Overwhelmed. Just… overwhelmed.
A country falls when its people are divided against themselves. When we become numb to atrocities. When we tune out, look away, and protect only our own. When we become overwhelmed.
I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Puerto Rico continues to have no power. People continue to die there.
Mining is beginning in state national monuments that has been sold, by our government, to private owners.
Flint continues to have no safe drinking water. Children continue to be contaminated with lead there.
The refugee crises worldwide has reached a new record of 69 million people displaced by war, natural disasters, ethic cleansing, gang violence, global climate change and poverty.
Last Wednesday, we began to take a breath – the separation of children from their parents at our border was finally being addressed by our President… but the law he signed is causing even more issues.
Jailing families is not a solution. It is a political band-aid against outcry, hoping we’ll give up the fight and go back to being placid. It is tossing a bucket of water on a house fire our government started.
It’s going to do MORE harm.
Now, families may be detained indefinitely. Before, children could not spend more than 20 days detained before they were sent to relatives in the USA, or their home countries, or foster families in their own communities. Now, without limits, children will grow up in concentration camps indefinitely. Inside cages. In facilities not designed for children. Without education, without toys, without area to play. Some of these people are being sent to tent cities, some to abandoned Wal-marts, some to military bases, and 1,600 have been send to federal prison – not because of a federal crime, but because prisons had room to cage more humans. (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/08/us-sending-1600-immigration-detainees-to-federal-prisons.html)
Any who take in these “prisoners” receive funding from the government to keep them. For-profit-human-detainment. Indeed, GEO, the company that owns the largest immigration detention centers, are paying money directly to politicians to sway more immigrants arrest. (dallasnews.com)
Some American citizens worry about the language of the executive order. It says -families- are to be held together. What if you are a USA citizen who has a relative who enters the USA seeking asylum? Will you now be rounded up and sent to a camp, too?
And, it does nothing to help the almost 3,700 children separated from their parents already. They continue to be in kennels with armed adults who are not allowed to comfort their cries. They are relying on one another to change their diapers and wipe their tears.
This is not some far away country or state or border. This is in our own backyard, too. The same day that the new Executive Order was signed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement — ICE — raided Salem, Ohio — a rural town just outside of Massillon.
What happened? ICE showed up at a factory and arrested about 150 people. Some were here legally, but did not have their ID on them. Most are parents.
A pastor there shared a story of a husband crying – his wife is now somewhere in Michigan or Ohio, being held indefinitely, without bail, without rights (our latest Executive Order specifically states “illegals” and those suspected of being such have no rights), and his 2 year old and 4 year old are crying ‘where is mommy?’
There are children now orphaned. They sit in the local Catholic church who has opened their doors. Sister Rene Weeks said, “Most of the [parents] are here legally, but they were taken yesterday because they didn’t have their documentation with them at the time.” And so, little children, with no parents or aunts although here legally, sit numbed and terrified in the shelter of the church. ((https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/06/20/ice-ohio-arrests-100-during-undocumented-immigrant-raid-meat-packing-plants/716953002/)) The nun added, “One woman who was taken was the sole adult at home… She has five children.” The school system found kids at their day care not picked up – alone – or coming home to an empty house. “It’s the terror of: ‘What’s happening to my family? I can’t contact them,’ She works with about 60 families, and she estimates about three-quarters of them were directly affected by the raid.
“A few people managed to send some text messages, but for the most part, people couldn’t talk to anybody,” she said. “They were terrorized.”(npr)
There are children who are refusing to go to day care, school, or leave their parents’ sides for fear they’ll never see them again. A real possibility.
In Ohio, we have an estimated undocumented population of 83,000, but there are only 35 pro bono immigration advocates statewide, according to the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation. Many people are facing these hearings without translators, without legal advice. This is legal, technically, but it is not Biblical.
Deut. 1:16 – “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident foreigner.”
In many cases, people couldn’t reach their relatives for days.
You wonder – were they captured?
Raped — yes, this is happening. And then silenced or else face their family deported. Sometimes this is happening to their children before them.
Killed? Yes. This is happening. Who cares if you kill “animals”?
The Salem workers who were released when their IDs were found are who brought word home of what had happened. But that doesn’t lessen the trauma. The terror. The systemic government-ordained abuse of children of God.
