*The following is the first of a series called “A Changed Perspective” to challenge the way in which we view the world, culture, people, and places from a biblical perspective. Undoubtedly, for Christ followers to live in the world but not be of the world is a challenging task, but with humble spirits, teachable hearts, the Word of God, and His Spirit that lives within to guide and lead us, He allows us to be part of His redemptive work in the world around us.
The first blog is written by Alyssa, a second year intern at CLDI. Over the course of the past year, she has had the privilege of getting to know a student, not from America, who by all accounts is marginalized, as is all of her family. I share this story as a part of God’s redemptive narrative to gather people of every nation, tribe, people, and language. My intent is not to stir the political waters, for I have a difficult time seeing the benefit of choosing one side or the other — and seeing this merely as a black and white issue — for it is undoubtedly gray and incredibly messy to navigate. Thus, politics aside, I invite you to hear this powerful story of God at work among the nations in the South Side of Billings. Be encouraged. He is the God of miracles doing wonders as He draws many unto Himself. – Eric Basye
One of the greatest privileges I have had in my life has been to walk through probably some of the hardest times in the life of a family that is very dear to my heart. While this might feel backward, I would like to take the time to explain why this dichotomy matters.
I had the great joy of meeting a young girl last year who quickly became involved in the majority of activities that Youth Works hosted. We made memories such as going skiing together for the first time, taking her out for her first coffee at the iconic Starbucks, and getting to travel together to WyldLife camp in Oregon. In between all of these memories were small moments such as singing along to music in my car, trips to Costco for groceries and a slice of pizza, and dinners with her family. Both the big moments and the small ones all contributed toward the development of a deep relationship, not only with her and her siblings, but with her parents as well. We truly began to grow together as I welcomed them into my life and they welcomed me into theirs. In doing life with them, I began to learn this family’s story, how they came to live on the South Side of Billings, and some of the struggles they were currently facing.
I had known all along that this family was not originally from the United States; the initial language barrier made that one evident. However, I did not understand how it was they ended up living in a trailer on the South Side. As it turns out, they had spent a significant period of time outside of Montana in a detention center for immigrants. From there, they were eventually released and given temporary work papers allowing them to stay. It was this past October that those papers expired.
I came to learn of this situation while at lunch with this girl, weeping as she told me her family was being deported. With her parents unable to speak English, this young girl was having to translate conversations between lawyers and her parents. They were running out of options and wanted more than anything to be able to legally stay in this country where their children have opportunities to get an education, work, and experience freedom. I was asked by the parents if there was anything I could do to help them in this process. So I did my research and reached out to an immigration lawyer, informed him of the situation, and he graciously reviewed their documents. Unfortunately, after reviewing their case, he told us there was nothing more that could be done for them at this time.
That night, this girl and her mother came over to my house so we could sit down and talk about what the lawyer had said. Through my young friend’s translating, I had to tell this mother, my friend, that there was nothing that could be done to help their family remain in the country. Words cannot describe the terrible feeling that was present in the room. There was nothing more to say. Nothing more to do. So we sat there and shed tears together. We sat for what felt like forever, saying nothing, but yet communicating everything. This mom then asked me to pray for them. To pray that a miracle would happen and they would be allowed to stay, legally. So, while holding each other’s hands, that is what I did. I prayed for them.
I tell you this story not to boast of the good works of CLDI, but rather, I tell you this story because it matters. Stories like this one and others need to be heard. It is our desire that families never live in the margins — in fear of what the future may or may not hold. It is easy to get caught up in the unfortunate politics of this subject, but instead I invite you to ask the Father to open your heart to what it might be like to walk in their shoes; to try to understand the heartache, the confusion and the fear that families, parents, and children endure during these difficult times. I would make the claim that if we, followers of Jesus, those adopted into His family and those in whom the Holy Spirit lives, would feel a fraction of what they experience, our response might be different. We would not let this continue to happen to children and families living in this country and in this city. Rather, we would truly seek to provide gospel solutions to challenging issues, mindful of our governing laws, to show and fulfill the love of Christ — not just in our personal relationships with neighbors and those with whom we are most comfortable, but even with our hearts’ attitude toward those who are culturally, ethnically, and religiously different from us, and those people groups who are often portrayed in a negative light. Through the lens of the gospel, all people have been made in the image and likeness of God. Naturally, this challenges the way we view “others” in how they are treated, portrayed, and cared for. So I ask: will we take the opportunity to view “others” as fellow human beings, to hear their stories, empathize with their plight, understand their culture, and welcome them into our lives? May God give us great wisdom and grace as we navigate how we are to love our neighbors, both near and far, with the same love in which Christ has loved us.
“My dear brothers and sisters, fellow believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ – how could we say that have faith in him and yet we favor one group of people above another?… So listen carefully, my dear brothers and sisters, hasn’t God chosen the poor in the world’s eyes to be those who are rich in faith?… Your calling is to fulfill the royal law of love as given to us in this Scripture: ‘You must love and value your neighbor as you love and value yourself!’” James 2:1-8 (TPT)
*Update: A Literal Miracle Has Happened!*
Thankfully, through a miracle of God, this family has been given legal authority to stay for two more years! The relief, joy, and thankfulness that the family feels is incredible, and we give all the glory to God for resolving this challenging situation. With that being said, may we be more mindful of how we, the people of God, are to love our neighbors and advocate for the marginalized in a way that values people and glorifies God.