Maybe you’re worn out by it, too. All the rhetoric in the news about immigration. Since his campaign began, our President has led the way in painting a fear-laden narrative about immigrants. At his 100-day rally, Trump told the parable of The Snake. In perfect contrast to the good Samaritan story, the President’s appropriated parable is one of self-preservation. In both stories, someone takes a risk–helping a foreigner in their midst. In the President’s parable, the risk-taker is bitten for failing to think of self first; in the Scriptural story, the Samaritan embodies Jesus’ answer to the question of eternal life. Which story will be yours?
If you’re like me, you long for the way of Jesus. But you’re also sick of the talk. You’re keen to fight hate with more than words—you’re ready to fight it with action. The Scripture tells us that God loves and cares for the sojourner among us and that we should do the same, remembering the slavery from which we have all been delivered (Deuteronomy 10). So, how do we put this love into action? Here are 3 ways that you can begin to practically empower those who sojourn in your midst.
1. Get Connected Locally. Channel your passion toward the local community. While staying nationally informed and active is essential, there is a time to turn down the rhetoric and get to work locally. If you’re just starting out in this world, find a way to get to know immigrant neighbors in your city. Volunteering through a local ESL class or resettlement agency connects you practically to families in your community. You’ll get a feel for their dreams and realities. Though it won’t fit for everyone, as part of a church plant, I actually moved into a neighborhood heavily populated by immigrants. While I spent my first years building bonfires and teaching ESL with neighbors, these relationships lead me to go deeper—actually investing my financial savings into the neighborhood.
2. Invest with Compassion. Which leads to the next idea… if you’ve got money saved to put to work, invest it with an eye toward the immigrant community among you. While the stock market has certainly rewarded the faithful over the past decade, the blessings of God aren’t just economic—the full ones always goes hand-in-hand with restored relationships. Consider investing in a rental house and leasing it to an immigrant or refugee family in need of stable housing. With the affordable housing crisis on the rise nationally, landlords with an eye for justice must stand in the gap. If the family you work with is in the right financial position, you can even help them to buy a house of their own. For many who can’t access traditional bank loans, owner financing opens the opportunity to homeownership—like it did for my next door neighbor, Santos.
3. Grow Your Influence. After learning from my relationship with Santos and his family, I’ve equipped a dozen families in my neighborhood to own their own homes—and a few have even become landlords themselves! It’s been tough work for me and them over the years, but a profitable journey. Of course, I earn a lower return on my money than I would if I invested among clients in more upwardly mobile neighborhoods, but you can’t beat the triple bottom line of this model—a family gains access to homeownership, blight is turned into beauty, stability returns to the block, the investor gains a modest ROI, and surprising new relationships form. At the end of the day, economic interdependence with people who those on the margins of mainstream culture forms you more into the image of God. Though I’m certainly a work in progress, you can learn more about my journey into this work at Profit & Pilgrimage, a resource I’ve created for those who want to invest with compassion.
Here lies my closing challenge: get invested—holistically. Leave behind arguments with third cousins on social media about immigration and use your energy to take on a new way of engagement. You’ll be surprised at how God might use you to open access to homeownership (or another opportunity) for someone who sojourns in your land. Even more, your heart will be formed toward things and people that God loves, changing and challenging you toward an enriched spiritual life. It may begin as a mustard seed, but who knows? What you model may, in time, help those promoting fear of snakes to start bandaging wounds.
J. Mark Bowers writes and trains for the Chalmers Center, a church equipping organization focused on breaking the spiritual, social, and material bonds of poverty. Having lived and journeyed extensively in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, he is also the creator of Profit & Pilgrimage, a movement of people who travel and invest with compassion. When the screens are powered down, Mark builds relationships and runs a housing business for immigrant families in East Lake—an under-resourced neighborhood where his own family lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA.