Whether it is from ISIS or the massacre of the innocents, refugees from political violence are just as common today as they were in even the most distant days of Scripture. Pastor Emmanuel Jackson, of Living Word Lutheran Church, is our current feature. A life-long Lutheran and a refugee of the Civil War in Liberia, Emmanuel knows firsthand the struggles that so many refugees face – both in running from those who would have them dead, as well as the attacks of those who try to keep them from seeking shelter in their adopted homes. Please read and share.
Remind yourselves that our Savior, too, had to flee for his life.
Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”
I am a refugee, who, more than a decade ago, left the Buduburum Refugee camp in Ghana, West Africa to be resettled in the United States. I, along with my family, left because we could not return to our country of origin of fear for our lives. We left in search of a better life, and a quest to make something of our lives. Thanks to the Catholic Social Services, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and the United States government, we found a home.
It is a simple four letter word that sometimes takes a lifetime to truly discover its meaning and richness. Home for us was wherever we found peace and laughter. After about three years of interviews and screenings, we immigrated to the United States, settling in Hastings Nebraska in the depth of a brutal February winter. Winters in the Nebraskan plains are especially harsh and unforgiving, which made for a very festive welcome for African refugees. Despite the cold winter, we felt the warmth of home.
I am grateful each day for the opportunity to live and do ministry in this country that has become, home. I am grateful to be alive; to be married; and to have two sons: both of whom are incredibly active, and the joy and delight of our very existence.
Today, I see myself through the eyes of the young Syrian refugee escaping the ravages of war, simply longing for a better life, for a place to call home. I see myself through the eyes of unaccompanied minors huddled at our southern border, in quest for home. My faith and my life’s story compels me to be compassionate and speak out for those who have no voice, who languish in the shadows of fear, whose very ability to breathe and to be human is at risk.
I am them.
We must not fear Syrian refugees. We must not fear Iraqi refugees. We must not fear any refugees. In these difficult times, let us be guided by the words of Lady Liberty: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! Refugees are among the most vulnerable people in the world, often as a direct result of war, social and political instability. The United States welcomes close to 70,000 refugees each year.
As real as the security concerns are, let us remember that the tactics of terror has always been about killing a few and frightening the masses. This great country is still the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let us resist the temptation of indicting entire people groups. History teaches us again and again the dangers of indicting entire people groups on the basis of geography, race, ethnicity, religion or any other metric. We lose an essential part of our humanity and of our faith when we journey down this path.
Let us continue to pray and seek creative ways to resolve the conflicts that tear countries and communities apart. Let us pray that God heals the conflicts that rage in our own hearts and souls. In this season of thanksgiving and hope, we give thanks for the hope of refugees and migrants, of citizens and strangers, of bond and free, of young and old.
May Hope help us find our way home.
Pastor Emmanuel is head of staff and lead pastor of Living Word Evangelical Lutheran Church in Katy, Texas. As Lead Pastor, he oversees the spiritual health and vitality of our community, ensuring that Living Word remains focused on its God-given mission and vision. God first called Pastor Emmanuel to Living Word in 2008 as Associate Pastor, then in 2012 as Lead Pastor. He is gifted preacher and visionary; always exploring new ways to be church in a changing world. He is a graduate of Carthage College and the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. Pastor Emmanuel is married to Annick and they have two sons, Rod and Matrix. He is also an avid sports fan, and believes that “real football” is played with your feet, not with your hands.
Follow Pastor Emmanuel on twitter at @PastorEJack.