Every year around Thanksgiving, my wife and I watch an episode of the West Wing called "Shibboleth." I watch it partly because I'm a huge civic's nerd, but partly because it reminds me of some of the reasons why we do what we do here at World Relief. It's a fictionalized account of true events that happened up and down the West Coast in 2000. Those events spurred the founding of our own Immigration Detention Ministry.
Chinese immigrants claiming Christian persecution were being smuggled in container ships to U.S. ports including Seattle. You can read about it here in the New York Times. Along with local Chinese pastors, our late director Cal Uomoto ministered to the needs of those Chinese who survived the perilous journey. The ministry has grown since then to serve thousands of immigrants in detention each year both while they are detained and upon their deportation or release.
The episode dives into the concept of how do you prove you are persecuted, how do you prove your faith and that you are who you say you are. It's a question I get asked at presentations on our immigration detention work and one that I wrestle with often. I don't have as nice of an answer as the Shibboleth test given in the episode, but I do know that one of the most frequent commands of God to his people is, "Do not be afraid." I think that is the command our volunteers are living out when they step inside an immigration prison each weekend and when they walk into their newest neighbors' apartments each week to practice English. I also know that attempting to "not be afraid" is the lived experience of the refugees, asylees and immigrants when they go to English class, take the bus for the first time, try to get their first job, and flee halfway across the world to a place of safety and hope.
So each year, I watch TV show that's almost 20 years old as a reminder of what I get to be a part of every day. You can watch relevant pieces of the episode here, and the full version is on Netflix right now.
SCOTT ELLIS - OUTREACH MANAGER
Originally from Washington, Scott is has been with World Relief Seattle since 2010. Scott engages the local community to see refugees and marginalized communities empowered for community, growth, and transformation.