Shalom is a beautiful Hebrew word that - too often - is pressing its elbows against the tiny box in which we try to contain it. Traditionally, we hear it translated as "peace."
While that's true, shalom can translate into other words, such as harmony, wholeness, restoration, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility. My friend Osheta Moore hosts a podcast, Shalom in the City, that tackles justice issues and practical ways we can seek wholeness.
I had the fun opportunity to talk with her in Episode 14 about seeking shalom with immigrants. How do we nurture harmony and restoration on such a contentious topic? I shared some practical ideas - Osheta calls them "Shalom Steps," which is so cool - on the podcast. But of course, ten minutes after the interview was over, I thought of more.
So I'm compiling a list of 9 ways we can seek shalom with our neighbors, regardless of birth country.
#1 - 40 Days of Scripture & Prayer
The Evangelical Immigration Table has put together 40 days of verses unpacking God's word about how we treat foreigners and aliens. Whether alone or with a group, praying through these Scriptures is a powerful way to walk with God on the topic of immigration.
#2 - Stay Informed
It can be challenging to get information about immigration news. Some great resources include the aforementioned Evangelical Immigration Table, #Pray4Reform on Twitter, CCDA Biblical Justice on Facebook, G92, author and activist Matthew Soerens on Twitter and Facebook, or Migration Policy Institute.
#3 - Smile
U.S. culture can sometimes project an air of "coldness," especially to folks from smaller communities in developing countries with a slower pace. Combine this with the fact that many immigrants seem "invisible" by choice or by status or by occupation, one simple step to promoting shalom can be simply acknowledging others with a smile and hello. For those who feel unwelcome, this gesture can be a gift.
#4 - Read Books
There are of course so many. I recommended both Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible and Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate in the podcast. But I'll add here another book that's a memoir from actress Diane Guerrero (from Jane the Virgin and OITNB). It's a powerful story about her experience as a U.S. citizen child coming home from school at age 14 to discover both her parents had been deported. Check out In the Country We Love: My Family Divided.
#5 - Host a Film Screening
I promise I don't work for the Evangelical Immigration Table. But they've produced a film called The Stranger that is perfect for church groups to begin a conversation about this important topic.
#6 - Show Hospitality
According to the Billy Graham Center, less than one in ten immigrants will ever be welcomed into the home of an American. That statistic has stayed with me since the first time I ever read it here. Step outside your comfort zone and build relationships across citizenship lines.
#7 - Advocate
It's actually so easy to let Congress know that we need comprehensive immigration reform. I even went to Washington once, and I was amazed at the process. We must speak up!
#8 - Support Families Going Through Deportation
Billy and I are big supporters of the mission of El Refugio, a Georgia ministry that visits men in detention. They also provide hospitality and support to families of detainees. We're going to visit for the first time later this month, so I'm sure I'll share more. Consider getting involved with their (or similar) work.
#9 - Pray
I started this list with prayer, and it feels like the perfect ending. Systemic change needs the intervention of our God, who has a heart for those on the margins. I wrote this prayer years ago. Our broken immigration system affects those at every level. May we all pray for reform.
I hope these Shalom Steps are helpful. I'm encouraged to know others are participating in this journey to seek justice and shalom for immigrants. Whether you're new to the blog from the podcast or have been reading for years, please say hi in the comments and let's stand together seeking shalom. Thank you, Osheta, for the opportunity to speak about immigration!