrol remained open to “fulfill” their duties as people were fleeing for their lives. All of this saddens me and breaks my heart.

I agree we need to have comprehensive immigration reform. I agree there needs to be a system which makes it easier for the people who are already here to become legal citizens of the United States and I DO NOT have the answers for that, BUT we cannot deny the fact that many Latino/Hispanic churches are filled with people who are undocumented and that the Latino/Hispanic church is the fastest growing community within the evangelical church. Many of these people are followers of Jesus who love God and serve him wholeheartedly. Maybe it’s the hermanas that cook for Sundays food sale and VBS, or the hermanos that help build the very church which we worship in or even the families which help keep our places of worship clean. Many of these hermanas and hermanos sacrificially give to their churches and I am not just speaking financially but with their time, prayers and support. This is not a matter of who you voted for but more of a matter that OUR people are living in fear and while I know and have seen the power of prayer and I believe that “all things work for the good to those who love Him [God] our answer cannot be: continue to live in fear.

This is a call to action! As you read this you may have mixed feelings or you may even think “wow Abby has lost it” (it’s ok I’m used to this ask my parents and most of my friends). If you are interested in answering the call to action there are a variety of things which you can do to help members of your community who may be living in fear.

  1. EQUIP and EDUCATE!
    1. The ACLU has provided a very handy guide as to what rights undocumented immigrants have under SB4. Many times our people are hurt due to lack of knowledge. Follow the link share it with your church the resources are in Spanish and English.
  2. Call your Representatives and Senators!
    1. As a U.S. Citizen, we have the right and obligation to call our Representatives and Senators and to express our grievances. Many major cities (except for Fort Worth – looking at you Funky Town) have joined together to file a suit against SB4, our government needs to know that we are informed and that Hispanics and Latinos do not approve of SB4. Texas has one of the largest Hispanic/Latino populations in the US. I have a template of what you can call and say – I promise it’s not hard.
  3. Get together as a community!
    1. If there was ever a time for  Pastors to speak up it is NOW! As I stated before it is not a matter of who you voted for but more of a matter that OUR people are living in fear. We need to stand together and defend the marginalized and oppressed just as Jesus did. We preach that change begins within our communities yet fail to reach out and engage our communities with real world topics and issues. Get involved! Ask yourself if my church was to leave this area would my community even notice or miss us?

 

This is probably the longest I have ever written and the most I have ever debated posting anything but I felt compelled. Pastors, your voice or silence resounds and the world is watching to see how spiritual leaders respond. The very communities which you live in and hold your church services are counting on someone to fight for them. I urge you to please take a stand today and if you already have I applaud you and admire you, encourage other pastors around you to stand in the gap for undocumented immigrants. Let us join and fight for the youth pastors, the hermanas and hermanos who sacrificially give and love and call this land their own yet live knowing that any day could be their last here in America.  I leave you with this verse:  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  – John 15:12-13

How is God prompting you to lay down your life for your friends who may be fearing for theirs?

 

Sincerely,

                                                                                            Abby Rea

 

 

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