from J. Herbert Nelson II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Dear Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18 who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. 19 You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. -- Deuteronomy 10:17-19
We received news that President Trump has set the number of refugee admissions at 45,000 – the lowest number since 1980 when the Refugee Act created the Refugee Resettlement program in this country. Presently, we are faced with the largest humanitarian crisis of displaced persons in our human history with approximately 65 million people forced from their homes due to violence, disaster, and war. Of that number, 21 million are refugees, seeking safety in a foreign land knowing they can no longer find protection in their country of origin. The people of the United States have witnessed their needs and opened their arms. Even before the refugee resettlement mechanism was established within the U.S. federal government more than 35 years ago, churches threw open their doors. They were the faithful to come forward, living out God’s law to “execute justice for the orphan and the widow, and love the strangers, providing them food and clothing” (NRSV Deut. 10:18). Refugee ministry is a bright light in our own Presbyterian history.
However, we forget that our ancestral history includes peoples who were strangers in a strange land. We forget that we follow a Christ child who fled his country, seeking refugee from a King demanding his death. We forget that we are loved by a God who calls us children.
We trace our roots to John Calvin, himself a refugee. He understood the need to reach out to vulnerable communities. He knew their plight. He knew they were the strangers who needed refuge. We must remember that history.
Today we mourn the President’s decision. However, tomorrow we stand again. We can reach out to local, national, and international resettlement agencies providing the funding and volunteer support needed to keep these organizations afloat as they provide necessary services. We can mobilize and lift our voices to our elected officials so they are reminded that we are a nation that receives the most vulnerable and knows the value of choosing welcome. May we be inspired by the Deuteronomic scripture and be reminded how to love those who face unthinkable obstacles. May we rethink how we support and sustain the ministries that reach these communities. Let us be a part of the work that brings light in the midst of fear, worry, and at times desperation. There are still many in this country who believe welcoming the refugee is integral to who we are as people of faith. You can continue to be a prophetic voice of solidarity by joining efforts to press elected officials to reconsider the cap on refugee admissions. Let us not accept disappointment but work for change. It is together that transformative love can be revealed. You can find resources here to help guide that work.
In the Faith We Share,