Monday, December 14, 2015


I was moved to prepare this posting by Bishop Michael McKee's letter to the Conference about the Syrian refugees and the subsequent meeting at the Conference Center,  which featured facts about the Syrian and other refugees and things we can do to help and honor our scriptural mandate to love our neighbors and to care for widows, orphans and aliens.

The document is designed as a two-column, back-to-back piece. You will need to copy the document, re-format it in Word into a narrow-margin, two-column piece, and perhaps make other minor changes for it to fit on one page.

I hope you will find it helpful.

“And on earth, peace, good will toward men.”
This is the season when we want to concentrate on peace and good will—but not necessarily toward all men, women and children. Mostly we want to concentrate on sweetness and generosity to our own. The pain and fear that is in the rest of the world—well, it’s in the rest of the world; it’s not so much in ours… We wish. The truth is, it is very much in our world because our scriptures tell us over and over that we are to love all people because God first loved us. We are told particularly to take care of widows, orphans and aliens.
Last Tuesday, I joined a hundred or so other United Methodists from the North Texas Conference in a meeting at the Conference Center in Plano to learn facts about Syrian refugees. The meeting was led by the Rev. Wes Magruder (who is on the Board of Refugee Services Texas <RST>) and RST’s director. This agency works with refugees from all parts of the world, not just those from Syria.
A week or so ago, Bishop Michael McKee posted a letter online about this issue. An excerpt follows:
“Now, people in our country, our state and even our city are having heated conversations about Syrian refugees. The governors of many states refusing refugee resettlement in their states, and the pervasive climate of fear reminded me of the family who escaped from Vietnam, came to our country, became model citizens, and raised three well-educated, respected children. I am also reminded of my parents’ finest acts of compassion and hospitality that were grounded in their Christian faith.
“This is the time for the followers of Jesus to reclaim values of compassion and hospitality. Today many people have succumbed to fear and xenophobia. Not every Muslim is a terrorist. Many who flee Syria with their families are doing what many of us would do—desperately seeking for safety for their loved ones.
“The resettlement of refugees is a complex and time-consuming process involving many nations and the resettlement program of the United Nations. The resettlement of persons in the United States is particularly thorough, despite the ongoing rhetoric. We are all deeply concerned about terrorism, but may we also be concerned about men, women and children who have suffered from acts of terrorism in their own countries. They simply want a safe place to live in peace. I imagine that most of them would prefer to live in their homelands, but there is too much danger of terror for them and their families.
“If there are opportunities to help resettle refugee families, I hope and pray many of our faith communities in North Texas will participate. As I witnessed my parents look upon a young family forty years ago as some of God’s beloved children, may we also begin to see today’s refugees who desire a safe place to call home as beloved children of God. “ … End of quote.
In truth, the threat from Syrian refugees is miniscule. These people are carefully screened through at least 20 agencies before they get to the United States!
I’m sure many of you have researched the process and know the small number who have been settled in the U.S.—not to mention Texas. There is a vast amount of information online, among the most reliable are our own GBGM, UMCOR, Church World Service (of which the UMC is a member), UMW, and the site for the Refugee Services of Texas.
At the GBGM and UMCOR websites, you can find many opportunities to help our church minister to refugees from all over the world: The Advance Global Response #3022144 and Refugee Response #982540, being two.
At RST’s website you can learn the many ways laypeople can help this agency: welcome refugees (several responsibilities here); pick up from airport; be a conversation partner; explore the neighborhood with new residents; collect donations; help navigate financial system; help with transportation; work in the office at 12025 Shiloh Road, Dallas; help with English.
Let us also remember that thousands of peace-loving, compassionate Muslims live among us as good neighbors. May we continue to interact with these brothers and sisters as the family of God that we are.
As Bishop McKee says, may we open our hearts and our homeland to these beloved children of God.
…And I’m certain our Christmas and New Year will be blessed beyond any measure that our endeavors could possibly warrant.
 After all: “Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine; Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign.” May this Love reign in our hearts.