|Christians called to 'welcome the stranger'||| Print ||
By Robert Dilday
ATLANTA - Church members may disagree over political solutions to the immigration issue, but they can unite around ministry to immigrants who already live in the United States, a Texas Baptist immigration services advocate said Jan. 31.
"Immigration has become a political issue," said Richard Muñoz, director of the Immigration Service and Aid Center (ISAAC) in Dallas.
"Sometimes it's hard to differentiate political issues from mission issues," he said. "We can disagree with a political decision but God has told us to minister to the 'strangers' among us."
Muñoz and Houmphanh Vongsurith, pastor of a Laotian Baptist church in Texas, led a special interest session on "Welcoming a Stranger" Thursday in conjunction with the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant convocation in Atlanta.
"There is a tension between Romans 13, which urges us to obey our rulers, and Hebrews 13, which compels us to welcome strangers among us," said Muñoz, whose service is an entity of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
"How can we reconcile the tension? As a Baptist I'm glad that the word of God doesn't contradict itself and that our God is an awesome God. We can help people comply with the law while still welcoming those who come to our country."
Muñoz said ISSAC's goals are to provide churches with resources to help those who can be helped to comply with immigration laws. Among the opportunities:
Vongsurith, pastor of First Laotian Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas, and president of the Laotian National Baptist Fellowship, said churches can ease immigrants' fears with a friendly attitude when they visit, such as shaking their hand, offering a meal and introducing them to someone in church who is the same age and gender.
"If you know the language of the person, you can say something in it-even one word-and they will fall in love with you," he said. "If you ask me how to say 'good morning' in Laotian, you are making me happy. In my heart I want to come back."
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