Summary:  Missiologists worldwide are increasingly recognizing how God is at work through the movement of people across borders to expand His Kingdom, but some Christians merely view immigration through an economic or political perspective and as something to be feared. It is essential for the Body of Christ to view this reality through the lens of Scripture so that the Church is not hindered from responding in unity to this missional opportunity. Learn more about the immigration leadership track at the Summit. 

 

Problem:   Many non-immigrant Christians are wary to embrace immigrants — and to recognize immigration as a God-ordained opportunity to “make disciples of all nations” without their own community—because the persistence of a dysfunctional immigration legal system has led many to view immigration as a threat.  Meanwhile, many immigrant congregations feel overwhelmed as families within their congregations face deportation, immigrants with legal status face long backlogs to family reunification, and youth and even pastors who are undocumented are legally unable to follow the vocational calls they believe God has placed on their lives.

Unity Objective: We aim to facilitate relationships between Christians of different ethnic groups, legal statuses, and denominations to build unity, so that we can respond to both the challenges presented by a broken immigration system and the opportunities for advancing God’s mission as one Body, with diverse interdependent parts that suffer and celebrate together.

Mission Objective:  By bringing together immigrant and non-immigrant evangelicals to partner together to reach those — both immigrants and non-immigrants — who do not yet know Christ, to make sure that those in need are aware of legal resources already available to them, to minister to families who are divided by a broken system, and to advocate for just immigration reforms consistent with biblical principles, we have the opportunity to join in God’s mission, simultaneously pursuing both the Great Commission to make disciples and the Great Commandment to love God and love our neighbors.

Rationale:

  • All immigrant groups are affected by immigration issues. Immigration has the potential to reach beyond differences to galvanize interest and find common ground across immigrant communities
  • Hispanics in particular make up 30-32% of the population around Chicagoland and require a particular priority for the Mission on Our Doorsteps conference planning team; Hispanic pastors and pastors networks are fractured by denominations and regions but immigration is a common ground issue to bring them together. Their leadership and involvement in an immigration initiative is key and will be helpful in bringing learning and momentum to other immigrant groups across Chicagoland.
  • In past forums on immigration the focus has been on helping the Anglo-American church understand the problem. We need to move beyond this to look at a collective Church position on immigration and consider collaborative solutions for the mostly hidden suffering being endured

 Get Involved: To get involved in this initiative through research, prayer, leadership, or learning, please contact Matthew Soerens at msoerens@wr.org or 920-428-9534

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Immigration Leadership Labs

1. How Do I Talk about Immigration to Mobilize a Church Response?

by Matthew Soerens

Many Christians are personally convinced that the Church needs to respond to the opportunities of immigration through ministry and advocacy, but some have found others in their local churches to be either antagonistic toward immigrants or simply nervous about engaging a potentially controversial topic.  Matthew Soerens shares a variety of biblically-informed messages that can help skeptical Christians embrace the immigrants in their community.

2. A Biblical Response to Immigration

by Matthew Soerens

Immigration is a controversial political, economic, and social issue for many in our society, but for Christians, it should first and foremost be viewed through the lens of Scripture.  In this introductory workshop, Matthew Soerens will examine the ways that the Bible might inform our thinking about immigration issues.

Matthew Soerens serves as the US Church Training Specialist for World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. He previously served as a Board of Immigration Appeals-accredited legal counselor at World Relief’s local office in Wheaton, Ill., and World Relief’s partner organization in Managua, Nicaragua.   Soerens is the co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2009).  He is also the co-creator of UnDocumented.tv.

3. The Immigrant Journey 

by Heidi Dessecker and Fikret Rizvic

In the last 10 years, more than 17,000 refugees from around the world have made Illinois their home.  They are our neighbors, co-workers, and classmates.They are part of our church families. In this session we will explore  what makes someone a refugee, how refugees are chosen for resettlement, and the difficult journey they must make to arrive in the U.S. and assimilate into our culture.

Heidi Dessecker is Director of Resettlement Services for World Relief in Chicago. Hands-on experience as a Case Management Intern with Refugee One confirmed that working in refugee resettlement was her calling.  Heidi began working with World Relief Chicago in 2010 as an Employment Coordinator and in 2011 she assumed the role of Director of Resettlement Services. 

Fikret Rizvic is a Senior Case Worker for World Relief in Chicago. He was born in Bosnia, near the border of Croatia. Due to an outbreak of war, for a long period of time  Rizvic and his family lived in a refugee camp in Croatia.  They were given the opportunity to come to United States as refugees. After two years, Rizvic began working for World Relief  in Chicago, the very organization that helped bring his family to the U.S.  As a case worker, his life experience helps him provide good advice so that people can understand and utilize all of the things that the Refugee Program offers. 

4. Biblically-based Advocacy for Immigrant Communities 

by Alexia Salvatierra

Over 70% of the American people say that they support reforms to our immigration system advocated by many evangelical leaders, but most will never call their legislative representative or otherwise advocate for those changes.  Many might feel that the issue does not affect them directly and is thus not their responsibility. Scripture, however, calls us to speak up for those whose voices are not heard.  How can we become effective stewards of the influence that God has entrusted to us as citizens in a democracy?  This workshop will introduce participants to a Christian model for doing public policy, rooted in Scripture, with a particular focus on fixing our broken immigration system.

Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, an ordained Lutheran Pastor, is the Director of Justice Ministries for the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  She also consults for a variety of organizations, including World Vision, the Christian Community Development Association, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Auburn Theological Seminary and Interfaith Worker Justice. She is also a founding member of the National Evangelical Immigration Table and was one of the founders of the New Sanctuary Movement. 

5. A Church-Based Model for Immigrant Legal Service Ministry

by Catherine Norquist and Courtney Tudi

How can we as the Church and organizations like World Relief engage and be ready for the coming tsunami of need for affordable, authorized, and competent Immigration Legal Services?  Come find out how you and your church might engage in this opportunity to be a part of the Biblical call to serve our neighbor.

Catherine Norquist serves as the Director of Immigrant Legal Services (ILS) at World Relief DuPage/Aurora. and has been with World Relief DuPage/Aurora since 2004. She was also cccredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2007.  In addition to directing a team of seven staff in the ILS department, Norquist continues to provide direct representation to immigrants in a variety of administrative proceedings including family reunification law, refugee/asylee adjustments, and naturalization & citizenship.  

Courtney Tudi joined World Relief in January 2012 and serves as the Capacity Building Attorney Specialist.  She previously worked with the African Community Center in Denver as a pro bono attorney where she assisted refugees with issues related to legal permanent residency and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits.  Courtney also spent  time at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in Washington, D.C.