Thankfulness to All

Krisimmigration

A Guest Post from Kris Van Engen 

Growing up on an Iowa farm, over the course of thousands of hours, I walked beans, detasseled corn, shelled corn, fed calves, fixed fences, chopped weeds, bailed hay, helped thaw frozen drinkers, reorganized the machine shed, and made beds of straw for newborn pigs. A cow even rammed me into the side of a barn and left me with a broken arm and jaw. I have special memories of working alongside my parents and my three brothers.

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It was hard work, but worth it, because I have this badge of honor that for some reason people respond to with respect, that I once worked on a farm.

This is why I am frustrated about the U.S. immigration debates. When I work in agricultural it’s noble–farmers feeding the world–but immigrants doing the exact same work are told to “get in line,” and as real farmers know, there is no line.

Seventy percent of all US farm workers are undocumented immigrants. Not just 70% of immigrant farm workers but 70% of all US farm employees.

The legal entry system has not worked for over 40 years. Agriculture utilizes immigrants but our laws say no to their visa requests and yet the IRS collect billions in taxes from undocumented workers. Food flows from farm to table but beneath the surface 70% of the people doing the work don’t have access to a legal immigration system. They are completing the hard agriculture jobs that are not filled by Americans.

At some point we stopped paying attention to real people. God asks us to defend the cause of immigrants and to love the stranger. I pray the 70% statistic will awaken us to just how broken this immigration system is.

When we pay attention to the fact that our food, even our Communion bread, comes from this unfair system maybe we will stop taking sides and work together. Imagine the joy on farms when all workers are granted access to legal immigration–when employers don’t feel the guilt of a precarious work force. Proposals to achieve this have been endorsed across the political spectrum. Now Congress needs the will to act.

This isn’t about Republicans vs. Democrats. This is about all of us and every bag we fill with groceries. The choice is ours to pray for new immigration laws with our words and actions or to ignore ongoing suffering.

If you want to act you could host a viewing of this film, or even bring this workshop to your church. You can also call your member of Congress at 866-877-5552 and tell them you are ready for new immigration laws. Here is CRC Justice’s advocacy page for easy ways to help.

You may remember Paul Harvey’s ‘So God Made a Farmer’ speech from the Super Bowl. What if, when we listened to those words, we rightly ascribed such thankfulness to all U.S. farmer workers–

KrisKris VanEngen lives in Holland, MI with his wife and two children. He is the Congregational Justice Mobilizer for World Renew and the Office of Social Justice. He carries with him some precious memories of growing up on a farm with his three brothers; Kirk, Nic and PJ.

about proximity, as so much is

injustice

I think I messed up a thousand times today.

I could have made a faster decision at work.

I could have tried harder on a project, instead of getting frustrated, angry and giving up.

I double booked an evening and had to let someone down who was counting on me.

Basically, today I suck. Ever have those days?

 

Also, I have something I really want to say, but I’m afraid to let it out. I don’t like to be controversial, but maybe in all my mistakes… I can do one right thing this day.

Maybe, I can speak up about something that matters.

Immigration reform is on my mind. Kris has been working on it through the Office of Social Justice for some time now. I didn’t mean to write about it twice this week, but it is about proximity, as so much is.

 

This article has been circulating today, about a German immigrant, Christian, homeschooling family of six . You can read more here and here. They came seeking asylum, for the freedom to homeschool their children. Nearly deported, they were recently granted indefinite deferred status. Due largely, to the outcry of the public.

I respect that desire. I respect their hope to live in freedom. I respect those that rallied to protect them. 

This seemed to illicit a huge response among the Christian community about injustice and fairness. About an immigration system that is broken and out-dated for our times.

immigration0But, what about the thousands of families that come in different ways to American soil. Sometimes not legally, but to pursue jobs that are freely offered to them, needed by Americans to be filled. Our economy and livelihoods depend on these jobs being filled. Read more here, would you not cross a thousand deserts to feed your children?

 

Petitions are signed, political leaders are summoned, and urgent prayers are offered…

Why can’t we offer this urgency to everyone affected by the current immigration crisis?

 

Dear God,

Please help us to see the bigger picture of all the families immigration policies affect. ALL THE FAMILIES. Please help change to arrive for all those suffering. Help us to be grateful for the people who fill needful places in our economy and help our hearts to be willing to use our voices to speak up for them too.

 

If this means anything to you please consider joining two campaigns going on right now: Praying for Reform and Fasting for Families. There are also other ways to place yourself in the proximity of immigrants here. 

Would you not cross a hundred deserts?

immigration 5It was not something I thought so much about. Often, people in the shadows come to light, but the fact that we can do something about it… really encourage change, stays pressed down. It is messy and it is hard, especially when it encircles the political realm.

