Day 20 – Stranger Love

Ruth 2:14-18

At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, and eat some of this bread, and dip your morsel in the sour wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he heaped up for her some parched grain. She ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she got up to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, “Let her glean even among the standing sheaves, and do not reproach her. You must also pull out some handfuls for her from the bundles, and leave them for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. She picked it up and came into the town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gleaned. Then she took out and gave her what was left over after she herself had been satisfied. 

The field of Boaz becomes a place of provision and security for Ruth.  Boaz welcomes her to glean in his fields throughout the remainder of the harvest.  Naomi rejoices that Boaz has shown them favor, suggesting that not every field (or owner) would be a refuge for the poor and the immigrant.

There is a growing “sanctuary” movement in many cities across the country to protect vulnerable immigrants by providing a place of safety.  While controversial, many churches have identified themselves as “sanctuary” for immigrants.  In some states, laws are being proposed to ensure the safety of immigrants.  Twenty-three Illinois state representatives have signed on as sponsors of the Safe Zone Act which would ensure that ICE agents could not enter schools or healthcare facilities without a warrant.  (Churches were included in the original legislation, but have since been removed.). Another proposed law, the Illinois TRUST Act would limit local police involvement in federal immigration enforcement.

In other states, immigrants have become increasingly vulnerable.  In Milwaukee County, WI, Sheriff David Clarke wants ICE  (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to immediately authorized his officers to enforce U.S. immigration laws through its 287(g) program.   In a letter to ICE, Sheriff Clarke wrote, that he is “deeply concerned about the potential threat posed by illegal aliens to the safety and security of the citizens that reside within the nineteen cities, towns and villages in Milwaukee County.”  Read more about Sheriff Clark’s involvement with ICE HERE.

Questions for Reflection

Where are the places of refuge for immigrants in your community?

Would you include your faith community among those who protect immigrants?  On what do you base your answer?

While Sheriff Clarke seems most concerned about undocumented immigrants, how do you think his actions impact immigrants that have documents?  How would you feel as an immigrant living in Milwaukee County?

Day 19 – Stranger Love

Leviticus 19:9-10

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.

Ruth 2:1-13

Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favor.” She said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you.” They answered, “The Lord bless you.” Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “To whom does this young woman belong?” The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’ So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.”

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!” Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.”

Ruth is a Moabite woman, a widow, and a poor immigrant in the land of Israel.  As such, she is vulnerable to abuse and neglect because of her status.  But she also has the protection of God’s Law, which instructed land owners to allow the poor and immigrants to glean their fields in order to support themselves.  Fortunately for Ruth, she gleaned the field of Boaz, a relative of Elimelech, who faithfully observed God’s Law.

Questions for Reflection

In what ways might immigrants to the United States be vulnerable to abuse today?

What protections are you aware of that ensure that immigrants can support themselves?

What does it say to you that God specifically identifies “the alien” in God’s gleaning law?  Do you think our laws go far enough in protecting immigrants?  What additional laws (if any) would you want to see passed?

Day 18 – Stranger Love

Ruth 1:1-5

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

People often migrate for physical survival.  Drought and famine drive people away from their homes in search for food and water.  The largest migration in U.S. history was caused by the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s.  By 1940, 2.5 million people had left the Plains States (especially Oklahoma), with 200,000 moving to southern California.  But the “Okies” were met by the “bum brigade,” 125 Los Angeles police officers that were sent to the California state line to turn away “undesirables.”  Long after the end of the “bum brigade,” the Dust Bowl migrants were treated with contempt, discrimination and violence.

Environmental disasters frequently are created by human greed.  The severity of the 1930’s Dust Bowl was directly related to farming practices and Federal land policies.  Today, climatologists are warning of a global increase in human migration due to the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and shifting weather patterns.  Read the Time magazine article HERE.

Questions for Reflection

If Elimelech’s family showed up in your community in need of food and shelter, how do you think people would react?

If you were faced with Elimelech’s situation, where would you go?  How do you think you would be received–especially if you had no relatives in that place?  How would you want to be treated?

We’ve heard the phrase “Water is Life” around concerns about the Dakota Access Pipe Line.  That mantra is now being heard throughout the nation as the Environmental Protection Agency has been slated for a 31% decrease in its budget for the next year and the elimination of programs like the Chesapeake Bay Clean-Up.  If the effects of the cuts resulted in the displacement of communities in search of clean water,  where do you think people would go?  How would you react if they came to your community?

