It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost two months since I arrived in Chattanooga, and a month and a half since Lisa made the journey here. We’ve been thrilled by the natural beauty of Chattanooga, its cultural offerings, and above all, its people!
The warm welcome we’ve received has been beyond what we could have imagined, and we are incredibly excited to see what sort of ministry we will all be able to do together.
Your hospitality has warmed our hearts, and as we approach Thanksgiving, we have counted it among the many things we are grateful for. You have made quite an impact.
Your graciousness has served as a backdrop for me as I’ve considered the complicated dance we are doing as a community, a nation, and a world as we face a refugee crisis that is—on a global scale—the worst we’ve faced since World War II. In the days following the ISIS attack on Paris, my emotions ran the gamut—from sadness to anger. But as I saw popular opinion—or at least the “popular opinion” that made its way to my television screen—shift to suspicion and fear of the refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war, I felt my heart drop in a different way.
Hospitality is a key value of our faith. We inherited it from our forerunners in the faith, who insisted on offering safe harbor to migrants because their ancestors had been migrants—and then slaves—in Egypt. Many of us can recount the immigration and migration stories of our ancestors, and this very congregation can tell a beautiful story of the way it offered safe harbor to a family seeking hope in a new land. It breaks my heart to hear stories, opinions, and angry denouncements from people who don’t understand the issue at hand.
But if you’re like me, it’s helpful to find clarity and get the best information possible. That’s why ,l ast Sunday before worship, I shared a one page document on the Refugee crisis with the congregation. There are still copies available in the narthex, and you can find an electronic copy of the document by following this link: https://www.discipleshomemissions.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/RIM-Disciples-Syrian-Refugees-Talking-Pts-and-Responses-to-Questions.pdf
I encourage you to spend some time reading over it. Be in touch with Dr. Stanley-Rea, the director of the Disciples’ Refugee and Immigration Ministries if you have a question. Above all, I invite you to spend time in prayer over this issue, the people all over the world fleeing violence, and our beloved Chattanooga, as we face the questions about how this ongoing crisis will affect us all.
As I sit down for a meal to celebrate gratitude, I will be counting my blessings, but I will also be spending time thinking about what hospitality means, and how I can pass along what I have experienced to those who need it most desperately.
Grateful to be in ministry with you.