Thursday, June 19, 2014

Undocumented Children--A Christian Response

Photo by Katie Martinez
 When I see problems as huge as the ones faced by the young undocumented children coming into this country without the care or supervision of their parents, my first response is anger directed toward the system that created such a dangerous situation.

My second thought is that the government, which promoted these policies must change them

Both of those responses leave me frustrated and overwhelmed because I want to make a difference but feel helpless. The problems are too big, and I am too small. That's when it helps to sit back and remember who I am.

I may be impotent, but Jesus Christ transformed my life and He created the universe. Rather than expecting the government to right the wrongs, I need to look to Jesus, the Cross, and the Holy Spirit to help me take on our Creator's perspective. That means keeping the big picture in mind without any denial. Unless Christians really step it up by getting involved, the reality of this situation has consequences that will last for generations--not only for our country, but for the individual children involved. An article from the American Psychological Association has this to say about why we must be concerned about these kids:

 "We should care because their opportunities and potential for success are frequently limited, but more importantly, the discrimination, isolation and fear that they go through should not be experienced by any child or adolescent in our society. We should care because the discrimination, isolation,and fear that undocumented youth go through should not be experienced by any child or adolescent in our society [sic]. These children have limited opportunities and potential for success. Many of these youth drop out of school and become disaffected, continuing the cycle of poverty."

The APA is defining the obstacles for children who came here with their parents. They even exist among those kids who work hard and excel, yet continue to live in uncertainty and fear for the future.

No matter how well-meaning, there's no society on the planet that can support an unlimited influx of children and provide them with everything they need for success. No nation I'm aware of even does that for the children born in their own country. In the U.S. our foster care system is saturated with kids who desperately need a forever family that genuinely cares for their needs and raises them to be successful. Rather many kids are often so abused and misunderstood they leave home to live on the streets.

So what chance do those have who are coming into this country without parents to guide, nurture, and support them. Increasingly we must be concerned about their potential victimization. Maybe that was a possibility in the countries they came from, but at least there, they had their families. Here most of them will have no protectors, no one who cares, especially once they age out of the system and those who are 17 are already on the brink of that. Gangs can easily enlist boys by giving them a sense of family. In an oversexualized culture, the girls can easily become a commodity to be sold.

If I see the image of God in my neighbors--and these kids are our neighbors--I must care about their well-being. The thought of that is huge; their needs are so BIG. But so is our God. And, He calls us to love, even our enemies. And these are not our enemies; they are children. If they'd been born here, they might have gone to summer camp and sat in that huge pink chair sharing secrets and giggling about silly things. Instead they might be housed in a summer camp but only until the legitimate residents come. Then these children will be transported to less desirable, sometimes even deplorable conditions. If I were one of them, that scenario alone would make me angry and all the more vulnerable to gang members and traffickers.

Compassion stirs as I try to put myself in the sandals of one of these children. Believers who see with Christ's eyes will find ways to help. We can start with prayer to open doors for faith-based groups to have access to these children. We can pray for their guards and the federal employees that God will give them opportunities to spread a message of hope about how these children are precious, loved beyond measure, and have a Heavenly Father far bigger than their circumstances. And we can pray that as government is increasingly overwhelmed that they will turn to the faith-based community as the counties in So. California have with abolitionist efforts.

That brings to mind what may be a good place to start--with freedom bags such as those distributed to modern-day slaves who are rescued by the police. (Yes, they are considered victims to rescue.) Put together by Traffick Free Pomona (TFP), freedom bags effectively show the disenfranchised and everyone in the community--from the service clubs to city hall to the schools and beyond--that Christians care. Including a Bible offers the young recipient the comfort and hope of God's Word. These bags have been such a practical help that TFP has been asked to supply them in Riverside, San Bernardino, and LA counties. Sometimes they need dozens at a time.

There are as many ways to help with this situation as there are professions. God has a way of turning the world's problems into His opportunities. That's why Transform LA/Transform USA/Transform World calls the body of Christ to personal transformation through Jesus. So that whatever sphere they are working in--be it social workers, healthcare workers, cafeteria workers, security guards or something else--that they will be able to share the Good News of Jesus. Hope comes as Christians show those who are unwanted anywhere else that they matter, they have a purpose, and they can make a difference in the world--whether it's in Central America, or in the U.S.

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