There is a whole lot in our world, nation, and communities that should bother us, especially when examined through the lens our Christian faith provides. Our reaction should be guided by our faith. In our social media driven world, the responses we often make are brash, not well thought out, and do little to advance the cause of Christ. Teaching students to take a stand, and then follow through with that stand is an important part of discipleship.
Many Christ-followers have been appalled at the policy of separating children from their parents and family at our southern border; for many it is a moral and Christian issue, one that goes against what the Bible teaches and what the United Methodist Church stands for. And while there are many issues that spark passion and response, this is one that angers many the most.
What makes the issue of child separation so difficult is how to navigate a response. Because of policy and rules, very few, if any, humanitarian groups are allowed contact with children who have been separated from their family. This issue is not like, say, hunger where you can help your students have direct impact with those in need by serving at a soup kitchen or getting food directly to people in need.
The policy of child separation can help us teach our students the power of advocacy and education, as well as the power of financial donations.
The United Methodist Church has excellent resources to help guide you in tackling this issue, found at www.umc.org/what-we-believe/border-crisis-resources-for-a-faithful-response .
Here are some ways to guide your students:
A lot of things that have happened in our communities to which people will respond with, “Thoughts and prayers.” Many see this as doing nothing to confront an issue and so it is disparaged as a cop-out or as a do-nothing reaction. As Christians we know the power of prayer, so incorporating that in all we do and all we advocate for is essential. And while we know the power of prayer, when coupled with action we have the opportunity to truly see God at work.
It is important when faced with issues we know are not what God wants to make sure we are educated on the issue. Child separation is a volatile situation, one that brings up issues of immigration, human trafficking, and safety in our communities. Because of this there are opinions on both sides and a whole lot of misinformation.
It is important when educating ourselves on important topics that we a) use reputable sources for our information, b) become well-versed on the issue before presenting it to students, and c) use more than one source for our information.
As stated above, when helping our students deal with child separation it is not as easy as loading up your students and heading out to paint a house or serve at a food bank (as though those things are “easy”). But there the ways you stand up to this issue can help students see options in living out their faith as advocates for the least of these.
Here are several concrete ways students can act
- Raising awareness. This can come through students sharing in Sunday school classes, to older members of the congregation, or posting on social media. All of these things, in order to be the most effective, need to be done in a respectful way that doesn’t come across as angry or hateful rhetoric. In addition to raising awareness, this can also be a learning experience for students.
- Contact members of Congress. Even though many of our students cannot vote, their voices can still be heard. This can come through letters, emails, and phone calls; it can also include visits to local representatives’ offices.
- Raising Money. In regard to Child Separation, being shut out from directly helping the children is really tough. When I have seen pictures of children in cages my heart breaks; I want desperately to drive to the border and be with those children. Most of us have raised the students in our ministries to be hands on in ministry to those in need; Child Separation is an opportunity to teach action by giving to those organizations that are on the front lines. Justice For Our Neighbors, www.njfon.org, is an amazing United Methodist organization that is on the front lines of immigration issues, including child separation. One of the most powerful things they do is provide legal aid to immigrants, including those who have been separated from their families. And while lawyers can volunteer to serve, one of the most impactful ways to help is to provide funds for Justice For Our Neighbors.
Finally, some groups may have the desire to head to the border to witness first hand the immigration and child separation issue. There are several organizations in South Texas that leading advocacy tours for groups. Here is a United Methodist Contact that can help you get started:
Susan Hellums, Border Area Mission Coordinator, First UMC, McAllen, Texas firstname.lastname@example.org