Around two thousand years ago, a baby boy was born to a poor family in a small town. It was a violent and chaotic time in their country, nothing was stable. Shortly after the boy’s birth, his …
Around two thousand years ago, a baby boy was born to a poor family in a small town. It was a violent and chaotic time in their country, nothing was stable. Shortly after the boy’s birth, his father, a man named Joseph, had a strange dream (his second such dream) in which an angel urgently warned him to flee the country. Perhaps even more strange, Joseph actually followed the angel’s advice. He took the baby’s mother Mary and the child Jesus, and they fled, escaping the king’s death squads. They traveled hundreds of miles on foot or by donkey to a new country where they were refugees seeking asylum from persecution and violence.
Jesus was a refugee!
Things haven’t changed that much in two thousand years. Unfortunately, families with children are still fleeing persecution, violence, and unsafe conditions to try to build new lives in a new land. Many such families are stopped at our southern border. Parents may be separated from each other and from their children. Members of families are detained by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in facilities around the country.
As Grace Lutheran Church reflected on this situation and the similarities to Jesus’ own life, we were led to reach out to refugees in our day, in our country. Our hearts went out to those fleeing persecution, violence, and looking for a better life for their families.
But what could we do? First we had to learn more. We brought in speakers who are involved in helping people at the border and invited the Port Townsend community to join us as we learned about how we might be able to help.
We worked with other local churches and organizations including JCIRA (Jefferson County Immigrant Rights Advocates). The more we learned, the more our hearts were moved.
So we decided to fill forty backpacks that would be distributed by World Relief to people released from detention at the Tacoma ICE facility.
These people leave detention with little or nothing but their clothes on their back. The Grace Lutheran backpacks include new socks and undergarments, snack food, a warm hat, water bottle, flashlight, soap, shampoo, lotion, bandana, and poncho. And perhaps the most touching, a card or note of encouragement.
It was amazing how people pitched in. Forty backpacks were stuffed in just a couple of weeks and used to decorate the Grace Lutheran altar for Christmas.
Grace Lutheran folks continue to be moved to find ways to support refugees and immigrants struggling to make a new life in our wonderful country. We are considering volunteer opportunities at our southern border, as well as working with other organizations in our own area. The need is great—our hearts are moved—and so we go to work.
If your heart is moved and you would like to get involved we encourage you to check out JCIRA at www.jcira.org. God bless you.
(Rev. Coe Hutchison is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Port Townsend. Pastor Coe is a second-career pastor having spent 30 years in the northwest electric utility industry.)
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