REVIEW OF JOSEPH CASTLEBERRY’S “THE NEW PILGRIMS”

Immigration is at the center of our national debate.  While almost all would agree that the current system isn’t working, people of faith have varying opinions on what our country’s immigration laws should be.  Debates on immigration often focus on economics, national security, or our responsibility to the vulnerable.  Castleberry has a very different perspective – evangelism.  He quotes a friend’s saying of immigrants, “They either came here to evangelize or to be evangelized.”  This book challenged me to consider how God is at work in the movement of people around the world, especially to the United States.

In the first half of the book, Castleberry lays out the decline of faith and moral values in the US and argues the decline has been held at bay and is reversing due to immigrants.  Unlike the US, Christianity is expanding rapidly around the world, especially in Africa, South America, and China.  Our missionary efforts in the past are bearing fruit. Those who have found Jesus around the world are looking at the US as a fertile mission field.  Christian immigrants are coming to the US, revitalizing existing congregations and planting new churches.  On the flipside, Castleberry argues that non-Christian immigrants (whose family and close friends are far away) feel a great need for a relationship that “leaves them [seeking] renewal or conversion.”  This is an opportunity for Christians to “good-news” those God has brought to our communities.

In the second half of the book, Castleberry addresses our legal and political system.  He sets out an evangelical case for comprehensive immigration reform that includes compromise from both political parties.  He urges the reader to seek “the Lamb’s Agenda” rather than the Elephant’s or the Donkey’s.  I found much to agree with in this book, but also much to challenge me.  I think readers from all parts of the political spectrum will agree.  Mostly, Castleberry made me think and inspired me with new ideas.

The Justice & Reconciliation Team invites you to read this book and join us for a lively discussion at our next Justice & Reconciliation Book club on Monday, 2/5, at 7pm in S-223.

What Breaks God’s Heart? Racial Injustice

God wants to heal His human family, and as long I can remember, I have yearned for that, too.  He places a very high priority on the relationships among those He has created. Jesus said, “If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First, make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 CEB

Since grade school, I have wondered what I could do about the painful issue of racial injustice. My parents set an excellent example. They actively protested the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War and during the Depression, my mother often cooked food for people who knocked on our door.

My father, a family doctor, served many people of color.  Some of his patients did not have the means to pay, so he specified that they not be billed. As a little girl, I remember attending some of his patients’ baby baptisms with him.  Our neighborhood and my school had little diversity. My first African American friend was Peggy Brooks, who came to help my mother once a week. As a young girl, I shadowed Peggy in her work, and she taught me to iron. This is still my best domestic skill, although not in high demand these days!

As college students, Steve and I married. We learned about a program for underprivileged minority children. If they lived with families within that district during the week, they could qualify to be considered eligible residents of a superior school district. We did not know if they would accept us – a young couple – as fill-in parents.  But they did, and we had two middle-school “daughters” for the next couple of years.

When Pastor Dick Leon established a sister church relationship with Mt. Calvary Christian Center in the Central District several years ago, it meant a lot to me to be part of the formation team. As we traveled in the evenings between churches, we all had to work through our fears of going into unfamiliar neighborhoods. We had challenging conversations as we compared notes about being black or white in our country.  As we began worshipping together and meeting in one another’s homes, we celebrated our oneness as Christians. Our shared love of Jesus dissolved the barriers of race, age, economics, gender and culture as nothing else can!

Our country seemed to be moving beyond racism, and as the news reminds us daily, racial tension and hate crimes are still very apparent.

I am thankful that BelPres has created a Justice and Reconciliation Team. Its efforts to engage our congregation in educational programs, service opportunities, and person-to-person ministries can help turn the tide. I am excited for this way God is inviting our church into His work of redemption!

 

BelPres offers several different options to learn more about diversity and racial injustice:

May 13, Saturday, 9:30am – 2pm:   Racial Reconciliation Workshop/Frames & Filters with Tali Hairston

May 24 or June 4: Racial Reconciliation Post Workshop Discussion

May 25-June 29, Thursdays, 7pm: Justice+Reconciliation Workshop/Facing Racism