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By Rev. Nancy Bacon
Tehachapi Community Congregational Church 

FIELD High School Students Share Insights About Immigration

From the Pastor's Desk

 


One Book, One Kern Tehachapi Discussion: FIELD High School Students Share Insights about Immigration.

Each year the Kern County Libraries select a book and encourage people to read it, then find a group in Kern County to discuss the book. This year’s book is Enrique’s Journey, written by Pulitzer Prize winner, Sonia Nazario. It tells the story of an unaccompanied minor and his dangerous pilgrimage from Honduras to the United States to find his mother, who went north to support her family.

When the library asked if my church would provide the space and help to lead a book discussion I immediately accepted. Since the Farmworker Institute for Education and Leadership Development (FIELD) conducts ESL classes at my church, I invited them to participate in Tehachapi’s group discussion.

On October 9, more than 20 young people from FIELD’s charter high school in California City and about ten Tehachapi residents met for lunch and experienced some deep conversation. FIELD’s students are from very diverse backgrounds and they provided interesting insights about young people wanting to improve their lives. Their teachers spoke about the students’ remarkable attendance rates, their overcoming obstacles, and developing as leaders themselves.

It was surprising to realize that none of the students or adults in attendance were still living in the place they were born. Every single person had at some point been a stranger in a new place, and could share stories about being unwelcome or welcomed.

As in Enrique’s Journey, the students and adults had experienced people sometimes being cruel to them as newcomers, or simply not engaging with them. Occasionally someone had demonstrated the opposite - unexpected kindness or hospitality. These gestures provided remarkable feelings of hope in humanity.

In some ancient biblical stories, hospitality to foreigners was an important value. There are many biblical references declaring the depravity of people who were inhospitable and oppressive. The Holiness Code, with its famous list of “abominations” also states, “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34) This goes beyond love of neighbor to inspire love for people who are “alien” and treating them like citizens.

There are no easy answers to our immigration issues. The bible says many things. I often say, “The bible says everything.” We can find a quote to support just about any position on anything if we are bent on doing that. Relying on the greatest commandments of love for God and love for one another can be an overarching guide.

Meeting with the students and really listening to one another was a holy experience - something we all seemed to value.

If you are seeking some meaningful discussions or connections, you would be welcome.

Upcoming we have our German Reformation Service and German potluck, on Sunday, October 26 at 10:30 a.m. Our First Friday “Little Town of Bethlehem” evening is on November 7 from 5-8 p.m., with a guest speaker at 6 p.m. describing her experiences of life with both Jewish and Palestinian families. On November 2, a bilingual Dia de los Muertos service, honoring deceased loved ones, will be at 10:30 a.m. Bring a photo of your loved one for the ofrenda.

Blessings, Rev. Nancy Bacon

 
 

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