Immigration is our story. It’s our denomination’s story and it’s the story of most CRC and RCA congregants over the decades. It is our heritage, and we particularly recognize that this summer because June was Immigrant Heritage month—the perfect few weeks to wrap up our “Immigration is Our Story” audio series.
For the past few months, we’ve had the great privilege of hearing from people of faith across the U.S. and Canada about their immigration stories. We were able to listen in to accounts of heartache, struggle, and unexpected blessings from immigrants themselves and descendants of immigrants. We learned how immigrants have been processed and treated differently based on when they migrated and where they came from.
"When I came here… I came as an asylum-seeker,” shared Sepa Nashale, immigrant from Democratic Republic of Congo and member of Church of the Servant (CRC) in Grand Rapids. “I got my asylum status, and after one year I was given a green card… after that I had to do the family reunification process which took again maybe two years because I had to provide all the evidence that the family is mine... so that was very, very challenging."
Cristina Aguilera, immigrant from Cuba and member of All Souls Church (RCA) in Boulder, CO, shared her heart-wrenching story. “I had a very lovely wonderful life… but everything changed in 1959… and we had to flee as refugees… Cubans were accepted into the [U.S.] under special humanitarian provisions because of the Cold War… so we didn’t have to wait for a visa or anything like that like people have to do now.”
“After the War, there were a lot of places in Holland that were being bombed… we had to look for a better place,” shared John and Henri Admiraal, who immigrated from the Netherlands to the U.S. in 1956. “[Our] dad read in a Dutch newspaper about immigration to the U.S. and sponsorship by a member of the Christian Reformed Church… the sponsor arranged for [our] dad to get a job and a house, and basically oversaw our resettlement here.”
These rich and personal stories should remind us of who many of us are and where we came from. They present a meaningful opportunity to connect with and have compassion for the experiences of immigrants and refugees among us today.
To close out the series, the Office of Social Justice invites you to engage deeply with these stories in three ways: Listen, Learn, and Love. Our biblical call to the stranger compels us to “love those who are foreigners” (Deuteronomy 10) and remember that we “were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 22), so as we conclude the "Immigration is Our Story" series, we encourage you to take action in the following ways.
Small Group Opportunity, “Immigration is Our Story:” Listen, Learn, and Love
Gather with a group of family, friends, classmates, or church members to engage with these audio stories through listening, learning, and loving.
After listening to one or two of the “Immigration is Our Story” clips together, break up into pairs or small groups and have participants ask one another:
- How do the experiences of the immigrants in these stories compare to those who are migrating today? Is there a difference?
- How were they able to get here and was it easier or harder to immigrate legally than it is today?
- What is your family's immigration story?
- How can your story and the stories in this series motivate you to act in justice and compassion towards today's immigrants? What can you do?
With your church, you can learn more about the U.S. and Canada’s immigration system (who can come and how), history (how the immigration system has changed over the years), and opportunities for advocacy. Reach out to the Office of Social Justice to host “Church Between Borders” (U.S.) or to the Centre for Public Dialogue to host “Journey with Me” (Canada) at your church or school. Part of being a faithful and humble ally is putting in the time and effort to learn about the challenges faced by those you seek to walk alongside. Encourage participants to get their churches signed up for one of these workshops!
You can love your neighbor by advocating with policymakers for just and fair immigration laws that honor the rights and human dignity of immigrants. Give participants an opportunity to sign up for immigration updates and/or action alerts through the Office of Social Justice. You'll hear about opportunities to contact or meet with your elected officials about immigration issues—they need to be reminded that immigration is our story and that people of faith care deeply about the well-being of their immigrant neighbors. Additionally, reach out to the Office of Social Justice ahead of time if you’d like to have postcards for participants to write to their elected officials about their convictions on immigration.