Immigrants play an important role in the food system from fields to restaurants- as dairy workers, meat processing workers, cooks, busboys, and more. More than half of food sector workers-both immigrant and native-born earn poverty wages.

Bread for the World Institute Andrew Wainer

 

and this…

More than 70 percent of all hired US farm workers are foreign-born, mostly from Mexico, and about half are undocumented.

US Department of Labor

 

and then we know this…

The root cause of immigration: systematic poverty, economic instability, and a lack of viable employment.

The Church Between Borders

 

 

This past week I read, Trail of Hope and Terror by Miguel A. De La Torre.

As young migrants prepare to journey north. The author asks “Why are you crossing the border?” The unanimous answer “families who lacked food.”

“Please tell the Americans that I am sorry for entering their country like this. Please forgive us, but we are simply desperate.”

We pinned our names and pictures to our clothes in the event we would die; if our bodies were found, we could at least be identified… we risk death for the families left behind. Would you not cross a hundred deserts to feed your children? Ignatio

 

Would you not cross a hundred deserts to feed your children?

Yes, I would. Even if it was illegal. Especially if I knew freely offered work waited on the other side.

 

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the 2nd grade classroom I work in, his story was read. My student could not understand why someone would kill him, he could not wrap his mind around that new knowledge. It is so complicated to explain, but also simple.

Jesus was always bending in love… always. 

 

Movements start with people gathering around each other.

Bringing what was once hidden into light.

It is hard and messy, and it makes us confront truth about ourselves.

If you live in America and eat… you rely on the work of immigrants.

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Many are gathering around the table now, to pray a new dream of justice for immigrants.

Consider this Lenten Season Praying for Reform and Fasting for Families. Learn more on how to get involved here or talk to me!

What is your new dream? 

 

 

there is no hierarchy in brokenness

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They are watching.

They repeat the bad word you didn’t mean to say aloud.

 

We hope that they find a love for reading, so we read in their presence.

We take them to the baseball field, the soccer arena, the dance studio, gymnastics class.

We drive them to piano lessons, guitar, play rehearsals, art classes.

We craft seasonal experiences like apple picking, a Christmas light tour, Easter egg hunts.

 

Are we as intentional about showing them how to walk in the compassionate footsteps of Christ?

He was there, in the messiest, hardest, most broken places of people’s life.

 

My parents taught me this with their work. My Mom’s here. My Dad’s here. The broken showed up on our doorstep. They became a part of my story. I realized we are all broken.

IMG_2147My friend Mickie gave voice to immigration reform.

 As a farming family we pay well above minimum wage and give an end of the year bonus to workers that show up everyday and we still have difficulties finding workers. We hire anyone willing to work but unfortunately the vast majority of Americans do not want to perform theses jobs. If we could find enough American workers to perform these jobs than we would not have to depend on migrant workers but this is not the reality! And it’s not the reality that we pay poor wages so we cannot attract American workers. It’s a short season with long hours. Our workers work rain or shine, it’s dirty, often wet, it’s hot, it’s physically exhausting. I am so thankful for the workers that are willing to do this hard work whether they are Americans or migrant workers!

 

They are watching.

We want them to know…

There is no hierarchy in brokenness.

God sees us the same.

There is a story within each person we come into contact with, a story that deserves to be given voice.

Each person deserves compassion, an extended hand, an invitation to know hope regardless of what they have done or what they are currently doing.

We want them to see us showing up.

We want them to see us erasing dividing lines, so they no longer are visible.

We want them to know broken is all of us, all of us the same.

We want them to see us kneel.

Kris was in Washington DC this past week. He witnessed a peaceful demonstration on immigration reform. People… willing to stand with their immigrant neighbors, even to arrest. They stood together to give voice.

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I would love to hear your voice on what moves you. I know you are all world-changers. I would love to work with you to guest post about what you are passionate about too. 

Si, se puede. We Have a Voice.

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Kris and I were in Washington DC all of nine hours, six in meetings and three speed walking through the monuments before darkness settled in. I am so thankful for those little moments when you are afforded an opportunity to see the world a little more deeply than you did before.

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What I know more deeply:

I’m really proud of Kris and the work that World Renew and the Office of Social Justice does to speak up for the most vulnerable.

Regardless of your political positions, those that make decisions on Capital Hill work incredibly long, difficult hours. They truly do care about making a difference.

We have a voice. Every piece of mail you send or phone call you make indicating your heart about issues is recorded and filed. It really makes a difference. I think I did not grasp that before I witnessed it first hand. Knowing who your congressional representatives are and communicating with them is important. This is a directory to find the contact information for those in government positions.

Everyday their are powerful people {because they have money} lobbying for their causes. The most vulnerable in our society do not have these resources and we need to work so hard to give them equal voice.

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Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a little timid. I was able to speak at the meetings we had by God’s grace. I hope those we talked to were able to better understand the vulnerable place immigrants find themselves in. I hope we can grow to extend grace to those that come to fill jobs no one else much wants in our society.

