On Faith, Life, and Refugees

A guest post by Andrea Bailey

We are not listening to each other. I hear conservatives accusing liberals and other conservatives that they have bought into liberal biased media hype. I hear liberals accusing conservatives of being hateful and intolerant, all the while not listening themselves. I hear those genuinely concerned for truth asking questions and being overwhelmed, not sure who they should trust. I hear so many proclaiming boldly which media sources can be trusted and which ones cannot, authoritatively dismissing legitimate questions and reasonable discourse. I hear fear and pride.

If only it were so simple. If only we could know with certainty which sources to trust. If only that source could outline all the answers. If only we could trust that facts and news could come to us without bias or could be completely neutral.

Speaking to those who seek to follow Christ, at this intersection of faith and life, there are no simple, axiomatic solutions. We must seek wisdom. The application of truth requires wisdom and is never simple; rather, its progress is often slow and it requires discernment, effort and humility to learn.

For those who claim the name Christian, how do you know truth? Where do you turn for truth and the wisdom to live it out? How does that truth teach you to stand in these matters? Is truth ever just rational or logical belief? Is it not also experiencing God in the details of our physical lives, authenticating and revealing more fully that which we also know and confess?

It seems possible that in these matters of loving others, we have erred too much on the side of reason. We have not experienced truth in that way which helps us to fully know it, through our physical, everyday experiences, entering into the physical, everyday lives of those we are called to serve.

Where do we think we can experience the grace and mercy of God more than in entering into the struggles of those whom He has taught us to love? But have we entered in?

Christ spent his time with the poor, the marginalized, the broken, the suffering, the sick—these are the ones he most often gave the gift of His physical presence. Loving others carries a cost but did Christ not show us how to love when He came to show His love for us?

God’s love for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the sojourner is undeniable throughout Scripture and His commands for us to care for them cannot be dismissed. And so it is needful to consider how we were taught to love.

Are we only supposed to love and welcome others when it is safe for us, or doesn’t cost us too much, even though the ones seeking our help are suffering or dying? When God calls us to love the sojourner, did He say only if they believe in Me and it will not threaten your safety?

I recognize that this type of thinking has the potential to conflict with national security, but does it have to? Can we rally for stronger security measures while still advocating for our government to give us the ability to welcome those who are suffering, in accordance with the teachings of our faith? Does our faith allow us to ignore the sufferings of others in the name of national security?

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Of those who are no longer allowed to come safely to our shores, is it possible that they might also have learned and believed the Good News—that God loves them and welcomes them to believe and be healed? Is it possible that they would have believed, especially in a land where they are shown welcome and are given the freedom to believe? But for now they cannot come. For now they cannot hear. For now, is it not more likely that they will think of America, that Christian nation (as it is believed to be), as a nation who worships a God that does not care that they are suffering?

To love is to sacrifice.

As Christians, can you claim to value and cherish life and then stay silent while it is denied to those who are in danger of losing theirs? Have you supported and sacrificed when those seeking to care for the ones who have already lost so much in this life, need help?

Let’s bring it closer to home—when you see a young single woman, trying to care for her child on her own, have you helped? Or have you referred her to government programs and then supported policies that make her life more difficult?

When you see adoptive or foster families struggling, sacrificially loving children who have lost or have suffered, have you entered in? Have you given of your own time? Has it cost you anything to help care for those lives which you said you were for? Has it changed the way you live?

If we have not entered into the lives of those whom Christ taught us to love, sacrificially giving of ourselves, is it possible that our unaffected lives mock their suffering? It is possible that our unaffected lives are the very thing which cause them to doubt God’s love for them?

And so today, to all who claim the name Christian, I invite you to enter into the lives of those who are suffering. Only in entering in can we more fully experience that which we know. Only in entering in can we more faithfully demonstrate the love of God for those who are suffering. Only in entering in can we see the power of love in the face of fear because only in entering in can we know more fully that perfect Love which drives out all fear.

 

Andrea Bailey directs a faith-based ESL program serving refugees and immigrants in her local community.

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Giving Life a Voice

~A guest post by Andrea Bailey, a dear friend in whom Christ shines~

I used to think it was okay to be quiet. In a time where words are excessive and peoples’ lives are laid bare in blogs and social media without caution, only to be consumed—chewed up and spit out– by anyone who has five minutes to read them…and then forgotten. Opinions, reflections, stories—words are in abundance and so prolific that the average person takes very little time to let messages conveyed in media actually stay and sink in.

