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My son, Daniel, and I spent two days in Washington DC this week with Faith Leaders from across the country #Faith4Dreamer.  We marched, we sang, we prayed, we petitioned, we held a powerful press conference, some took prophetic action through peaceful arrest, and we met with Congressional leaders.  But the trip reminded me of the number one way to fight for justice today – Proximity.

The Power of Being Proximate

Traveling to and from DC, I read my friend Michelle Warren’s new book, The Power of ProximityI strongly recommend it.  The book presents the powerful truth that the gospel and justice must be rooted in proximity.  Jesus did not rescue us from a distance.  He entered into the poverty and brokenness of our world, experienced suffering up close, and set aside all power and authority to get proximate.  His presence in time and space permitted the greatest sacrifice of His life so we could experience eternal life with Him.  That’s the gospel.

Justice is deeply connected.  Jesus did not become a friend of tax collectors and sinners from a distance.  He got close.  Jesus intentionally moved to restore them in community.  He demonstrated compassion and fought for them when they were being oppressed through unjust scales in the temple.  Jesus did all that because he was proximate to the poor.  He understood their needs and could not walk idly by.

Jesus invites us into brokenness. 

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Michelle says it this way,

“Broken people are able to help broken people.  If we are unwilling to see ourselves among the broken, we miss the chance to travel together toward restoration.” P. 47.

The apostle Paul says it this way, “We are all members of one body and when one part hurts, all parts hurt.”  1 Cor. 12:26.  Until we are willing to enter into the joy and pain of our brothers and sisters of race and poverty we are hurting the body of Christ.  As Michelle puts it,

“I personally think that as a church we are walking around with missing appendages that would be present and functional if we simply recognized that we are not complete without each other.” P. 95.

While in DC, Daniel and I took a trip over to the Lincoln and Dr. King memorials.   Dr. King’s memorial is an impressive cut rock figure of Dr. King with an arc of famous quotes built into the hillside.

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Whatever effects one directly, affects all indirectly

I made a new friend, Bethany Anderson.  She is pictured above holding hands in a circle before being taken to jail as a prophetic action on behalf of Dreamers.  Bethany is a fellow CCDA member who works with immigrants in California.  She shared along with others the power of being proximate while linked in a common cause.

Bethany drew strength from her fellow sojourners.  The power of presence.  They were standing together to bring awareness to the challenge of Dreamers.  They did this because they would be treated well and released.  Our Dreamer friends would have an entirely different experience if they tried to do the same.  So we stand with them and for them.

Michelle Warren says it this way,

“When those of us who are privileged side with the poor, then we are able to build a bridge back to where we came from and help others join the poor in their struggle.  This helps liberate us all from injustice.”  P.113.

That proximity allowed Bethany and other women faith leaders to be modern Paul and Silas’s singing and worshipping God from a DC holding cell.

Remember – It’s not about you.

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I love that we wore pictures of Dreamers and shared their stories.  As we get proximate to God and proximate to neighbor, we learn that we are humble servants and this is all about God and neighbor.  It’s not about us.  As we stop taking lead, but listen to our neighbors and share their joys and pain we learn how to march together in the Kingdom of God.

My favorite meeting

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I deeply appreciated Church World Services (CWS) coordinating #Faith4Dreamer week.  I’m grateful to Congressman Randy Hultgren (L) and Congressman Peter Roskam (R) for meeting with us.  But my favorite meeting was with a friend I’ll call Rosa.

CWS was conducting training for Faith Leaders.  That is worth a quick note: 1. Introduce self, credentials and constituents.  2.  Share story of a Dreamer.  3.  Ask for support for a Clean Dream Act which is the only Act with Bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate.

Rosa turned to me and asked, “You’re the lawyer right?”  “Yes”  “Can I tell the Congressman I’m a Dreamer?”

The question is wise, but sad.   The answer is “Absolutely”.  The follow-up answer is that we must stand with Rosa because she and 800,000 other young men and women are on a list for potential deportation without a Dream Act.

The meeting was profound because here was a young 20 year old woman who had traveled on two planes for the first time in her life to cross the country and stand before those who would determine her fate.  Like a modern Esther she possessed a courage that is beyond my experience to grasp.  She was less than a year old when she entered America.  All she knows is this country.  She speaks perfect English and DACA allows her to work and contribute to her community in numerous vibrant ways.

YES ROSA YOU CAN SPEAK.  And we will speak with you.

What you can do to speak with Rosa

Get proximate.

First get proximate to God.  Understand his heart for Dreamers.  Pray.

Second get proximate to Dreamers.  Our blog 3 Helpful Ways to Advance Justice for Dreamers has a map and tips to help.  Get to know your Dreamer neighbors.  Speak with them through op eds, sermons, community events, contacting Representatives.  Host an easy but powerful Camino de Suenos event to gather postcards with CCDA to deliver to Congress next month.

To my Dreamer friends – we see you, we hear you, and we stand with you.  Please share your stories with us.  Your voice is powerful.  E-mail me directly at bruce@gji.org and I will ensure your voice is heard in Congress.

Finally for my friends who share power with me through a law degree.  We are a rare few – less than ½ of 1% of the population.  Let’s use that power on behalf of neighbors in need.  No cost.  We cover your insurance and provide you with all the resources you need to get proximate in your community.

Visit our site and download the guide, “How to Use Your Law Degree for Life-Changing Impact” to get started.

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1 Comment

  1. Kristina on November 6, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Bruce, Thank you for sharing these great insights, and for your example in standing with and for Dreamers! Kristina