The Oppressed in our Midst

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I spent the last week with Dan Crosley in Mexico, teaching at a Christian University on the subject of World Missions. We went there with the hope of imparting God’s heart for the world, that they would see just how capable they are to serve in this great gospel mission. We taught on various themes such as:  ‘The Bible and Mission’, ‘History of Missions’, ‘Contextualization of the Gospel’ and ‘Our Call to Embrace the “Other” in Society’. I am happy to report that the trip was a homerun! They left the week with a deeper understanding of how God can use them to bless the nations of the earth and a sense of responsibility toward His mission.

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I came to know many exceptional people on this trip. Men and women who would be successful at whatever they put their hands to, yet they have chosen to follow God’s calling on their life to serve in the local church. They laugh together, pray together, help one another and encourage one another. They also seem to possess a character of service and unity that is rare today. Where we might drag our feet to meet the needs of someone else, these folks consistently sought to include others and serve. I am excited about what God can do through this school and through these young pastors.

My eyes were also opened in a way that I had not anticipated.

God has a funny way of teaching you something about your home when you are out of the country. It is as if we have to literally get out of our cultural context to be able to see our home clearly. In the midst of these exceptional Mexican believers, my heart turned towards home, and I thought about the Hispanics that live throughout Hamilton County, in our very backyard.

I have lived most of my life in Texas, with a three year stint in California, so when I first flew into Indianapolis and visited our church, I was taken back by the number of white people around me. We had Just moved from a block in which Rebecca and I were the racial minority, so the lack of diversity in our neighborhood and churches seemed odd. But I shrugged it off and thought there just wasn’t that much ethnic diversity in Hamilton County. That was until the 4th of July when we decided to take our two dogs on a walk through Forest Park. Here I was awakened to the fact that there were in fact a number of Hispanics in our county, as the park was filled with Hispanic family after family enjoying their holiday with one another. I thought to myself, wow, we really are missing out on embracing this segment of our culture at 3

But it wasn’t until I went to Mexico this past week that I saw just how desperate the need is to minister to this section of our culture. There is a great disparity between the freedom and joy these students exhibited and the way our local Hispanics suffer today. A large number of Hispanics within Hamilton County are forced to live in fear on the margins of society. They live week to week on next to nothing, all the while sending the majority of their income back home to places like Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica. They live in fear of deportation, are isolated from their families (many of them go years at a time without seeing their family), and have little to no rights. It is a gross injustice that our society uses these people to build our homes, cook our food, and pick our fields and yet oppresses them into the margins of our society.

Some will say that because they are here illegally they shouldn’t have rights. But I ask you to save your political angst for another day. We are a nation made of immigrants and, unless we are Native American, would probably do well to keep our mouths shut.

Do we need to follow a rule of law? Sure. But there has to be a way to extend care to all people at all times, regardless of their nationality. As we see in Deuteronomy 24, God’s ways are to always exhibit care for those on the margins of society, regardless of where they are from.

Deut 24:17   You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge.  18 Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

Deut 24:19   When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all your undertakings.  20 When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

Deut 24:21   When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.  22 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.

Israel was reminded in this passage that their freedom was not of their own doing; it was the greatness of God that set them apart from all other nations. When God rescued Israel from the Eqyptians, they were slaves – they were the outcasts, a forgotten people. And they were commanded to extend toward others the same generous grace that God had shown them.

We have a whole community of Hispanics in our backyard that deserve to be treated with dignity, love and goodness, not ostracized because of their differences. We can not sit in a place of privilege and think that we are better then anyone else. We too were once lost in the darkness of sin, and we were rescued from it by the goodness of our God. The ways of the Kingdom are radically different then the ways of the world. When we live our lives in submission to God, we say to others, “I am no better then you, You are no better than me” – we are all creations of God united by his blood and bonded through his peace.

In a community of Mexicans, I was able to see how much we grow when we live without fear and are surrounded by people who love us. These students were able to flourish in this environment and are free to live out their God-given calling.  I believe it is our turn to look at our Hispanic brothers and sisters not as strangers but as family.

Every Sunday, Dan Crosley leads a Hispanic service in the Chapel (back by the offices). I encourage you to head back there someday soon and hear their stories. I think you will come to see that the things that make us different dwindles in light of what draws us together.

Tom Rich
Discipleship Pastor

One comment

  1. Of all the papers and posts and sermons of yours I’ve read over the years, this is one of my favorite. Thank you for having such a beautiful heart for the oppressed and forgotten.

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