Cameron Ventura, Immigration Activist
Those who follow me on social media, and/or read the things I write, could easily get the impression that the most important thing to me is helping the immigrant community. I daily read, write, comment, share, talk about the injustice that is rampant in our country and how we can (need to) fix it. While this is true and deeply touches my heart – it is important to step back and realize that this isn’t the only important thing.
My desire to see those displaced from their homeland treated in a just way, with love and compassion, stems from my personal faith. I don’t think that you have to have this faith to see the value in a just world – and many of the people whom I’ve met through my activism abhor the idea of love motivated by faith – but for me, it was seeing the heart of God for the vulnerable that pricked my heart and moved me into action.
All through college I had a desire to help people. I was learning how to engage people from cultures different than my own and I saw value in combating poverty, the water crisis, disease, and a myriad of other tragedies. I didn’t get too involved and I didn’t have a life plan to attempt to solve all of the world’s problems due partially to my understanding that we would always have the poor with us so it felt like a losing battle.
But it was also in college that I read through the entire Old Testament for the first time. As I got to Isaiah, my world began to be shaken. Growing up in the Southeast of the USA, I have always been very familiar with Christianity, “the gospel,” and church. Much of my experience was intellectual – believing that correct doctrine and public affirmation of faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was epitome of life and that after that you kind of just hung out as we waited for Jesus to come back (with a little evangelism thrown in there once a year or so). I’m not knocking this culture – because it was this culture that introduced me to Jesus and the gospel and if not for this experience, I wouldn’t know life as I know it today. This culture provided me with invaluable truth and a strong compass with which to begin life – but I use the term “culture” intentionally.
Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
“Why have we fasted,” they say,
“and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?”
So often in life, I have felt this way. I have done what was right, been obedient to the things my church and friends say Christians should do, felt an eagerness for God to be near to me – but often this didn’t produce the result I intended. It produced more of a shadow of a relationship – as though I was experiencing a relationship with God through the experiences (or words) of others.
But I kept reading:
Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Through this passage, I realized that it is all too easy to do good things that match the Christian culture around me – but that is for ME rather than truly how they appear. Instead of asking the Father what His desire was and what He wanted from me – I was riding the ruts of my surroundings. This is the most comfortable place in the world and it is where I have spent most of my life – but it always leads to a stale, dry, fruitless, passionless existence. This isn’t the life Christ calls us to live.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
God calls us to exist with him in His Kingdom – and to spend the rest of our lives inviting that Kingdom into our surroundings. This is a vast difference from what I believed the Christian life to encompass in the beginning. We aren’t called to sit and speak truth to those who will hear. We are called to be advocates – to walk with open eyes, ears, and hearts to identify injustice and then work through the leading of the Holy Spirit to protect the vulnerable, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked.
Right now, in our context and culture, I believe that the Father is calling his church to stand up on behalf of the immigrant community. I see great injustice to some of the most vulnerable people in our society – and my heart breaks. To see an in-breaking of the presence of God in your life and to experience participation in the advancement of the mission of Jesus Christ – open your heart to the injustice around you. We need to be people who speak the gospel and call humanity to repentance – but I advocate for doing so with more than just our words that say Jesus cares – add to the verbal truth a life of truth, advocating for the cessation of oppression, the in-breaking of justice, the coming of the Kingdom in every realm.
Though I’ve seen the hand of the Father leading his church this way – this doesn’t mean that he is calling you specifically just to this. Injustice is rampant. Spend time in prayer today and this week seeking out how he wants you to get involved. If you want to take a more involved stance in advocating for the immigrant community – please let me know. Some of the most prominent areas of advocacy right now include domestic abuse, education gaps for low-income youth, housing costs, death penalty convictions, and employment opportunities. Pray that God would open your eyes to where you can get involved – and then act.
Grace and peace.
Memphis immigration Project exists to engage issues of Immigration from a biblical perspective.