Monday, April 11, 2011

For everything in heaven and on earth is yours

Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4) On Sunday morning, April 10, I worshipped in the College Community Church Mennonite Brethren in Fresno, CA. It was the kick-off Sunday for a capital campaign to build much needed new facilities. Pastor Bill Braun told us God is the owner of all, we are stewards of all God has given us and we are blessed by God to bless others. I can't tell you how often I've heard churches say when they are building new facilities that spending money internally on a new sanctuary will prepare them for ministry externally in their community and around the world. In the case of College Community Church, I believe its true. A year ago, immediately following the earthquake in Haiti, this congregation gave generously to Mennonite Central Committee's relief efforts there, plus it prepared over 400 school kits for use by children in Haiti. And members in the congregation gave individually as well. College Community Church Mennonite Brethren gives just as generously to other community and global ministries. I stood in this congregation on Sunday morning and thanked them for their generosity to MCC and for their support in helping MCC in its work of relief, development and peace. In a litany of thanksgiving, the worship leader exclaimed, "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory and the majesty." Responded the congregation, "For everything in heaven and on earth is yours." My prayer is that this congregation's capital campaign will be successful beyond their wildest dreams . . . and that those dreams and this new facility will enable the congregation to continue to support God's work in the world near and far. Thanks be to God!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beyond the Border, Santa Barbara

Make me an instrument of your peace (St. Fransis of Assisi)

Santa Barbara CA is 17th highest on a list of 100s of municipalities across the country in the deportation rate of non criminals. Why would this be the case for a picturesque tourist town on the California coast? One reason is most certainly because Santa Barbara is participating in the federal Secure Communities program administered by and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) .

ICE requires the state and local law enforcement agencies of participating communities to automatically forward the fingerprints of all people arrested to them, whether or not the people arrested are guilty, or even in the country legally.

I joined 10 others from West Coast MCC staff in a workshop coordinated by Borderlinks to specifically look at how these national policies are affecting one community. The group included educators and students, social service agencies, law enforcement officials and others from the community.

We are spending billions of dollars as a nation targeting people who are not guilty of serious crimes and often not guilty at all, one presenter told us. Another presented suggested that the Secure Communities program does exactly the opposite of what it is intended to do - it allows crimes to go unreported because people are afraid to do so.

Another presenter suggested the real end game of the program is to have the capacity of deporting all "removeable aliens," about 12 million people, from the country by 2012.

Now why would we want to do that when the facts, rather than the myths, show that immigrants pay teaxes, provide needed services in the work force and add about $10 billion annually to the economy.

Seems to be the challenge is more than about the economy or taking jobs. The challenge is about whether we are willing to accept people who are different than we are, welcoming strangers into our communities.

All the while, during the workshop in Santa Barbara, St. Francis peers in at me and I find myself wondering, what would St. Francis think? Lord, make an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love..." Maybe we can get St. Francis to join the line up of speakers.