So I have often thought it pointless to share my thoughts, to give my silence, ‘my experience’ a voice. After all, these things that seem so hard to share publicly, that have taken years to compose, will be consumed and forgotten in a matter of minutes. But even so, in light of all that has happened with the Planned Parenthood videos and conversations surrounding abortion, it is time to speak up—if only for those who cannot speak. It is time to be a voice among many faithful voices and to bear witness of God’s love for those who cannot speak for themselves.

So please, take a minute to hear my voice and reflect on my story. Let these words that I am sharing not be forgotten and may they be one of many choruses that sing the profound love of our Creator for His Creation—for humanity made in the image and likeness of Himself!

A Story of Life

There is no need to go into all the details of my life. Let it be enough to say that my mother was left with a choice—to give life or to take it away—and she chose life. And she was a courageous woman for doing so. Knowing the shame she would have to carry, the comments she would receive, the weight of raising a child alone…it was not as if she chose life and because she made the right choice, life was easy. It wasn’t easy and there was much cost involved. And she carried that choice for life, day in and day out, as she worked and cared for me.

As she raised me, she wasn’t alone. God provided for her needs, surrounded her with loving family who helped her carry some of the weight of raising a child alone. Grandparents, aunts, uncles… all loving me and coming alongside. An aunt and uncle who took me in when she needed support and continued to show love and cherish the life she had given. But her choice to give life still changed her and left a scar…a wound that had healed but that could be seen. And yet she carried it–she made the choice to love me and she lived out that choice each day.

Perhaps it is because of her choice to regard the sacred value of human life, the life of her child, that her legacy of sacrifice and love lives on.

Fast forward to life today. I am consumed with loving and giving care to the six beautiful lives that God has entrusted to me—six beautiful souls whom I love more than I thought was possible.

Three years ago, my husband and I considered being done having more children. A family of six, a perfect balance of boys and girls. Life was full but still within the range of manageable.

And then everything was turned upside down. We heard the words, “She wants you to adopt them….” This question was asked of us regarding the placement of our twins, not children of my own flesh and blood, but children that would become mine in every way.

And we said yes…though be it reluctantly. I knew what we would have to give up. Being an average middle class family, I knew that there likely would not be money enough to give our children the life I had envisioned for them—sports, dance, music, private education. I knew it would demand all of my time to raise twins and that would mean that the other children would struggle, would hurt, would feel alone, because there wouldn’t be enough of me. I worried because I knew there would be brokenness that would permeate the core of our family, and would change us. I knew our choice would limit what we would be able to do…it would be a cost that we would all bear. There would be stress that would threaten to unravel the cords of our marriage, of our family.

And yet, all I could think of when I heard the question, was my own mother…a woman who chose life in the midst of what it would cost. The woman who chose burden and limitations and a giving up of her own freedom.

And I considered the beautiful young woman before me who had courageously chosen life in the face of unrelenting hardship. A woman who had every reason to end life but chose to give life. And in sacrificial love, asked us to give welcome and a home to the beautiful lives she had carried into this world.

I am reminded every time I look at the six beautiful children that God has given to us, that this life is not about fulfilling our dreams or realizing every hope we have for those we love; rather, it is about giving welcome and care and love for those who need a place to rest and find shelter. It is about giving out of what we have been given.

Christian brothers and sisters, it is not my place to give prescriptive plans for your lives, but PLEASE consider and do not forget those who are discarded, dismembered and cast aside. Please ask, “What can I do to help women who feel they have no choice, to choose life?” DO NOT be tempted to consider what you will give up or how you will survive because God’s mercies are abundant and will be with you in all that you face.

And be ready, because as you love and care for those who are forgotten, you will face hardship and it will change you and it will leave a scar that can be seen. And you will bend under the weight as you are changed, refined, exposed. But God’s mercies are lavishly given.

I have been asked when grieving all that we have had to let go of, “But didn’t you know going into this that this would happen?” I guess I knew that it would require a great letting go of my dreams for our family as I knew it…but not to this degree.

And even so I can say, that in those darkest moments of grief and loss, I don’t ever have to question if we did the right thing. I know our choice to come alongside a woman who chose to give life is close to the heart of God and He tenderly loves her and the children she gave life to.

I have never doubted God’s presence with us in this journey though hardship has left us grasping and questioning with expectant hope. I have always seen God’s mercies poured out to us, when I thought this would break us. And finally, I have seen God’s deep care and love for our children—a love that exceeds my own. A love that is fitting them for eternity and teaching them to order their lives accordingly and love life. And I pray that their lives would continue in this legacy of giving life a voice.

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry and he will say, “Here I am.” If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail…                               -Isaiah 58: 6-11

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