Day 17 – Stranger Love

Recently, Lisa B. of Lancaster, PA, posted a song called, “Who We Are”.  Lisa is involved in refugee resettlement and has been a part of this year’s Lenten Compact Fast from Xenophobia.  She was deeply moved by the lyrics of the song by Gungor and the images that were a part of the music video.

Lancaster, PA, (population 59,332) has been described as the America’s Refugee Capital–taking in 20 times more refugees per capita than any other city.  Since 2013, 1,300 refugees have found a home in Lancaster, 407 of them in 2016.  Lancaster is so welcoming because–according to its residents–it is their heritage.  German immigrants started Lancaster County and it is still the epicenter of Pennsylvania Dutch culture.

But if Benjamin Franklin had had his way, Germans wouldn’t have settled in Lancaster–or anywhere else in Pennsylvania.  As a resident of Philadelphia in 1751, he voiced grave concerns about allowing German farmers into the state.

“Why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our settlements and, by herding together, establish their language and manners to the exclusion of ours?  Why should Pennsylvanians, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them?  (Franklin’s quote referenced in “Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror” by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, 1997).  

One can only imagine how Franklin would feel about Lancaster’s attitude toward welcoming refugees.

Questions for Reflection

Were you moved by the song, “Who We Are”?  What (if anything) did you want to do after watching/listening to it?

Benjamin Franklin’s nativist sentiments are similar to what we hear today about immigrants and refugees. Do you think Franklin would express the same sentiment today?  Why or why not?

The Tale of 2 Sisters

Tired of the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father, Sister #1 ran away from home when she was 14. Vulnerable, she was  kidnapped by a 36-year-old man who brought her to the United States, though initially she thought she was still in her home country of Mexico. Soon after her arrival in the U.S., she experienced abuse by her kidnapper. Despite her undocumented status and having 4 children under the age of 18, she ultimately found courage to leave her abusive situation.

However, she was also concerned about her younger sister, Sister #2, whom she suspected was being abused by their father in Mexico.  Unwilling to see her sister suffer, she did whatever she could to bring her sister to the United States.  Unfortunately, her younger sister also became a victim of domestic violence when she arrived.  She too found the courage to leave the abuse despite being an undocumented mother of 3.

Both sisters find work where they can cleaning homes or in factories. In order to survive, they share an apartment with their seven children and do whatever they can to provide for their children. In October 2016, they found new resources and new hope through Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) legal clinic.

Due to the current climate and the uptick in deportations, they live with fear every day, worried about what would happen to their children, their belongings and their future if they were to be detained by ICE and sent back to Mexico.

There are many women who come to the U.S. to escape physical and sexual abuse.  Some are brought against their will, others cross the border with hopes for an end to the violence and a better future.  But without documentation, they are vulnerable to more violence and abuse, to oppression in the work place, and to limited options.  Many end up as sex workers or domestic slaves.

Today, pray for these 2 sisters and the many other women and mothers who are vulnerable to abuse at the hands of partners and at the hands of ICE.

The details of this story were submitted by Rev. Paula Cripps-Vallejo, Pastor of Humboldt Park United Methodist Church

Day 16 – Stranger Love

Numbers 20:14-21

Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the adversity that has befallen us: how our ancestors went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians oppressed us and our ancestors; and when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt; and here we are in Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. Now let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from any well; we will go along the King’s Highway, not turning aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.”

But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, or we will come out with the sword against you.” The Israelites said to him, “We will stay on the highway; and if we drink of your water, we and our livestock, then we will pay for it. It is only a small matter; just let us pass through on foot.” But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large force, heavily armed. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through their territory; so Israel turned away from them.

Amos 1:11-12

Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity; he maintained his anger perpetually, and kept his wrath forever. So I will send a fire on Teman, and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.

There’s a long history of mistrust behind this passage from the book of Numbers.  Edomites are the descendants of Esau, and the Israelites are the descendants of Jacob.  Jacob and Esau were competitive fraternal twins.  You may recall how Jacob connived to get the birthright and blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau as the older of the two.  Fast forward a few generations.  The descendants of Jacob show up at the border of Edom, seeking passage through Edomite territory on their way to a new home in Canaan.  Even though the Israelites give their word that they will not take advantage of their distant cousins, the Edomites refuse to welcome the Israelites and militarize the border to ensure that no one crosses.

