David cringed every time he drove by the Home Depot on the way to work. 8am every day, rain or shine, there was a crowd of Hispanic men out in the parking lot waiting for contractors to pick some of them up for a day’s work. David kept wishing that either Home Depot would come to its senses and make those illegals get of its property (isn’t it called “loitering”?) or else the city could step in an pass laws prohibiting the hiring of illegals or even renting to them. After all, all these illegals were bringing crime and drugs. Just the other night on Lou Dobbs he saw how cases of leprosy had risen in the United States, largely because of the immigrant population.
Taking his family to church every Sunday they drove through a main street of the downtown that had been nearly taken over by Hispanic stores and restaurants. He remembered that in his childhood he had ridden his bike down that same street, stopping at old man Thompson’s pharmacy for a Coke every now and then. Sure, business had dried up until the arrival of the Mexicans 10 years ago, but surely those storefronts would have been occupied by regular Americans eventually anyway.
What really irked him was that, just a week ago, his pastor had announced that the church would be starting a new “Hispanic ministry.” He presented Pastor Rodriguez, a man who would be working bivocationally while getting the new Hispanic church going. The church building would be used by the new ministry on Sunday afternoons, before the regular American evening service.
After church, David cornered his pastor.
“Pastor Tom, I’m not sure about this new ministry.”
“Really Dave? Well, why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind?”
“Ummm…okay, well…it just, you see, do you really think it’s a good idea to give those people free reign over the building?”
The pastor rocked back visibly on his heels, but recovered quickly and calmly said, “Go on.”
“Well, it just that I know everyone has invested a lot of time, money and energy in this building. Remember how I was there every evening when we were putting the finishing touches on the construction? And my wife Stephanie headed up the committee that decorated the nursery rooms. We just…you know…don’t want it getting messed up.”
“David, I’ve known Pastor Rodriguez for several months now, and he comes very highly recommended by our denomination. The church council here is very impressed with his past work. He and his wife are trustworthy folks and they have a very good team of people to work with them. They will keep a very good eye on things, and even if anything is damaged, I know that the Hispanic brethren will take care of it.”
“I hope so,” David mumbled.
“Was there something else?”
“Ya, actually there was. I just don’t like the whole idea of encouraging these people. I know Pastor Rodriguez and his wife are probably good people, but they’ll be working with illegals. The way things are today, especially after 9/11, it just doesn’t seem patriotic or even safe to be giving a green light to foreigners to come in and do as they like.”
“Dave,” the firmness in the pastor’s tone was now very clear, “you seem to be confused. We aren’t talking about Saudi Arabians or even Muslims. We’re talking about Hispanic people who have come to this country looking for a better life. They are not terrorists. And even if they were Arabs or Persians…Muslims of whatever variety…they need Jesus. The church is all about preaching Jesus and bringing people into a personal relationship with Him. We are not a border control agency here.”
“Pastor, that’s just the problem!” Now David was practically yelling, and a handful of people were gathering near. “No, we’re not a government agency, but we’re American citizens and we need to take a stand for our country. There are men and women overseas right now fighting for our freedom, and here we are opening the doors and giving away what we have. I’m not the one that’s confused…you are!”
These last words sprayed out of David’s mouth. He wiped a bit of foam from the corner of his mouth, and seemed to come to his senses as he looked around and saw the small crowd. A few were nodding their heads in agreement, but the majority just had pained looks in their eyes.
“Dave, obviously you and I don’t see eye-to-eye on this.” The pastor’s voice was strained but even. “When I look to the Scriptures, I see hospitality as one of the key virtues of a Christian. I see Abraham welcoming the Lord Himself when he welcomed three strangers, and I see God coming to us in Jesus and asking for our welcome. The Word of God tells us to go to all nations, but here they are coming to us, and we won’t share the Gospel with them?”
“It’s not that.” David was visibly embarrassed by all the eyes on him, and wished he’d never started this conversation. “I do think we should go to the nations with Jesus. But why can’t we go to them instead of help them break the law by coming here?”
“David, you know we have a work in Mexico. Pastor Rodriguez actually graduated from the Bible college we support there, and has served as our interpreter there on many occasions. In fact, he’s a Christian now because of a missionary from our denomination that went down there 40 years ago and converted his grandparents. We’re not helping people come to the United States illegally, we are ministering to them here. People come to this country for the same reasons our ancestors did: for a chance at a better life.”
“Pastor, I don’t want to argue with you. It just that if things are so bad where these people come from, why don’t they stay there and work to change it?”
“Dave, do you actually believe that a person, or even a thousand people, with limited experience and no more than an eighth grade education should be expected to bring about a democratic revolution that will work? Our Hispanic friends have children just as we do, families they need to take care of. They aren’t political activists or wealthy entrepreneurs with time and money to topple their corrupt governments.”
David was quiet, and so was the gathered group of about twenty onlookers. The pastor asked one of the deacons to pray, and the prayer focused on finding peace and fellowship in the congregation regarding this issue. Afterwards, the pastor shook David’s hand and the group broke up silently.
Everyone knew this wouldn’t be the end of it.