When we first arrived as part of the Evangelical Immigration Table, we faced a huge crowd of families. They came on six buses as the National Alliance of Evangelical Latino Christians. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Si, se puede they chanted.

Yes, we can.

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There we are after two hours of sleep and six hours of meetings.

And wait for it… right after I dive bombed the cement in my heels smack dab in front of the Capitol. The knees of my pants ripped a little, there was a small amount of blood, and I realized I had fulfilled my awkward moment. But, it didn’t matter. I was just thankful for the opportunity to see deeper.

Where have you traveled that inspired you? 

This Freedom is a Gift We Received

statue

 

My husband Kris travels for his work with World Renew and the CRC Office of Social Justice. For the first time, I am traveling with him today to Washington D.C. We are speaking with members of congress about comprehensive immigration reform and the response of the church.

This will be my first time in Washington D.C. I have my power suit and heels on and I’m excited. I’ll write about my experience on Friday. In the meantime you can pray that I do not do anything awkward, but I advise you not to bet on it.

This is the story I will be sharing.

 

{The Gift We have Received, first appeared October 24, 2012 at G92

In Kollen Park, on the shore of Lake Macatawa in Holland, Michigan, stands a bronze statue.

“The Immigrants” statue is a gift from the people of Drenthe, in the Netherlands.

 

A group of immigrants journeyed in the spring of 1847 from Rotterdam to New York City’s Ellis Island. The Atlantic passage took 47 days. A group of 60 men, woman, and children traveled together, led by Albertus C. Van Raalte. They looked to settle in a new land, because of religious and economic oppression.

 

While the Dutch immigrants faced enormous challenges and overcame adversity, they prevailed. They were afforded the opportunity to make a new life.

 

You may believe the historic story found its beginning and end here.

But, is history ever that simple?

 

There are no monuments or placards to commemorate another facet of the story. Even the recorded history finds itself pieced together on the shelves of the history room of the public library, the research library of the Holland Museum, and the lower level of joint archives of Van Wylen Library. Amongst shelves of volumes lies a thin folder of newspaper clippings.

 

The Ottawa Native Americans summered in Northern Michigan in the Mackinaw area. When the season curved around to fall again, they traveled by canoe, via Lake Michigan, back to their land on the shore of Lake Macatawa, then called Black Lake. The Ottawa Native Americans had cleared 15 acres with nearly thirty huts and teepees covered in cedar bark. An early settler said he believed the Native Americans had intended this to be a permanent location.

This stood their rhythm for decades.

 

The Indians of the Western Great Lakes speaks of early encounters with the Native Americans in this way:

“All strangers that were not enemies, as well as members of their own nations, were at all times welcome to partake of the shelter of a cabin and the food available.”

 

In the fall of 1848, when the Ottawa Native Americans returned to Black Lake they found the Dutch settlers on their cleared land. The settlers were also using some of their (1,400) maple troughs.  The Ottawa Native Americans showed the settlers how to make their own maple troughs, but the settlers continued to use the Ottawa’s troughs.  Smallpox was also brought into the area by the settlers. The following spring the Native Americans sold their land to the settlers, exhumed their dead, and traveled by canoe north.

They renamed the area Ana-mah-npo-nig, the place where the Dutch live.

 

The eloquent Chief Simon Pokagon spoke six languages and authored the book Queen of the Forest, thought of as a classic in Native American literature.

 

A speech on August 26, 1897, on the occasion of a Semi-Centennial Celebration by Chief Simon Pokagon, resonates in the mind of a witness, late judge Cornelius vander Meulen. He stated that the chief displayed   “…a bewilderment, perhaps, as to why in grasping for the goals of the future we crush so much of the beauty of the past.”

 

In the words of Chief Simon Pokagon, “The same forest that frowned upon you smiled upon us. The same forest that was ague and death to you was our bulwark and defense. The same forest you have cut down and destroyed, we loved, and our great fear was that the white man in his advance westward would mar or destroy it.”

 

Why do we hide facets of history in thin folders in basement libraries?

 

If history surfaces, we might then have to admit the rhythm of our interconnectedness, that we, too, were immigrants. This land was not our own to take and give then, nor is it now.

 

This life, this land, this freedom is a gift we received.

 

A gift handed back with open hands, would be to listen to the discussion of immigration reform.

 

Bibliography

Kinietz, Vernon W. (1965) The Indians of the Western Great Lakes 1615-1760.

McClunken, James (2009) Our People, Our Journey, The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

Van Voorst, Cornelia (1972, May  17). Holland’s Early Colonists Befriended by Indians but Indians Left Area around 1948, Holland Sentinel.

VandeWater, Randy (2010, Feb 21). Pokogan one of most famous Native Americans in West Michigan, Holland Sentinel.