Guest Blog by: Lisa Van Engen

Growing up, there was a sweet girl who spoke broken English. Her name was Marigold and she was a few locker spaces down from my own in school.  Though she was young, her eyes spoke volumes about her family history.  Marigold came and went with the migratory seasons, like many from the poor, agricultural community in which I grew up.  Although I’ll never be sure, it was very possible she and her family were illegal immigrants.

I am not a scholar.  I am just a regular citizen of the United States, two generations removed from my ancestor’s immigration journey from the Netherlands. I am also a Mom and I love Jesus.

Immigration reform was not something I thought about much, until my husband became a congregational justice mobilizer with CRWRC and the Office of Social Justice.  The igniting of such passionate and angry responses from other believers in Christ caused me to want to hide.

A common refrain seemed to dominate that illegal immigrants had broken the law, period.  The only answer, to them, it seemed, was deportation. I wanted to understand why immigration reform was important and I wanted to know how I might challenge the response that so many offered.

About Proximity: If an issue does not have proximity to us, we do not find difficultly in turning away.  Most citizens have come into contact with a Marigold in their lives, whether they knew so at the time or not.  Illegal immigrants are our neighbors.

The Totality of Christ’s Love: When reading God’s word and the work of Jesus Christ, one thing often stands out-the totality of Christ’s love for others.  Often the life of an illegal immigrant finds poverty, isolation, and devoid of security. Whether you feel it is right someone came to this country illegally or not, we might agree they are a people in need.

A neighbor in need should summon a compassionate response from God’s people.  A compassionate response, in equal measure to anything else, might be to acknowledge a broken immigration system and a deep need for reform.

Confession: Entering a land illegally is not an act carried out on a whim. The Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition of desperate reads: having lost hope.

Jesus met people where they were, regardless of the road they traveled to arrive at the place they intersected with him.  Imagine the feeling of desperation, the eyes of your children looking to you and the ache of separation from those you love.  If you place your own family in the proximity of desperation, it may not be so difficult to imagine yourself stepping over an invisible line- not if hope lay on the other side.

We entertain an inflated sense of ourselves if we believe we have never broken God’s commandments.  If we are honest with ourselves and others, the word “threatened” might dash across our consciousness.  We may feel threatened about our chances for continued survival.  These are fearful times.  In the public library stretches an entire aisle filled with material about prosperity and bettering your life.  Are we guilty of holding close a sense of entitlement that we have the right to play a full court press, a right to murmur that desperate people should get into a line that is broken?

A Compassionate Response: Immigration reform finds proximity to each and every one of us. I suggest we formulate a compassionate response to our neighbors in this manner:

-reaching out our hands in the Spirit of Christ to those of all political and faith viewpoints

-bending our hearts towards places of intersection

-humbly seeking to find joined space where change meets those whose spirits cry for relief


Lisa Van Engen is a freelance writer from Holland, Michigan.  She is part of a diverse Reformed Church congregation who worship together in various languages.  She writes to bring encouragement and hope to others.  

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. 

If you’re interested in writing a guest blog, contact [email protected].

One Response to Proximity and Building a Compassionate Response to Immigration

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