Thankfulness to All

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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.

Where There is Injustice, There is Silence

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A Guest Post by: Rev. Kris Van Engen 

Sometimes silence speaks. Sometimes silence kills.

I’ve been in the position of a congregational justice mobilizer for two years now and if I’ve learned anything, it is that silence plus lies (or the more congenial term “myths”) equals oppression. We all know this simple equation is true but we are strangely drawn to it.

 

While Martin Luther King sat in a jail in Birmingham, his elders sent him a letter telling him to be quiet and leave the segregation issue to the courts. When AIDS was becoming an epidemic in the 1980s, the stigma was on the victims; discussing how to change the situation was considered akin to condoning sin. Pick a modern issue of injustice and surely you will find groups who, in spite of having the power to be heard, remain silent–maybe because of uncertainty, maybe to stay neutral, maybe to be a good listener, maybe for good or bad intentions. At any rate, where there is injustice, there is silence.

The scenario is as true on a small scale as it is on a large scale. Consider the family with an abusive parent. The child is scolded, “What happens in our house is nobody else’s business.” The spouse defends the abuser to critics, “Well, if our son watched his behavior he wouldn’t have these problems.” The critics say, “Oh, I guess it’s more complicated than I thought.” The abuse continues. The child waits for someone to ride in and speak the truth. The victims of AIDS, preventable famine, changing climate, racism, and needless deportations wait with him.

 

We celebrate Jesus’ birth into a land of silence and lies. The threat of his voice moved Herod to put an early ransom on his head. This is the brave voice our world needs. Jesus doesn’t fall into the temptation of silence like we do. The spirit of the Lord is on him. He sees through the myths. He is anointed to proclaim good news to the poor.

Of course, Jesus himself was silent from time to time. The most notable occasion, shortly after sharing the last supper bread and wine with his disciples, was remaining speechless before Herod. It was the death of him. A temporary death that resulted in new life.

This would become Jesus’ gift to us. Light shed on a dark scene. If we are victims, he stands with us. If we need certainty mixed with courage to break from the ranks of neutrality, he offers it through the Holy Spirit, his word, and the communion of saints. He is the prince who replaces injustice with peace.

In this new year, what is an opportunity you could take to SPEAK? 

 

KrisKris Van Engen is the Congregational Justice Mobilizer for the Office of Social Justice and World Renew. He equips people as they act on Jesus’ instructions to be peacemakers, to do justice, and to prevent the root causes of poverty and hunger. You can read his article Social Justice 101 here. 

Kris previously worked for 10 years as a pastor and church ministries director. He and his wife Lisa have two children, Ellie and Josiah.

Contact Kris by email at kvanengen@crcna.org.

 

Social Justice 101

The Office of Social Justice responds to God’s call to let justice flow like a river, especially as it relates to hunger and poverty.

I want to point you to a resource on their web page. The resource is called Social Justice 101. I encourage anyone who has wondered about the following questions to take a moment to read through the information.

  • Why should Christians be politically engaged?
  • What does the Bible say about justice?
  • What does social justice have to do with my personal faith?
  • What is advocacy and how does it connect to charity?
  • Whose role is it to care for the poor?
  • What are systems and how do they contribute to injustice?

I also want to introduce you to my husband Kris today, who works for World Renew and the Office of Social Justice! He is kind to a fault and has a huge heart for making a difference because of his faith.

Confession: The first time I told Kris that I loved him, I was driving. I got so nervous I ran a red a light. (Don’t tell the police.)

Kris Van Engen is the Congregational Justice Mobilizer for the Office of Social Justice and World Renew. He equips people as they act on Jesus’ instructions to be peacemakers, to do justice, and to prevent the root causes of poverty and hunger.

Kris previously worked for 10 years as a pastor and church ministries director. He and his wife Lisa have two children, Ellie and Josiah.

Contact Kris by email at kvanengen@crcna.org.