Genuine Refugees or Illegal Immigrants?

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News reports the past several days have shown an estimated 7,000 people, mostly from the Central American countries of Honduras and Guatemala, traveling through Mexico on their way to the United States. Are they to be considered genuine refugees or illegal immigrants?

Internet stories abound, replete with photos of men, women, and children carrying small bags of clothing or other personal possessions. Their facial expressions range from tearful fright to aggressive anger. Many are young men, seemingly traveling with buddies but no identifiable family. Some are young children with mothers or fathers or grandparents or aunts or uncles.

Most are walking. Some are riding on flat bed trailers or in the back of pickup trucks. Some are floating on makeshift rafts or inner tubes on the Suchiate River, the border between Guatemala and Mexico, trying to bypass border officials. Others have torn down barricades at the border between Guatemala and Mexico. Still others wait in line at the border to enter Mexico legally.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. the debate rages on, fueled by approaching mid-term elections and the broad chasm between those who would welcome anyone to our country and those who take a more restrictive approach. Again, are those who seek entry genuine refugees or illegal immigrants? Either way, they are human beings, children of our heavenly Father. There’s no simple solution.

In the mid-19th century my forefathers and foremothers, and very likely yours as well, left their home country and came to America. They traveled on ships, enduring dire conditions throughout the three month voyage. Upon arrival in New York or New Orleans or Galveston, they made their way to what became their new home and eked out a living from the land.

There was little if any public assistance available to our ancestors. They made their own way and became law abiding, tax paying citizens of this country. They pledged their allegiance to the flag and to the values of the United States of America. That was then. This is now. Some in the current immigration caravan surely seek to do the same. What about the others?

What should be our proper response to this humanitarian dilemma? We have laws that govern immigration to our shores. Those laws need to be followed or amended. Not all the immigrants in question are evil people, just folks who seek safety and opportunity to provide basic needs for themselves and their families. We need to do what we can to help them reestablish their lives in our country. That assistance must be provided responsibly.

The Bible is full of encouragement, even commands, for people of God to welcome strangers. It’s much easier to do so when those strangers are genuine refugees, not illegal immigrants.

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Acts of Nature

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Are you as weary as I am of the seemingly never ending hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, floods, fires, droughts, and earthquakes? Enough, already!

More important than our weariness is the loss experienced by those directly or indirectly affected by these powerful and destructive acts of nature. The list includes demolished homes and businesses, damaged or destroyed property and possessions, loss of life or limb.

These events are often called “acts of God” but almost always have human or meteorological causes. I wonder about the role of the God of the universe in the manifestation of power in the forces of nature. Obviously he allows such things to happen. But does he always cause them? Such quandaries belong in the category of questions to ask the Lord someday.

To be sure, examples of God acting through nature are found in the pages of Holy Scripture, most notably the great flood, undoubtedly the single most destructive event in world history. Yet we also know, on another occasion, that the Lord’s appearance to Elijah was not in a great and mighty wind, nor in an earthquake or fire, but in “a still, small voice.” 1 Kings 19:12

What then are we to do when hurricanes named Harvey or Katrina or Michael ravage communities and ruin lives? When fires in California turn assets into ashes? When torrential rainfall in Texas converts peaceful rivers into raging floodwaters?

We say “Lord, have mercy!” We do what we can to relieve the suffering of those directly impacted. We assist with picking up whatever pieces of their lives remain. We help rebuild and replace their property and possessions. And we do our best not to become weary in doing well. Gal. 6:9

Driving Hope

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In my life I’ve known many people suffering from cancer. It took my father’s life 35 years ago. This debilitating disease affects both patient and family.

One of the greatest challenges faced by cancer patients and their loved ones is the necessity of traveling from home to a major medical center for treatment. Often such facilities are hundreds of miles away in major metropolitan areas with dangerous traffic volume and congestion.

The levels of anxiety, worry, and fear escalate in situations like this. The family member doing the driving is gravely concerned about and fearful for the wellbeing and life of the patient. Add to that the tension brought on by the trip and the result is a predictably high level of stress.

Last year Michael Hohle, truck-driving brother of my longtime friend Dr. Philip Hohle, came up with the excellent idea of what is now called Driving Hope of Texas. The plan is to secure at least one customized van that would be used to transport patients to treatment centers.

The comfortable van will include reclining seats, entertainment system, and on-board restroom. An atmosphere of Christian support, prayer, meditation, and encouragement will bless the ride.

The Mission of Driving Hope is to provide safe, timely, comfortable, affordable, long distance transportation to cancer patients (and their caregiver) by making a round trip from rural communities in Texas to distant treatment centers. Initial service will include the counties of Brown, Mills, Bell, Milam, Comanche, Hamilton, and Coryell, with more routes to be added.

Driving Hope provides neither medical nor counseling services. It is essentially a taxi service, set apart from other transportation options by the difference it will make for clients. The environment of care, comfort, and hope will make the trip as bearable as possible.

