Saturday, March 28
Read Ephesians 2:11-22
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. (vv 19-20)
A NEW COMMANDMENT
One of my personal favorite service opportunities comes just once a year, right before Thanksgiving, when I join with other volunteers throughout the city to take applications for a program called Operation Holiday. This outreach, sponsored by Interfaith Ministries, provides food, clothing, blankets and toys to families who qualify by providing proof that they have extremely limited financial resources.
I’ve been volunteering for several years at the Planeview City Hall intake center, which is in a neighborhood filled with dilapidated WWII structures originally built as temporary housing for soldiers returning from war, veterans hoping for jobs in the airplane factories. Almost 70 years later, people still live in this temporary housing. The rent is low, and some of these one- or two-bedroom units are occupied by extended families. The neighborhood is racially and culturally mixed. Applicants for Operation Holiday have at least one thing in common — they don’t have enough resources to survive day to day, let alone do anything special for Christmas.
I really enjoy helping the people who apply for assistance, although I often struggle to communicate with them. Many speak no English. I can muddle through a little Spanish, but I am totally lost in Vietnamese or Thai. We have no translators, so it’s weird that we usually manage to patch it together — even without shared language.
Our applicants at Planeview are a rainbow coalition of ethnic heritage and lifestyle. Many are strangers and aliens in this environment. Most of them are legal; some probably aren’t. They’re all desperately poor and in need of help. Citizens of the United States? Maybe not. Members of the household of God? For sure. These — and others in our community who are poor, hungry, cold, homeless — these are our brothers and sisters, children of the same Heavenly Father, and citizens with us in the kingdom of God.
People of good faith may disagree on immigration policy and social welfare. It’s all very complicated, and I certainly don’t know how to bridge the philosophical gap that divides our country. What I do know is that Jesus gave his disciples — and us ญญ— a new commandment: “Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
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