By Joanna Shenk
ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Church USA)—As members of Mennonite Church USA prepare for this summer’s biennial denominational convention, to be held July 1–6 in Phoenix, national staff members are leading several initiatives to encourage congregations to advocate for just and compassionate immigration reform.
On May 14–15, a delegation of immigrant Mennonite leaders will meet with congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. On May 19, all congregations are encouraged to communicate with their congressional representatives through a “Day of Prayer and Faxing,” which also kicks off “40 Days of Scripture and Prayer” leading up to the convention in July.
Convention participants will have various opportunities to learn about and engage issues of immigration; the theme of the event is “Citizens of God’s Kingdom: Healed in Hope / Ciudadanos del Reino de Dios: Sanados por la Esperanza.”
“Whether congregations plan to go to Phoenix or not, we hope they can join us in advocating for our brothers and sisters who are immigrants,” says Iris de León-Hartshorn, director of transformative peacemaking for Mennonite Church USA.
“We are grateful for the stories we hear of how people have helped immigrants in their communities and congregations,” she continues. “These acts of kindness and love are important. So is advocating on behalf of those who cannot vote or are afraid to speak out because of their status.”
Pentecost: Day of Prayer and Faxing
On Pentecost Sunday, May 19, congregations are asked to join a witness of prayer and faxing, setting aside time to write and fax letters to congressional representatives to advocate for a fair, just and compassionate immigration reform bill. Talking points will be provided by May 12 on the Prayer and Faxing webpage.
This webpage currently contains worship resources for May 19, contact information for congressional representatives and ways to share photos of Prayer and Faxing events via Facebook. Each congregation that participates is encouraged to complete the RSVP form on the website.
Immigration delegation to visit Washington, D.C.
During the week prior to Pentecost, on May 14–15, Mennonite leaders with first-hand experience with the U.S. immigration system will gather for a two-day event in Washington, D.C. This delegation is co-sponsored by Mennonite Church USA and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Washington Office.
“As legislation is debated and changed, this is a great opportunity for people of faith to raise our voices for an immigration reform bill that promotes justice and compassion,” shares Cristina Rodríguez Blough, a Mennonite Church USA intern who is organizing the gathering with de León-Hartshorn and Tammy Alexander, senior legislative associate for the MCC Washington Office.
Participants will spend the first day with Alexander in the MCC Washington Office, learning about immigration reform proposals, the legislative process and how to meet with representatives.
“With the Senate immigration bill having just been introduced,” notes Alexander, “now is the perfect time for faith leaders and people in the pews to make their voices heard. It is important for members of Congress to hear from constituents who support just and humane immigration reform.”
On the second day, leaders will have the opportunity to visit House and/or Senate offices to let representatives know what they would like to see in the immigration reform bill and why it is important.
Members of the delegation include Nicolas Angustia, senior pastor at United Revival Mennonite Church, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Rev. Olufemi Fatunmbi, vice president of the African, Belizean and Caribbean Mennonite Mission Association, Los Angeles, Calif.; Virgo Handojo, senior pastor at Grace Indonesian Christian Fellowship, Pasadena, Calif.; Jaime Lázaro, journalist and pastor at Iglesia El Centro, Colorado Springs, Colo.; David Maldonado and Madeline Maldonado, pastors at Iglesia Menonita Arca de Salvación, Ft. Myers, Fla.; Kuaying Teng, denominational minister of Asian ministries, St. Catharines, Ont.; Yeudi Xiong-Thao from the Hmong Mennonite Church, Westminster, Colo.; Iris de León-Hartshorn, director of transformative peacemaking for Mennonite Church USA, Portland, Ore.; and Cristina Rodríguez Blough, Mennonite Church USA intern, Elkhart, Ind.
De León-Hartshorn sees the importance of this delegation as three-fold. First, it provides an opportunity for immigrant leaders to delve into the bill and name concerns. Second, it gives voice to immigrants, who are directly affected by the bill. Third, it speaks directly into the legislative process through meetings with congressional representatives.
“When immigrants do not have a voice and lack access to information and the legislative process, these are powerful (and often hidden) ways in which the status quo is maintained,” notes de León-Hartshorn. “By naming this reality, we give opportunity for people to use their power in more effective ways.”
De León-Hartshorn added that the organizers of and participants in the delegation ask for the prayers of people across Mennonite Church USA during these two days.
40 Days of Scripture and Prayer
On May 19, approximately 40 days before the Phoenix 2013 convention, Mennonite Church USA will also launch “40 Days of Scripture and Prayer,” an initiative of the Evangelical Immigration Table.
“This is an opportunity to join sisters and brothers from across the Christian family to seek God’s heart for immigrants,” says De León-Hartshorn.
The Scripture text for each day will be posted on Mennonite Church USA’s Facebook page; the list is also available for congregational or personal use at www.mennoniteusa.org/executive-board/immigration/a-witness-of-prayer-and-faxing/.
May 15: Day of Prayer for Missions
Mennonite Church USA’s national staff also encourages members of congregations to join Mennonite Mission Network on May 15 for a Day of Prayer for Missions. Mennonites are invited to pray for mission workers around the world, for their congregation’s mission, and for the work of other congregations. See Mennonite Mission Network’s Day of Prayer for Missions webpage.