• Gary White

Why do seekers leave their homelands?

In the past, most migrants crossing our southern border were single adults, primarily from Mexico, who came to the United States to find work. Today, those migrants are being joined by Central American families fleeing gang violence, extreme poverty and political persecution. These are the focus of The Guest House project.

Why do seekers come here?

Besides our economic opportunity and social stability, the United States has historically offered protection to foreign nationals who meet the international legal definition of "refugee". Congress voted that definition into U.S. immigration law in the Refugee Act of 1980. When people seeking refugee status present themselves at our border, they must apply for "asylum". This begins a long legal process which, if successful, leads to an official designation of "asylee". Asylees are protected from forced repatriation, and they're allowed to work in the U.S., apply for a Social Security card, travel overseas (by permission), and receive such benefits as Refugee Medical Assistance. After one year, successful asylees may apply for permanent resident status (a "green card"), and after another four years, apply for citizenship.

Why do seekers need our help?

The asylum process can take months to complete. In California last year, seekers who were ultimately granted asylum waited an average of 1,300 days for their cases to be resolved. During this process, asylum seekers are basically in limbo. For the first 150 days they are not authorized to seek employment. Family separation, periods of time spent in detention, legal uncertainty, and emotional scars from past traumas are among the burdens seekers must deal with. The Guest House project will alleviate many of these burdens for the seekers we are fortunate enough to assist. Temporary housing, pro bono legal and medical assistance, English language lessons, recreation, acculturation, worship opportunities, and simple Christian love will all be part of the hospitality we hope to extend to our guests. But the big picture is this: As Rev. Carrie Cesar expressed it in our Vision Statement, The Guest House will be a means, "To open up room for God's transforming work to change us and our guests to be more like Christ."

That's why!

  • Rev. Carrie Cesar

There is a story in the Bible of how ten lepers were healed by Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). And the one who is doubly ostracized because he is not only a leper but a foreigner is the only one who comes back to give thanks. Maybe he comes back because he is the one who can take nothing for granted. Maybe he turns back and finds the source of this full joy of a new life because he never thought it would be possible. Only the one who longs body and soul to find a home for his whole self, receives salvation. The kind of thankfulness the tenth leper expresses is the kind that wells up from the deepest caverns of his many years of yearning for the better life he felt he had lost for good. It’s thankfulness grounded in his sadness, his belief that a dream like this would never be possible. The tenth leper is the one who notices how rare, how singular, and how gorgeous grace is when it comes to the border and says, “Come on in!” And with a big smile on his face I bet Jesus says it loud and clear: "You are welcome here because your faith has made you whole". The leper’s expression of falling in love with God is what has saved him. His gratitude has made all the difference." Jesus shows this man that the way he responded by springing forth out of an appreciation for his new life is amazing. Jesus essentially says to him, "You are different from the rest. Your faith has made you different. Your love shone in the simple act of thankfulness, and all that you have become when you express yourself to God with a heart of loving thankfulness, have made the difference. Your faith has saved you. With arms wide open, Jesus says, “Let me embrace you for who you really are.” It seems like this would be an easy thing for any of us to do for others. But how often do we really do it? I find that our ministry at The Guest House is a great way to have this same kind of experience, because we have the chance to help those who are searching for a place to begin life again. Out of deep emotion and pain they birth a joy for life that most of us can’t imagine. We help them on their journey and in doing so we may be lucky enough to meet some of the ones who can show us how to fully appreciate life and love and God all over again. Please keep posted and see how you can be more involved in the lives of people who just need to know the real meaning of welcome.

  • Gary White

We’ve probably all done it. There’s a knock at the door. You’re not expecting anyone, so you sneak a peek between the window curtains or peer through the peephole. And there on your porch stands a stranger. Someone vaguely menacing, perhaps. Unhealthy looking. Shabby, or odd. So you decide not to open the door. You stand very still and silently wait for the stranger to go away. Do we feel guilty about the encounter? Probably not. A stranger is a possible threat. The fact that we might have helped that stranger in some way, or he might have somehow helped us, was simply outweighed by a natural wariness most people would call common sense. But there are other kinds of strangers, knocking at another kind of door. We don’t have to fear them, wondering what they’re up to. They proclaim it before they ever set foot on our soil. They’re seeking asylum, a type of refuge this nation has proudly offered from its inception: A home where people don’t have to live in danger, oppression and want. At first many of these strangers may have to depend on charity. But in the end they bring us much more than they take: Gifts and graces that, given time, can only make us a richer nation. The Guest House project will soon be opening a door of welcome and love to these seekers. We hope you’ll be standing beside us, helping us help them through your prayers and support. In the words of Archbishop Ndungane of South Africa: “Let yourself be inspired, to believe and to act. There is nothing greater a human being can do than to help change another person’s life for the better.”


Posts on WORKS by Gary White


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