In my former life, I used to travel a lot for my work as a technology consultant. Living out of a suitcase and staying in hotels week in and week out wore me down. Projects would be stressful and chaotic, and I would always look forward to the end of week when I would come back to my family, to my own bed, to my own home. To be wanted, needed and welcomed at home was significant and meaningful.
When I think about my own family and even my own church, finding a home and being welcome in this country has always been part of the journey. My own parents are immigrants from Hong Kong. My father-in-law grew up in a village in China and became a refugee when the communist party took over and killed one of his brothers in front of him.
The immigrant and refugee experience of finding a home in this country is part of my family’s story as well as the origin story of our church. The original church that started our church, has been in North Austin for the last four decades and is primarily made up of immigrants and refugees from southeast Asia. My hope is that we could continue that same narrative for many others who come to our country looking for a home.
During the last couple of years, our church has partnered with Refugee Services of Texas to provide support in their resettlement work of welcoming refugee families here in Austin. We have also partnered with Casa Marianella in their work of supporting women and children, many who are refugees, fleeing domestic and cultural violence.
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During a recent weekend, members of our church, including our youth, connected with some of these families, shared a meal together and heard their stories while the kids collectively burned off a lot of energy together jumping in a bouncy house.
The reason we find these partnerships meaningful is because we value mutuality and collaboration, and there is so much that we can learn from immigrants and refugees who have come to our city.
As a country that was founded on and celebrates religious freedom, the Christian faith tradition has always called us to extend hospitality, welcome the stranger and care for the most vulnerable. Jesus himself was a refugee and experienced life without a home. He and his disciples relied on the hospitality of others and he invites us to practice this for others in our own lives. It is this vision of loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Our country has lowered the number of refugees being accepted into our country. Among these refugees are thousands of Yazidis fleeing persecution by ISIS and hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims whose lives are in danger simply for being who they are.
I believe all of us are invited to consider and explore what it means to welcome those who are need of home. And as we do, I hope we can all stand in solidarity with those who risk their lives coming to our country seeking safety and a home.
Weylin Lee is one of the pastors of Vox Veniae, a contemplative, liturgical church community in East Austin. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org.