Visiting Buffalo

Last week eleven of us from the church went to the west side of Buffalo to visit Jericho Road Ministries. This ministry that started with the vision of Myron and Joyce Glick to open a family clinic for refugees and people caught in poverty has grown to employ 150 people with more than 200 volunteers and satellite clinics in other areas of the city. They have expanded their ministry to help resettled people acclimate to the strange and confusing ways of this country, particularly the intricacies of government, banking and school.

While some in our group had been to JRM before, this was my first time. I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew that the ministry was growing and doing wonderful work. I had no idea how deep is their imprint on the west side of Buffalo. To say that I was impressed with what they are doing and how God is using them would be an understatement.

They are not the only group working for change. There are many groups doing good work for people in need. They do, however, represent for me the call of God on the church to be a presence for what the Old Testament calls aliens and strangers: people who have resettled—either by choice, by force or for safety—in Israel. They are singled out because refugees in those days are some of the most vulnerable people in Israel. They don’t know the laws of the land. They don’t know the language. They don’t know the unwritten ways of doing things. They have to have special permission to own land. They have no connections with people who “get things done.” They often end up as slaves in order to pay off debts accrued with resettling or simply because it’s the only way to survive.

God’s command to Israel is emphatic and unbending: Be good to these people. Treat them with respect. Welcome them.

What is God’s premise for this command? Why does God keep repeating this warning? Because the people to whom he speaks were once aliens and strangers themselves. They know what it feels like. They know how difficult it can be. They know the agony of being enslaved. So, don’t do to others what was done to you. You let them know that they are as special to me as you are. You help these people who don’t know me understand who I am. This is your opportunity to do what I promised Abraham: to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth.

This is what I see happening with Jericho Road Ministries (and I’m sure other ministries as well). It’s a huge task but very exciting to see what God is doing.

On the way home, I asked everyone in the van: What do we do now? Now that we’ve been here and seen all of this, how do we, a church that is located more than an hour away, respond? All I can say is that we’re working on it. As we continue to expand our thoughts about involvement, I’m excited about how God is going to help us figure it out.