Guest Blog by Brynn Schmidt
I lead a team at our church that serves one of the poorest schools in our community and county, with a large population of children from undocumented families. I have seen firsthand the effects that poverty and fear within the undocumented community, have on the children, and it breaks my heart. I see kids come to school without jackets or snow boots—whose parents are fearful to talk to school administrators or teachers about the needs of their children, because there is always a fear of trusting anyone who could turn them in to Immigration. I see children who do not have enough to eat without the school food programs. Children who cannot focus on learning because both parents are too busy working low paying jobs to feed the family and don’t have time to help with schoolwork.
Many of the children that I work with are legal citizens—they were born here—but their parents were not. This makes for a very scary situation for them as they grow up with the realization that their parents could be taken away from them at any time. When you add the components of poverty and the language barrier, it is very difficult for the children to succeed. However, I have seen firsthand the amazing positive change that happens when a church steps up and partners within their community to help those that Jesus calls “the least of these”.
As I have been involved with this school and the wonderful children that are part of our community, the words from this Keith Green song always come to my mind:
Is your house open to let strangers enter there?
Give to the least of these, show them someone cares,
And you may be entertaining angels unaware,
And his joy will be manifest in you,
And the lost will be found as he works through you
The song is called “Go to the Hungry Ones” and it has been a favorite of mine for years. I assume that Keith based these lyrics on Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing, some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I have always kept this image in mind as I serve those that I believe to be the most vulnerable in our country today—undocumented families. When we see these “strangers” among us as equal human beings, created in the image of God just as we are, it changes our perspective and should lead us to serve the way Jesus did.
When Christ helped people, I don’t believe that he asked to see their proof of citizenship before he met their needs. Neither should we. While we may disagree with people who have come into our country illegally, they are here and they are our neighbors. We are following Christ’s commandment to love our neighbor as we establish relationships and share God’s love with undocumented families in our community.
I have been amazed at the transformation that we have seen in one school year with the choice to love our neighbors in our community school. We have worked with the leadership of the school and together, have put new programs in place that have increased attendance significantly, reduced behavior problems, increased self-esteem in the kids and increased parent involvement in the school. We have programs that encourage parents to give their time and assets to the school in exchange for items needed for their kids such as backpacks and jackets. The parents have started to trust the school more and are becoming more involved in their kids’ education.
The overall goal is to show Christ’s love to the families in our community and also the staff that dedicates their lives to these kids. We encourage them to see the value of their assets that they can offer to their community and school. It is already making a huge difference—all we did was obey God’s call to “show hospitality to strangers” in whatever form we can. For us, this starts with the elementary school and also partnerships with other community programs that assist these families, working to empower them to break the cycles of poverty.
My life has been so enriched by this service and the people that I have met. The stories that I hear at school still break my heart, but there is positive change because of our presence and commitment to love our neighbors. I know that it takes time, but I trust that God will continue to transform this school and our community. The progress and statistics that I see can only be explained by one thing—God’s love for the vulnerable and poor and our responsibility to love and serve the people that are His.
Brynn Schmidt leads the Neighborhood Transformation Team at her church, based on training from the Collaboration for Neighborhood Transformation (http://www.neighborhoodtransformation.net). She is also a founder and Director of Operations for E4 Project – Empowering Nationals in the developing world as they serve to transform their own communities. (www.e4project.org) View additional blog posts at http://blog.e4project.org.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
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