January 30, 2017
By Aaron Weaver
DECATUR, Ga. — With a swipe of the presidential pen last week, the United States turned its back on many attempting to escape war and strife. While the president’s executive order halted Syrian refugees as well as visitors and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will continue its work among refugees and immigrants in the United States and around the world, spreading the hope of Christ to those who need it the most.
CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said Cooperative Baptists will see and hear those who the world has forsaken and forgotten.
“As Baptist Christians, the love of Christ compels us to stand in solidarity with our global neighbors — the oppressed, the unheard and those on the margins,” Paynter said. “As a Fellowship, our churches and field personnel stand with refugees and immigrants here in the United States and around the world, spreading hope and offering comfort in a world that all too often offers hate and fear over peace and welcome.”
Stephen Reeves, who leads CBF’s advocacy efforts, echoed Paynter call to stand in solidarity with refugees and immigrants.
“We must raise our voice as Christians and loudly proclaim that fear, hate and greed are not Gospel values and are not worthy of our democracy,” Reeves said. “These challenging times demand that we not only raise our voices to elected officials, but also move into close proximity to the immigrants and refugees among us. We must connect and strengthen relationships with organizations in our cities and towns doing this work and partner with and support CBF field personnel who have been serving these vulnerable communities around the world for many years.
“We must act compassionately and seek justice in tandem,” Reeves said.
He emphasized that CBF Advocacy is continuing and heightening its work on behalf of immigrants and refugees through engagement with partner organizations such as Bread for the World, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Evangelical Immigration Table and the Bible, Badges and Business coalition. CBF Advocacy is also working to support a bipartisan solution to extend legal protections and work permits to young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
“We are hopeful that the bipartisan BRIDGE Act, reintroduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate, may be a positive vehicle to extend the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to good, law abiding students raised in the U.S.,” Reeves said.
CBF Advocacy is also working with partner organizations to provide resources and promote best practices for those churches wishing to consider providing sanctuary to those under threat of deportation, Reeves added.
Rubén Ortiz, who serves as co-leader of the CBF Latino Network and senior pastor of La Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Deltona, Florida, has been representing the Fellowship as part of the Latino working group of Bread for the World, which has been advocating for the BRIDGE Act as a member of the diverse Faith Voices for Immigration coalition.
“Our prayers are with our leaders and pastors of immigrant families worrying that they could be targeted, detained or deported,” Ortiz said. “We are living in a time of commitment and action. The people of Jesus cannot be silent. As faith leaders, we are more united than ever and we decry derogatory language that has been used about refugees. We firmly believe that inflammatory rhetoric has no place in our response to this humanitarian crisis. We affirm that refugees are an asset to this country.”
Gospel call to ‘Welcoming the other’
CBF Global Missions Coordinator Steven Porter said that within a few hours of the Jan. 27 presidential executive order, he received messages from CBF field personnel expressing their concerns for international friends who now face deportation back to countries they recently fled for their lives.
In the face of uncertainty and feelings of consternation, Christians must remember their scriptural calling to do the work of “welcoming the other,” Porter said.
“In Scripture, the Triune God calls the church to welcome others as Christ welcomed us through hospitality to strangers (Mt 25:31-46), love for enemies (Mt 5:43-48) and active peacemaking (Mt 18:15-20),” Porter said. “Such work is constitutive of the church’s witness and represents a cruciform calling that trumps partisan politics with ‘the politics of Jesus.’”
Field personnel request prayer for refugees, immigrants
CBF field personnel Kim and Marc Wyatt urged prayer for refugees, their families and field personnel serving around the world.
“Please join us in prayer for refugees on the move globally as they face challenges above and beyond our everyday struggles and face oppression in light of fear,” the Wyatts said. “Pray also for CBF field personnel serving among refugees, sharing the love of Christ in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.”
In October 2015, the Raleigh, N.C.-based Wyatts opened a three-bedroom residence for new refugees called Welcome House in partnership with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and with the support of CBF of North Carolina. Since then, Welcome House has been a home to 146 refugees from war-torn countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Burundi, Congo and Ethiopia among others — including two of the first Syrian families to be resettled in the Research Triangle.
The Wyatts were scheduled to host a Syrian family of four at Welcome House this week, but will be unable to do so now.
“We were scheduled to host a Syrian family this coming week,” Marc Wyatt said. “The beds are made. The floors are swept. The bathrooms and kitchen are cleaned and stocked. But the family who was coming to start their lives on in a safe place they could call home have been told ‘you are not welcome’ here.”
The Wyatts said they have received countless calls, e-mails and texts since Friday’s executive order, unsure of what to do and afraid of what lies ahead.
“Refugees are afraid,” Marc said. “Volunteers and advocates are upset and want to know what to do.”
The Wyatts recounted a conversation they had with their friend, Abdul, a Somali refugee whose family was resettled in Raleigh just a year ago and who proudly flies a large American flag on his front porch. Abdul is now afraid of being deported and is scared for his children and how the executive order will affect people from his homeland, many of whom have waited for 10 years or more to leave refugee camps, the Wyatts said.
“We are asking our CBF family to pray and make an appropriate Christian response,” Marc said. “Pray for the leaders of our country to make humane and just decisions that affect the vulnerable. Pray for those who serve among refugee and immigrant organizations and agencies. Pray for the refugees already here and take appropriate action in response. Mobilize and volunteer with refugee and immigrant agencies and organizations and move our concern into a genuine embrace of our new neighbors. It is time for us to reflect the image of God that is within us.”
CBF field personnel Greg and Sue Smith requested prayers for immigrants throughout the country. The Smiths lead LUCHA Ministries, a nonprofit faith-based organization serving with and among Latinos in Fredericksburg, Va., which focuses on upholding the rights of immigrants and their families as well as addressing the spiritual and social needs of the immigrant community.
“Please pray for the immigrant community across our nation. Pray God’s grace will embrace immigrants and their families experiencing fear and anxiety sown by recent administration executive orders. Pray as well for all CBF field personnel who work with immigrants, refugees, Muslims and other vulnerable and fearful communities in our land, for wisdom and compassion to stand in solidarity with our international friends and neighbors.”
To support the work of the Wyatts and Smiths, along with CBF field personnel meeting other needs worldwide, donate to the Offering for Global Missions here.
Syrian Refugee Crisis
For the past five years, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has been engaged in a multi-faceted and sustained response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis — regarded as “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era” — and continues its efforts to serve Syrian refugees through field personnel and ministry partners in five countries.
In June 2016, CBF sent funding to Belgium-based field personnel Janée Angel to facilitate the safe passage of 90 Syrian Christians seeking asylum in Belgium through her partnership with Gave Veste, a local nongovernmental organization helping churches and Christian groups to welcome and meet the needs of refugees. Since 2013, CBF has contributed more than $110,000 toward Syrian refugee relief.
CBF is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support.The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.