Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The DREAM Sabbath

One of the saddest experiences I can remember was the deportation of a Bolivian family that attended the church I used to serve in Baltimore.  The parents and the children were deaf.  They came on a visitor’s visa and decided to stay.  This was not permissible per the laws of the Immigration service but they stayed anyway, sleeping in the basement of a home of their friends who had come to the U.S. years before.  The two deaf children, both teens, had the opportunity to attend the Maryland School for the Deaf for many years and they got a good education there.  Sadly, the family’s undocumented status was brought to light and they were told they had to leave by immigration court.  These young people were sent back with their parents and had to make a way for themselves in Bolivia, where opportunities for deaf empowerment was much less than in the United States.  I still get a text message from this family occasionally.  Life is very difficult for them.  I wish they could have stayed in the U.S.
The United Methodist Council of Bishop’s committee on Immigration, the United Methodist Interagency Immigration Task Force and the General Board of Church and Society encourage congregations of Observe a DREAM Sabbath.
The interfaith observance to be held on a Sunday between September 16 and October 9 will enlist churches, synagogues and mosques across the country to dedicate time during or around their regular weekly worship service to a conversation about the DREAM act, which is intended to rectify an injustice in U.S. immigration law.  The bill, “Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM),” would give undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.  The DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation pioneered by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill and Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah.
There is a free downloadable toolkit available to help congregation participate in the
Sabbath.  The packet includes planning resources, sacred readings, reflections, and links to videos and sample bulletin inserts. (http://www.interfaithimmigration.org/index.php/2011/07/01/dream-sabbath-launch/)
As United Methodists we have a history of speaking up for the needs of children.  This is an issue of justice that we need to be more aware of.  Others may not be concerned about the well-being of children, but we know that God’s angels are not only looking at our care for them, but reporting every injustice before the throne of God.  No matter what our political beliefs, God is going to look at whether we are causing his little ones to stumble by our actions or our inaction.  I do not believe that willful ignorance will be a useful excuse when we stand before our Lord.  “When did we see you, Lord, and not respond?”
Ola Kaso came to the United States from Albania in 1998, when she was 5.  Ola recently graduated from a high school in Warren, Michigan.  She was a valedictorian of her class.  She took every Advance Placement class offered by her school and has a 4.4 grade point average.  Ola is on the varsity cross country and tennis teams.  She was treasurer of the student council and treasurer of the National Honor Society at her school.  She tutors students who are learning English.
Ola was accepted into the honors program at the University of Michigan, where she will be a pre-med student.  In a letter to Senator Durbin, Ola wrote, “I aspire to ultimately become a surgical oncologist, but more importantly, I intend to work for patients that cannot afford the astronomical fees accompanying lifesaving surgeries, patients that are denied the medical treatment they deserve.  My goal is not to increase my bank account; my goal is to decrease preventable deaths.  I wish to remain in this country to make a difference.”
The Department of Homeland Security granted a stay of deportation to Ola, to give her a chance to continue her education.  That was the right thing to do.  It makes no sense to send someone like Ola, who has much to contribute, to a country she barely remembers.
Observe a DREAM Sabbath.  Take time to listen to the voices of these young people who cry out to God for justice.  Educate yourselves on the issues and seek the Lord’s guidance on how you are called to act, as a congregation or as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

More information: www.umc-gbcs.org or http://www.epaumc.org/news/stories/dream-sabbath

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