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Lament for Immigration Part 2

Nehemiah could not ignore the dangerous state of the city he loved. The gates had been burned and it all needed rebuilding. Nehemiah knew that a city in such a broken state, facing constant threat, would never be able to thrive. He knew the people would struggle and it broke his heart.

So, Nehemiah spoke to his king and asked for permission to go and rebuild the city.

This plan sparked fear in the land of Judah, “When Sanballat and Tobiah heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites” (Nehemiah 2:10). Sanballat immediately took action to thwart the plans of Nehemiah. He undermined the rebuilding process in every creative way possible—he sent made-up messages to public officials, mocked workers, schemed to stop progress, and threatened Nehemiah’s life.  

Nehemiah held onto his vision and refused to give up. He asked the inhabitants of the city to focus on rebuilding their own backyards. In a surprising amount of time the city was rebuilt.

This story reminds us what is at stake in our work for justice. We speak for immigration reform in our own backyards. It has nothing to do with political timeframes or on-again off-again media storylines. To us immigration reform will never be dead until we can look in our own communities and see an immigration system that keeps families together and gives workers a chance at legal status.

In this story America is NOT Jerusalem, John Boehner is not Sanballat, and Nehemiah is not merely people speaking for reform. It isn’t that simple. Jerusalem is a sign of any broken system that still has hope for restoration. Sanballat represents the myths and doubts that come from who-knows-where attempting to derail reform. Nehemiah is some combination of Jesus’ rescuing work and our joining with him to bring peace and justice--in this sense we cannot fail.  

The point is—this work for reform is a noble cause. We do it hand in hand with real people, neighbors, who we love. We are not alone in our efforts. Let’s keep praying with courage. Let’s keep focused on the work in our own backyard and let’s persist in speaking to our lawmakers until we see reform.

Editor's note: This is the second of a week-long series of devotionals about immigration. The first devotional, written by Kate Kooyman, can be found here

[Image: Flickr user Jeff Attaway]

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