Because this is a startup organization, initial funding is needed. To assist in this endeavor, make plans now to attend the Friday, Nov 23 Glimmer of Hope BBQ, Dance, and Auction at Dale’s Essenhaus in Walburg. BBQ plates with sides are $15 and are also available to go.

The evening will include Country and Western music. Wear your boots! Shoppers will be able to pick up Christmas gifts at the live and silent auctions, which will feature many unique items. Few Black Friday deals are as satisfying as simply helping another human being in need.

Normally I do not advertise ministries or organizations in my Perspectives articles. Today I’m making an exception and encourage you to join Terry and me in supporting this worthy cause. Go to https://www.drivinghopetexas.org/ for tickets, online giving, and additional information.

Estate Planning Stories

 

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Here’s a non-serious and perhaps non-factual story about creative estate planning:

Joe was a single guy. He lived at home with his widowed father and worked in the family business. After he found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly father died, he decided he needed a wife with whom to share his fortune.

One evening at an investment meeting he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath away. “I may look like just an ordinary man,” he said to her. “But in only a few years my father will die and I’ll inherit 20 million dollars.”

Impressed, the woman obtained his business card. Three days later she became his stepmother.

Women are so much better at estate planning than men.

Now here’s a true story on the serious side. Over 30 years ago during my first term of duty with what was then known as Lutheran Foundation of Texas, I assisted a married couple with their estate plan. For a number of reasons they asked LFOT, now Legacy Deo, to serve as executor of their respective estates. He died several years ago. She passed away earlier this year.

In accord with directives in their last will and testament, the Executive Director of LFOT, now known as the Chief Executive Officer of Legacy Deo, is serving as executor. That’s me.

This couple’s estate included a double crypt at a funeral home in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Recently in that state for another reason, I was able to look at this very valuable estate asset. Because the family chose to be buried in Texas, they no longer need the crypt, now for sale.

The funeral home is the most beautiful I have ever seen. The main building is surrounded by well-manicured grounds and acres of bronze grave markers. The interior includes pristine, dignified crypt halls with burial spaces on each side, from floor to ceiling. I was impressed!

It’s my duty to liquidate all assets of this estate, which will then be distributed to the Lutheran congregation of which these two dear folks were members. If you’re interested in more information about crypt location and price, let me know. I’ll be happy to provide the details.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, I strongly encourage you to do what these fine folks did. Take care of the very important matter of estate planning, which is not accomplished simply by marrying a wealthy senior citizen. Planning your estate is a critically significant responsibility that, when accomplished, will bring peace of mind to you and to your family. Legacy Deo can help.

Wedding Venues

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Terry and I were married January 29, 1966, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin. St. Paul is Terry’s home church. It’s where we met. After our August 15, 1965 engagement, our plans were always focused on getting married at St. Paul. We never considered going anywhere else.

Most of our contemporaries also were married in church, traditionally the home church of the bride. Sometimes that was convenient, presuming both bride and groom lived in the same community or general vicinity. If that was not the case, it became a bit more cumbersome to work out the details long distance, especially with no internet, no email, no cell phones.

In recent times, things have changed. Weddings are now often held not in a church but at a wedding venue. Some are called “destination” weddings and may occur at an exotic location, sometimes requiring international travel and expensive lodging, normally at attendees’ expense. Not everyone who would like to attend can afford to do so. Crowds are often small.

Others are held more locally, often at a venue originally constructed or recently renovated for the purpose of accommodating large public gatherings, weddings, graduations, reunions, etc. Some are elaborately furnished and decorated. Others are fairly basic.

Not all such facilities have space for both the ceremony and the reception. That means the ceremony is frequently held outside. In the elements. In the summer when it’s hot and humid. Or windy and rainy. In the winter when it’s cold and frosty. Not always pleasant for the marital couple. Or for the guests. Sometimes the service is abbreviated as a result. But not always.

Many parish pastors I know tell me the overwhelming majority of the weddings at which they are asked to officiate are held at such a venue. The rationale seems to be that if the reception needs to be held at a place other than the church fellowship hall, it’s inconvenient for guests to come to church for the wedding, only to saddle up again after the ceremony and head to the reception at a different location.

Cost of renting both a sanctuary and a reception hall, providing flowers or other decorations at two places, coordination of details with people at each place, etc., are among the reasons for this growing trend. Permission to consume adult beverages, not always granted at a church facility, is not an insignificant factor in moving the entire operation to a secular venue.

You probably know all these things. I just felt the inclination to articulate them. And to add my non-judgmental observation that I’m thankful Terry and I were married at St. Paul. In a beautiful sanctuary. Before the altar of the Lord. With congregation singing worshipful hymns. With gusto. To organ accompaniment. With church aisle processional and recessional.

Is our marriage more sanctified or successful than that of folks who are married at a five star hotel or a remodeled barn or a repurposed fire hall? Not necessarily. The Lord can be worshiped anytime, anywhere.

And I believe he smiles on people who dedicate their lives to him and promise their faithfulness to each other, no matter where those lifelong commitments are made. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Till death parts us. According to God’s holy will.