Have we forgotten we’re Christian? Have we forgotten the Holy Book?
No where does it say terrorize children and abuse the foreigner! Instead, it reads,
Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
I can cite another fifteen verses on this very topic – love the foreigners, the strangers, the aliens, the illegals among you.
Who are these people among us in Ohio?
The people in Salem are from Guatemala.
Guatemala is a country that’s known 80 years of warfare. I’ve heard people call it the “game of thrones” of the real world. The government is corrupt, gangs rule the streets, who you are related to is everything. The natives are considered not-human and are hunted with machetes. The army forces people to hack to death their own neighbors.
“If you are a civilian there, beneath the labels—soldier; gangster; policeman; army; cartel—is but one underlying reality: men with guns who do what they want and take what they want. Your options are to buy your own security and gunmen; to join a gang yourself; or to leave.” ((https://newrepublic.com/article/118675/child-migrants-guatemala-are-fleeing-more-just-gang-violence))
What would you do?
In the past, if you left Guatemala, you could come to the USA to plead for sanctuary. Asylum. Be a refugee.
And we would hear your story, and if it were true, welcome you, for our ancestors were the poor huddled masses, too.
Now… who is listening?
These are our neighbors. Here. In Ohio.
I read a cry for justice from overwhelmed Job today. He wants God to come and answer why bad things have happened. He’s demanding to know how justice and fairness works. Why have his wife and children been taken from him? Why have the people he called friends now sitting and mocking him? Where are you God? Answer me!
And God does. God comes in a whirlwind and doesn’t tell Job that the world is right and fair; that we all get our just desserts; that the good people prosper and the bad are harmed. Instead, God explains how God is present in all of creation. Everywhere.
God isn’t going to stop our cruelty, although God weeps as we go, because God has limited God’s self and given us free will. We can choose to eat of the forbidden fruit. We can make laws that say all fruit is good for eating. Or we can deny ourselves the forbidden fruit because we’re listening to God’s laws.
Job can leave his worship of God at any time. God isn’t our safety net. God isn’t going to arbitrate between Job and his friends… or ex-friends.
God is our creator. God is present with us. God loves us. God weeps over us. God gives us free will.
“God would never let us go astray” is not true. True love leaves open the other’s freedom to walk away. God truly loves us. Enough to let us be free to love God back or to reject God. God lets us go astray, and follows us as we stray ready to lead us back to the narrow way.
God loves the world. We’re called to love the world, too. Not just ourselves, but others, too.
God’s love isn’t bound by borders, God loves everyone in this room and all the way beyond regardless of what it says on their birth certificate or even if they have one.
How I’m feeling overwhelmed!
In the boat, the disciples are overwhelmed. Taking on water. It is all around. They wake up Jesus, who is sleeping like the dead, and say “Don’t you care we’re all going to die?!” And Jesus rebukes the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And there is an great calm over the sea. Just as great of a fear sits in the disciples’ hearts over Jesus’ actions. And he asks, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Have you no faith God is with you?
Stormy waters happen. But God is with us the whole way.
We need to see God with us. We need to stand on the side of the marginalized, the oppressed, the foreigner, the least of these… for that is where Christ stands.
Stand, like the Catholic church in Salem, who opens its doors as a safe place for Latinos to get education on resources, to learn English, and as a place to meet if an ICE raid occurs.
Stand, like our sister UCC church in Chillicothe. Orchard Hill provides space for lawyers to meet immigrants in a safe, neutral, and private place. A table, cup of coffee, and hospitality.
Stand, like protesters at local government offices, showing that we of the dominate group care. We are not turning a blind eye.
Stand, and when our friends, and neighbors, speak poorly of foreigners remind them of our one faith, one Lord, one Baptism, and one Body of Christ.
I John 4:7-21 – “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God…” We love because God first loved us.”
Even the wind and the sea obey God — ought we too?
Ought we not love and aim for peace and justice, too?
((Was with a kids’ message on the difference between fairness and justice; with three asked to throw paper into a basket set right before one child. When the others missed, the basked was moved 1 inch closer to everyone. It was fair. Even easier for the closest child. Then we did just – and moved it between everyone. But it wasn’t fair, and now was harder for the child who it has been easy. Spoke about if you are born here white, you are the first child. We need to do justice, which is not fair.))
Given to Saint Michael’s United Church of Christ 6-24-2018