Because of the sensitivity and confidentiality of the people and location, this piece has been generalized to keep those involved safe and to challenge congregations of all sizes not to underestimate what they can do.
“We sometimes underestimate the influence of the little things.”—Charles W. Chesnutt
I am the kind of person that must be doing something “big” in order to think change will occur. However, I was challenged by the above quote from Chesnutt.
I was blessed recently to witness a church do something that in most eyes would seem small, insignificant and ordinary. Last week, I observed a small community church rally around one of their members, do the “little things” and, through them, advocate for this individual while also instilling a sense of hope.
Rising to the occasion
Can you imagine the impending fear of knowing your daughter may never come home? That one moment you had her and the next, she was gone?
I saw a pastor at the humble home of a woman in despair after learning her daughter had been picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Without being able to speak her language or fully understand her, he was there. He practiced the seemingly simple task of being present, or what some would call the “ministry of presence.”
The pastor spoke with the lawyer and was able to find out what he and the congregation could do to help. The lawyer explained the only thing that could be done was to get letters to present to the judge to show the “good” and “moral” character of this individual and how she is not a threat to the community. The lawyer said letters from pastors carry more weight in the eyes of the judge than normal community members—a small but powerful reminder of our power within our communities.
Acting when action is needed
The hearing was the next week; we had to act quickly. We had to scramble to get the letters written, notarized, scanned, emailed and mailed, while also getting other important documents to the lawyer who lives three hours away in the city where the woman’s daughter was detained.
Through all of this, the church was able to be a resource for this mother. The church paid to help her get the birth certificates; they supported her by getting pastors and community members to write letters; they assisted in gathering all the letters and documents and sending them in one shipment to the lawyer and scanning everything to him on time. At the same time, they provided support, love and care to this mother in distress.
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I also advocated on her behalf and wrote my letter. However, since I was out of town, I had to find a notary, decide how to pay for these services, and find a printer and scanner since I did not have one with me.
The small things are big
The trouble I went through in doing something as simple as sending a letter helped me recognize congregations can be huge assets to their congregants who are undocumented by helping with simple things like scanning a document or making a copy.
We often think we must understand all the intricacies of the immigration system in order to help our undocumented neighbors. Simply using a printer can make the difference in the reunification of a family.
Is your church able to assist in these small but significant ways? Do you see this simple action as a way of advocating for or serving your community?
Who would have ever thought a simple and ordinary device many congregations have—a copier that scans and sends emails—could be such a powerful tool to advocate for the most vulnerable in their community?
This woman’s church was able to be a resource by writing letters, getting things notarized, providing her a printer so she could have other sponsors email their letters to be printed, pay for the birth certificates she needed to obtain, and scan and mail all the documents to arrive at the lawyer in time. Small actions made a huge impact in the life of this family.
While your church also should take big actions of advocacy—do big things—don’t underestimate the influence of the little things. If all your church has is a printer that scans, you have a powerful tool to advocate for and serve your community.
Nataly Mora is pursuing a Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work at Baylor University and Truett Theological Seminary. She is an intern at the Center for Church & Community Impact and a pastor at Park Lake Drive Baptist Church in Waco. The views expressed are those solely of the author.