“Republicans and Ex-Crackheads”

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Credit: Aranami

When Terry and I are home, after dinner we sometimes turn on the TV and look for something worth watching. This past Monday we had done the first part of that routine but not yet the second. The TV was on but we were reading and hence paying no attention to program selection.

The channel on our screen was showing the 70th Emmy Awards. I looked up from my book after a few minutes and noticed two men, apparently co-hosts. Neither looked familiar to me. I later discovered that that they appear on Saturday Night Live, which we never watch.

Here’s how CBN News summarized a portion of a dialogue between these two co-hosts: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2018/september/emmys-host-says-only-white-republicans-and-ex-crackheads-thank-jesus

Hollywood’s biggest celebrities descended on New York City Monday night for the 70th Annual Emmy Awards. The show began with the usual political banter but it took a bad turn during Michael Che’s opening monologue with co-host Colin Jost when he took a jab at conservatives and a particular racial group.

“My mother is not watching,” Che said. “She says she doesn’t like watching white award shows because you guys don’t thank Jesus enough. That’s true. The only people … the only white people that thank Jesus are Republicans and ex-crackheads.”

Later in the evening, Best Supporting Actress winner Thandie Newton continued the theme about mocking winners who thank Jesus [telling] the crowd, “I don’t even believe in God, but I’m going to thank her tonight.”

One can only imagine the media furor that would have erupted had similarly derogatory comments been made in the same venue, by the same people, about Muslims or atheists.

Welcome to the Year of our Lord 2018. In some circles the Christian church no longer occupies the position of honor and respect it has enjoyed almost since the birth of America. I wonder how many Christians have responded in protest to NBC or whoever is responsible for the Emmy awards. I would hope such responses would be multitudinous yet reasonable and responsible.

St. Peter seems to encourage such with these words: “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Frankly, a spirit of gentleness and respect is not easy when communicating with individuals who say the only people who thank Jesus are “Republicans and ex-crackheads.” Know what I mean?

Hurricanes

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We’re in the middle of the Atlantic hurricane season. This week’s devastation expected from Hurricane Florence on our country’s East Coast is a stark reminder of the reality of our country’s vulnerability to these powerful and violent storms. Here are a few other examples:

Today, September 13, is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Ike (2008), which ripped through the Houston and East Texas area, flattening homes and obliterating entire towns with a huge storm surge that destroyed buildings and businesses along Galveston’s Seawall.

August 29 was the 13th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (2005), an extremely destructive and deadly Category 5 hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast of the United States, causing catastrophic damage from central Florida to eastern Texas, devastating the city of New Orleans.

August 29 was also the 1st anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s arrival in Houston (2017), damaging or destroying tens of thousands of homes and businesses in that huge city and, for several days before and after, in other smaller communities along the Texas Gulf Coast. Flooding of homes and highways in Houston captured the media’s attention, while equally serious damage in smaller communities lagged behind in news coverage and recovery efforts.

Other historic storms in America include, to name only a few of the worst, Camille (1969), Andrew (1992), Charley (2004), Rita (2005), Wilma (2005), Sandy (2012), and Irma (2017).

A few days after Katrina’s and Ike’s arrival I made trips from St. Louis to affected areas, visiting people, pastors, and congregations. Those efforts were simply tokens of encouragement, prayer, and support for those whose lives were drastically affected by the wind, waves, and rising water that inundated their homes, churches, and businesses. More tangibly significant is the work of those who contribute their time, money, and energy in recovery and restoration.

Recently I asked Julie Tucker, Director of Disaster Response for the Texas District LCMS, about ongoing relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Here are excerpts from Julie’s response:

Though headlines from Harvey have faded, the devastation is still apparent, especially in the Coastal Bend and Golden Triangle regions. But thanks to generous support, homes are being restored and families are being helped. To date, 3,519 people have volunteered, 107,252 volunteer hours have been logged, and 325 households have been helped. One area recently reported to me that they have hung over 18,000 pieces of sheetrock – in one area!  

Progress is clearly being made. But, of course, there is still much to be done. At one of our sites, 356 homes have requested help. Another site reports 300 homes still awaiting some kind of assistance. Clearly, the need is massive. Experts predict recovery from Harvey will take five to ten years. Our work continues and your support continues to be needed.

You can help by donating to our Disaster Relief Fund. Remember, 100% of the funds collected are used to help those in need. You can also sign up to serve at one of our sites. Or, even better, you can do both! Please consider how you might be able to help. Your help is sorely needed.

I cannot thank you enough for your prayers, your gifts, and your willingness to lend a hardworking hand. The devastation of Harvey is no match for your generosity and love!

Until they all know Him,
Julie Tucker

Check out this link for a first-hand look: https://youtu.be/PFImCIMuQi4

Thank you for any assistance you, your congregation, and your community can provide for the thousands of people still reeling from the damaging effects of hurricanes along the Gulf Coast.

Lord, have mercy!