Question: We’re senior citizens who have great concerns about the number of immigrants around the world and those who are coming to this country. We want to help but as we investigated ways to contribute and after examining all of the possibilities, we also found there is a lot of corruption where money and/or supplies never reach the folks who really need help. One of our main concerns is children of immigrants who are not experiencing stable home lives. We pray every day that every family and individuals who need help are provided for.
We’re asking for guidance about where to put our time, money and attention
~ Sympathetic Seniors
Dear Sympathetic Seniors,
I appreciate your concern over this very complex issue, which has moral and ethical components beyond the mere analysis of numbers. The number of immigrants around the world is estimated to be around 272 million. Our United States is home to the largest immigrant population, around 50.6 million, which is an increase of 400% since 1965. Immigrants actually represent only about 3.5% of the world’s entire population, but have already surpassed the projected numbers for 2050! According to our Homeland Security Dept., most immigrants do come here legally but the number of immigrants coming to this country is still at a record high, even though approximately 268,000 immigrants were deported from the U.S. in 2019. Because this article is focused on the spiritual solutions for this issue, this is not the place for any political commentary on my part.
Spiritually Speaking, I think it is wonderful that you are asking what you can do, in addition to prayer and positive thinking, to help this situation especially where innocent immigrant children are concerned. As a licensed minister with the international Centers For Spiritual Living organization, (CSL.org) my focus is just like yours. I’m asking myself how I can be of service. I hear your concerns about corruption and fraud within the very organizations that claim to help distribute the much-needed resources of food, clothing, medical supplies and money. The good news is my research shows that the United Nations has a website specifically for refugees (www.unrefugees.org) (http://CSL.org (http://www.unrefugees.org), and there is also an organization called Faith Counts (www.faithcounts.org) which lists faith-based organizations that are helping immigrant and refugee populations. My personal favorite is UNICEF USA (unicefusa.org) (http://unicefusa.org), which began Dec. 11, 1946. Its website has specific ways to help immigrant children in our own country and around the world.
These are just a few of the trustworthy organizations where you can feel good about putting your time, talent and treasure in their hands. The great advocate for non-violence Mahatma Gandhi said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” I am grateful to live in a country that has organizations like those I mentioned so that each of us can be part of that greatness by serving others. I am also grateful for people like you who are committed to making a difference in the quality of life for immigrants, refugees and, especially, children around our highly populated world.
Rev. Karen Mitchell
Dear Sympathetic Seniors,
I love your heart for immigrants and refugees! I grew up in a community with a high immigrant population and their welcome and inclusion among us is vitally important – not to mention a hallmark of our country’s history. As a pastor, I am reminded of God’s call to welcome the refugees among us, to care for them and include them so that they can find belonging and a bright future.
I am aware of a few organizations that do good work in our area and I’ll highlight them here. The first is the Immigration Resource Center of San Gabriel Valley. They provide legal services for immigrants seeking visas, DACA renewals and social service referrals. Navigating our legal system requires so much attention that help in this way makes for a much more stable home life.
CASA LA helps children within the juvenile justice system or foster care system. It provides one-to-one relationships and intervention programs as well. It focuses on the well-being of the whole child, not just helping them from re-entering the system, but supporting them with friendship, education and other resources.
I also know that members of the Crescenta-Cañada Democratic Club have supported two Afghan refugee families over the past year. Both of the women in each family are currently expecting newborns but ongoing donations of time, clothing and financial assistance can help integrate them in our community.
Many local churches also – and often quietly – support local food pantries and other assistance programs. I encourage you to arrange a meeting with some of the directors of these initiatives; you will find that their passion overflows with love toward those who can often be overlooked. And they are often connected to other groups who share in their work and can give you other options to pursue.
Thank you for your pursuit of goodness within our world. I hope you continue to explore your options and find the endurance to sustain your generosity!
Rev. Kyle Sears
Question: My family and I attend a local Christian church. We all volunteer to help out at the church in a variety of ways. Our two teenagers also volunteer. Although ours is not a large congregation, it seems only a few members volunteer. It reminds me of “The Little Red Hen” story that I read as a child when the Little Red Hen does all of the work from planting the seed, harvesting and making bread. All along the way, no one offered to help her but everyone wanted to eat the bread. I feel the same way about our church with many enjoying the fruits of labor our volunteers provide.
Please understand this is not a judgment. I just would like to ask for some ways that will help folks to really want to help out. ~ Happy Volunteer
Dear Happy Volunteer,
First, thank you for volunteering! As a pastor, I know the importance and necessity of having volunteers in the church. You are doing great work and I hope and pray the work is meaningful for you.
Second, it is always difficult to get a variety of volunteers in any organization. I think the first task is to make sure people know there is a need for volunteers. An announcement, a signup sheet and personal invitations are always great ways to start asking for volunteers. Then you might try having yourself, or another volunteer, share why volunteering is important to you. A personal story usually has a powerful impact on others. You might also consider if children or youth can volunteer for the needed task. If a child or youth is asked to volunteer, then their parent might come along as well. These might be some ways to encourage others to volunteer.
Finally, remember the words of the psalmist: “Serve the Lord with gladness.” (Psalm 100:2) You are doing good and meaningful work! As others see you volunteering and notice the joy you receive from serving God and others, they will be encouraged to do the same. So again, thank you and keep up the good work!
Rev. Karin Ellis
Dear Happy Volunteer,
In the many decades we have had the privilege of serving as pastors of several churches, we have never seen a church where people were lining up to be volunteers. However, there are some factors that can affect this negatively and positively. Certainly, we’ve all seen the effects of the pandemic on both church attendance and volunteerism. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 35% of Americans reported volunteering for a religious organization last year – down from 38% in 2020 and 44% in 2017. A lot of churches saw their longtime reliable volunteers back away from their responsibilities because of health risks. And even those who remain willing to serve often find themselves doing so more sporadically.
In a Lifeway survey last spring, pastors listed committed volunteers among the biggest needs for their churches. Over three quarters of U.S. pastors said they were concerned about developing leaders and volunteers, as well as people’s apathy and lack of commitment. Over two thirds said training current leaders and volunteers were concerns. That puts the responsibility to recruit, train, resource and prepare a new army of volunteers on the shoulders of church leaders everywhere. Ephesians 4:11-12 (NLT) reminds us, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”
As a church, we exist to help people discover God’s vision for their lives. Recruitment has to begin with the why of ministry, not the need of ministry. One of the positive approaches to recruiting volunteers that we have utilized over the years is to focus on the purpose of the ministry and help people discover their giftedness. When people understand that they are called and gifted by God to do the work of the ministry they are more apt to step up and serve in their local church.
There are many great resources to help believers understand what spiritual gifts God has given them and learn what their specific gifts are including at https://spiritualgiftstest.com (https://giftstest.com/).
An understanding of their gifts will help believers find that “sweet spot” in ministry where they are fulfilled in serving the Lord rather than frustrated because they are doing something they are not gifted and called by God to do. I suggest you familiarize yourself with these gift assessments, then sit down with your church leaders and volunteer to lead a group of church members into the exciting and fulfilling opportunity to serve God and your local church. In doing so, you will be part of the solution to your church’s need for volunteers.
Pastor Randy Foster