Pastor Jonathan Lewis, felt compelled to go to Washington D.C., leaving High Point, North Carolina and his church for a few days to do something he had never done, and that pastors are not prone to do: lobby congress. He and 250 other pastors gathered for a Pastors4Reform event on April 29, 2014, in Washington, DC, to meet with congressional offices in order to discuss their biblical convictions for commonsense Immigration Reform that cuts through the political positioning and brings justice and mercy to bear on the situation. More than 12 Wesleyan pastors made the trip to the United States capitol to stand in the gap for immigrants and prayerfully share their biblical views on this complicated issue.

Pastor Lewis was impacted by the amount of pastors who showed up in support of such a great cause. “It was a great opportunity to join with other pastors and to be in a group who had an evangelical perspective versus a liberal one,” he said. Pastor Lewis leads a multicultural church called Christ Wesleyan Church (North Carolina West District) and he builds relationships with immigrants on a daily basis. He works on giving them the resources they need and directing them to the various organizations in the city that serve immigrants. Lewis said, “It is great that other groups can advocate for their [immigrants’] needs. It is about standing together and giving a voice to those who cannot speak, helping those who cannot help themselves.” Pastor Lewis shares that we are called to take in the “stranger” the way God instructed us, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy10:19).

The foundational roots of The Wesleyan Church have always focused on the Holy Spirit’s desire to transform individuals and, in turn, transform the surrounding society. In this way, Wesleyans have been involved in both serving those broken and marginalized along the Jericho road; but going a step farther to being instruments of change and fixing the very road itself that marginalizes people. Many Wesleyans are involved in serving the needs of immigrants within their communities and many are also involved in prayerfully advocating for change of a complicated and broken immigration system. One of the ways Wesleyans have given a voice to the voiceless is through partnering with The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT). The EIT is a broad coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values.

Wesleyan pastors and churches have partnered with the EIT for various advocacy activities including the recent Pastors4Reform event in Washington DC and the newly released short film focused on immigration, The Stranger. This film serves as a tool to communicate the importance of educating and informing those who desire to learn more about immigrants and immigration. Already, more than 700 screening are scheduled in 30 states with many Wesleyan churches joining the effort to host showing of the film in their church building. The film addresses the stories of families from various parts of the globe whose lives have been greatly impacted by the complicated and, sometimes crippling, immigration system.

Lakeview Wesleyan Church in Noblesville, Indiana screened the film before their congregation and guests in early June. Dr. Rich Schenck, senior pastor, shared, “It is time to welcome the strangers once again, and to assist them. It must become our mission to reform our immigration system in order to legally yet compassionately embrace these strangers in our midst.” After showing the film, a panel of those engaged in immigration reform advocacy and ministry to immigrants answered questions. One of the panelists was Zach Szmara, lead pastor of The Bridge in Logansport, IN, a pastor who comes in contact with immigrants on a daily basis through both the church and its immigrant legal clinic. He commented, “It is not an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation anymore. The Kingdom of God is not about putting up barriers it’s about building bridges.”

Those deeply involved in advocacy for immigration reform believe that the current summer months of June and July are a pivotal time for immigration reform legislation to come to the House floor to be voted on. If you would like more information on how you or your church can be involved in bringing transformation to the entire system, you can find out more about the Evangelical Immigration Table’s various activities here. If you would like to read The Wesleyan Church’s view of Immigration click here and you can also find a frequently asked questions resource on this subject here.

Many Wesleyans continue to join the movement of standing in the gap and offering a voice for immigrants in regards to immigration reform. They continue to pray for Jesus’ eyes to look on the marginalized and broken with compassion. Jesus showed us through His life that compassion is more than a feeling, it means to “suffer with” and, in so doing, to be moved to action.