Friday, June 12, 2009

Who Is Our Neighbor?

Just the other day I met a man named Ron. This year he began an outreach to the day laborers of San Mateo. On Saturday Fabiola and I met him by the railroad tracks downtown where the city has funded a semi-permanent structure in a parking lot as a safe alternative for these men to pick up jobs without hanging out on the street or Home Depots parking lot. We were able to spend a few hours offering them some snacks, hearing their stories, sharing the Gospel and inviting them out to a couple of the local churches in the area.

Fabiola and I started by talking to two Mexicans who just came in from Southern California two days before. One had left a wife and 2 children and paid nearly $2,000 to get into the US. He hadn’t yet been chosen to work (they use a lottery system), but was still optimistic. Fabiola was able to speak to him about what really matters—being with the family and not just making money for them and adding to that how Jesus is our provider and yet desires more than anything to be with us.

As Fabiola was ministering to them I struck up a conversation with Isaac, a Salvadorian who has been here for 8 months. As we talked it became evident that he knew a lot of the Bible and was a believer. I encouraged him to share his faith with the other guys—they often have ample time together to interact socially. Soon a Guatemalan, named Cristobal, came over and we were able to direct the conversation a little bit more towards him as we both continued to testify that nothing in this whole world can fill you up from the inside out and give you peace but Jesus. In my contact with each person I hope to impart something in this short time so that those that know Jesus already, like Isaac, can help Ron in his ministry. Ron doesn’t speak Spanish, but has a heart of compassion and love for Jesus and his neighbors that is clearly communicated.

We were stirred up by the opportunity to find a place to enter into meaningful ministry where the truth and love of the gospel were being communicated through service and action as well as the preaching of the Word. Fabiola was stung by a bee at the outreach and her hand painfully swelled up really big for a few days. While we are out extending God’s kingdom we are aware of the very real physical and spiritual oppression and attacks against what we are doing. Please pray for our safety and wisdom and direction every step of the way.

In addition to the 100-150 workers who regularly sign up for work at the center, there are probably an equal number who hang out on the nearby street corners hoping for a better chance to find a day's work. The harvest is indeed abundant.

Here’s what Ron had to say, “These folks represent a unique opportunity and challenge to Christians everywhere. They are largely unchurched young men in rather hopeless situations. Despite their conditions they remain outwardly cheerful and friendly. They have a high sense of honor and while they may be seen on corners everywhere looking for work, they are never seen begging for money.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddles masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lap beside the golden door.”
- Emma Lazarus (The New Colossus poem on the Statue of Liberty)

Regardless of our political views on illegal immigration it is rather hard as Christians to deny that these are the exact neighbors Christ commands us to love. Many of us sponsor missionaries around the world to carry the gospel to folks much like these who are in our own back yard within our reach. The only expense we need to spend to address these souls is a few hours of our time.”

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien.”
-The LORD your God. (Bible in Leviticus 19:9-10)

Of the workers who utilize the center each day approximately 21% are being employed daily. To date at this one location alone 1,900 workers have enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, which are offered while they wait between jobs. Now thanks to the work of Ron and others they can also take a Bible study as well being offered every Saturday and pick up a ride every Sunday on a church van.