But Edom’s lack of “welcome” has serious consequences.  For generations following, Israel and Edom are bitter enemies.  The prophet Amos references the incident and announces God’s judgment on Edom.

Questions for Reflection

What parallels (if any) do you see between the story of Edom and the history of U.S. immigration policy?

If a prophet of God were to review the “pity” of  the U.S. toward immigrants, what might (s)he say?

Day 15 – Stranger Love

Today, everyone is Irish! St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in Chicago where the river is dyed green and people enjoy not one, but two parades.  The Irish are loud and proud, and those who are not Irish wish they were.

But when the Irish first arrived in the U.S. as immigrants, they weren’t so welcome.  They were viewed as an “inferior race” who by nature were violent alcoholics, and they were regularly blamed for all of society’s ills.  Many suggested mass deportation to deal with the “Irish problem.”  Many employers refused to hire Irish–especially in predominantly English cities like Boston.  “No Irish Need Apply”  was found on many job postings.  The “NINA” addendum gave birth to a number of folk songs in the late 1800’s.  HERE is Pete Seeger’s version.

Today, the U.S. has absorbed St. Patrick’s Day into the mainstream and we don’t hear about the “Irish Problem” anymore.  However, the narrative of immigrants as the cause of social ills remains, and new immigrants still face discrimination and mistrust.

Questions for Reflection

Who are are identified as the “Problem” immigrants today?  Why do you think we identify some immigrants a problem and not others?

We often pride ourselves in being able to incorporate elements of immigrant cultures (food, music, language) into the American mainstream.  How has your life been enriched by immigrant culture?


Day 14 – Stranger Love

Genesis 18:1-8

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

Hebrews 13:2

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

“Southern Hospitality” is legendary.  People go out of their way to meet the needs of their guests and make them feel welcome. One of the first things hosts do upon the arrival of a guest is to offer her/him a cool drink, and guests never leave without having something to eat.

Abraham must have been from the south. Upon seeing the three travelers, he immediately arranges for water and a dinner of veal parmesan, milk and Sarah’s special cakes.  And this for people he didn’t even know.  (However, note that he never invited them into his tent, and they ate the meal al fresco.)

Though the writer of Hebrews never mentions Abraham by name, he reminds his readers to show strangers hospitality–after all, they just might be divine messengers.

Questions for Reflection: 

There is an old saying (attributed to the Irish) that goes, “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.”  But there’s another saying, “Stranger rhymes with danger for a reason.”  Which saying do you tend to practice?  Do you get excited about meeting new people, or are you suspicious?

If you tend lean toward “Stranger Danger”, what might motivate you to practice “Stranger Love?”  The possibility of angels?  Something else?

What if God was one of us?  Alanis Morissette asked us to consider the possibility.

Day 13 – Stranger Love

Following the Paris attacks in 2015, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner joined over 25 other governors and announced that he would halt accepting Syrian refugees into the state. In December 2016, an interfaith group demanded that he publicly reverse his stand and allocate additional resources to help resettle refugees in Illinois.  Catherine Kelly, a spokesperson for the Governor’s office issued the following statement:  “Governor Rauner will continue making Illinois a welcoming and inclusive place to live while insisting that the federal government provide basic security information on refugees from ISIS-controlled areas to ensure the safety of all Americans.”  In other words, his original position stands.

Following the January 2017 Executive Order that permanently banned Syrian refugees, Governor Rauner avoided taking a stand.  His office again issued a statement. “The governor has been supportive of tightening the vetting process for Syrian refugees because of ISIS attempts to infiltrate refugee flows — but he’s opposed to immigration bans that target any specific religion.”  In other words, his original position stands.

Today, busloads of people will travel to the Illinois Capital in Springfield, to demand that Illinois be a welcoming state and to lobby legislators to strengthen protections for immigrants and refugees.  The trip is sponsored by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Action Step

If you live in Illinois, contact your state representative and/or senator and ask them to support and pass the Immigrant Safe Zone Act which will ensure that ICE and cooperating state and local law enforcement will not be able to target schools, churches or health care centers for raids.

If you live in another state, contact your state representative and/or senator to find out if there are any proposed laws related to immigration or refugees coming before the legislature.  Find out if they support protection for immigrants and refugees.  Tell them you support immigrant and refugee rights and you want them to support immigrants too.