Churches Divided on How to Respond to the ‘Stranger’ Among Us

Activists carried signs supporting immigration reform in McAllen, Texas in July 2014. (ESTHER Y. LEE)
Activists carried signs supporting immigration reform in McAllen, Texas in July 2014. (ESTHER Y. LEE)

Seventy percent of Americans believe illegal immigrants threaten the country’s culture and economy. That can put the Church in a position of drawing the line on compassion.

The subject of immigration and the Church goes back to Bible times.

Scriptures talk about showing compassion to the “stranger” in your land, but what if that stranger breaks the law to get there?

Churches regularly face that question as thousands illegally cross the border, including women and children.

A Better Life
That includes 18-year-old Jose Maldonado, who’s waiting to see if the courts will allow him to stay in the U.S.

“Some of them say we just come here to take their jobs and behave badly,” Maldonado said. “I like this country a lot and you can have a better life. That’s why I came here: to have a better life and to help my family.”

Last year, Maldonado traveled from Honduras, up through Mexico, across the Chihuahua Desert and into Texas.

The three-month journey almost cost him his life.

Out of his group of 25, only three people made it through brutal desert conditions to reach America.

Maldonado had very little food or water and knew he couldn’t survive on his own strength. That’s when he said he cried out to God in the desert — literally.

“I always read the Bible and prayed, and I promised God since I left Honduras that if I made it to the U.S, well, I would dedicate myself to the things of the Lord,” he said.

Maldonado said his grandparents raised him from a young age after his parents abandoned him.

They passed away when he a was teenager, leaving him on his own. He said often the only place to turn is the gang life.

“I lived in San Pedro Sula for a while and there are a lot of gangs there,” Maldonado said. “I really like soccer and there was a group that rooted for the team I liked. And the group that rooted for them said I had to join their gang or else they would kill one of my family members.”

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David Brody and Tracy Winborn

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