MOULTRIE — Many Georgia Baptists see the face of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) individuals around them every day. They are at gas stations, in grocery stores, or standing in line at their banks.
For residents in more rural areas the likelihood of bumping into a child, teen, or young middle age adult living below the radar is more common. That is because the harvest economy is tied to their parent’s ability to work in the fields to pick and, later, process the vegetables for Georgia’s restaurants and homes.
They are also enrolled in our colleges studying to be future doctors, protecting us as police officers, and serving in Baptist churches such as this example in a recent Baptist Press story.
Mike and Brenda Arnold live in South Georgia, Ground Zero to many of the immigrants and migrant workers who reside in our state. Where some Americans see them as illegals – they are not, according to the U.S. government who is caught in a partisan tug-of-war over their fate – others see them in need of Christ.
Truth be told, many are doing work that most Americans deem to be below their comfort level. The reason why Georgia farmers depend on immigrants and migrants, legal or otherwise, is because there is no one else for the job.
For the Arnolds, immigrants and migrants are not a cause of alarm but a cause for ministry.
Not guilty of a crime
The U.S. government has basically decided, on a temporary basis, that children who were brought into the country with parents who were illegal are not guilty of a crime because they were not aware of the law which their parents were breaking. They did not participate in the decision to cross the border without proper documentation.
As I say in today’s story, their situation is not unlike that of a young child being sentenced to 20 years in prison for participating in a bank robbery simply because they were in a child seat in the car that was used in the crime.
DACA gave a temporary stay of deportation to children who were caught in that web … and who could prove residency as of June 2012. While some are in their mid- to-late 30s, some are as young as 5 years of age. Of the nation’s estimated 800,000 individuals, about 24,000 reside in Georgia.
They did not cross the border to mug people on street corners or take American jobs. They are not robbing convenience stores or selling cocaine between doing fourth grade homework. Some, like the Arnolds have encountered, are from parents who entered with fully legal work Visas and failed to bring their children due to a misunderstanding of the legal system.
When the children eventually joined their parents, they were not part of the original paperwork so they were considered undocumented. They grew up “below the radar” and assimilated into American society, sitting in the pews and attending Vacation Bible School and hearing about Christ just like other unchurched individuals.
Thankfully, churches do not ask for citizenship papers before offering to share the gospel.
It is a vast understatement to say the DACA debate is a very complicated problem. That is where Memorial Baptist Church comes into play, as I introduced to Georgia Baptists back in October. Now that we are four months down the road and the debate is coming to a head in Congress, I felt it was time to give an update.
What the Arnolds and their volunteers want Georgia Baptists to know is how important evangelism is as part of their ministry is to those caught in this web. The children are a valid part of Georgia Baptists’ ReachNextGen outreach and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s commitment to love the next generation to Christ.
In case you missed it, let me direct you to a story about Britt David Baptist Church and its commitment to secure the future for Christ. That congregation is sold on ReachNextGen and you might be encouraged to see additional information.
In upcoming stories I will go into more detail about the work of your Mission Board in reaching immigrants and migrants through the Baptist Mobile Health Ministry, Intercultural Church Planting, and an expansive Literacy Missions ministry.
Did you know that the strength of the Southern Baptist Convention is tied closely to the growth of ethnic churches? And that here in Gwinnett County, Anglos recently became the minority with ethnics claiming the higher birthrate. This shift is becoming known nationally as the “browning of America.”
Today’s two-part series on DACA ministry, which will be concluded tomorrow, Jan. 30, will not rehash what Mike and Brenda told The Index back in October. What was left out of that article is the incredible compliance rate which the church has demonstrated.
Some question the honesty of those seeking DACA status, and there are always those who try to “work” the system. Just look at those who go to jail for tax evasion.
But with a slightly higher than 99 percent compliance rate, Georgia Baptists can be proud of how this congregation teaches honesty and the scriptural admonition to tell the truth at all times. Brenda and Mike bend over backwards to stress the biblical admonition that “the truth will make you free.”
It’s all about freedom and forgiveness, two traits which Baptists have always championed.