Immigration Reform: We Cannot Stem Lawlessness by Sacrificing Children

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Papi! Papi!” “Mommy! I want to go with mommy!” Grief and anger panged me as if these children were known to me. More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents by law enforcement in illegal border crossings. The wails from the mouths of little ones we’ve viewed this week in news coverage punches to the gut and rips at the heart. Knowing God’s love for children, He cannot be pleased at their suffering.

Many of us have prayed for ministering angels to minister to these children and their parents. Years and years of data show the psychological impact that could be lifelong, even if the children are reunited with their parents. From this June 20, 2018 Wall Street Journal article, “The Effects of Parental Separation on Children,”  biological stress responses are activated in a child separated from their caregiver. The symptoms exhibited could include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, anger, depression, social behavioral disturbances, among others. “If the biological response is continuously engaged, it begins to cause “wear and tear” on the child’s body,” according to Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there are “lifelong consequences of extended exposure to serious stress, a condition sometimes called toxic stress. Current research indicates that chronic stress puts people at increased risk of psychiatric disorders and other health problems.”

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This is unacceptable.

The process for the reunification of separated parents and children is unclear. A policy that was cobbled together in a fashion with little to no regard for the human toll, has many wondering if reunification is even possible. As journalist and CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, poignantly said, “You go to the dry cleaners, they give you a ticket for your clothes. You leave your shoes at the bowling alley, they give you a ticket. They take your children and there’s nothing…no receipt, no bracelet, no tracking method, nothing.”

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This is unacceptable. This is not a win for anyone. There is no art to this deal.

Many of those crossing our borders illegally are seeking asylum from devastating brutality and violence, and simply a better life. Not all of these people are deviants and dangers to the community. Yes, these are illegal crossings. Yes, we are a nation of laws and must justly and fairly enact the laws. We are also a nation of people, of immigrants created in God’s image.

Dear friends have shared with me their personal stories of immigration and separation for a time from their mom or dad and the trauma felt of that experience. Their emotional reaction to that childhood trauma is still palpable. I’ve heard the stories of children whose behavior in the classroom drastically deteriorated from kindergarten to first grade when their father was deported within that time. I know the hard work of friends in social work who help immigrants deal with various traumas, day in and day out.

America has a long and shameful history of separating, locking up and incarcerating people, particularly our black and brown. We have no misgivings about their age, even if they are toddlers wearing diapers. Those who do the incarcerating benefit heftily: contractors of the detention facilities are being paid millions by our federal government, some more than $40 million. Here’s an article on contractor-run shelters in the Washington, D.C. region that are banking lucrative contracts to house migrant children.

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There’s also Juan Sanchez, CEO of Southwest Key nonprofit who runs 26 immigrant shelters across the country who was paid nearly $1.5 million in salary — a salary double than what he was paid the previous year. I can tell you as someone who completed their Master of Public Administration in nonprofit and faith-based management, this salary is waaay out of line in administrative costs (with just his salary alone) over program costs. Southwest Key is a smaller nonprofit in comparison to the multi-billion dollar American Red Cross with vast responsibilities whose CEO, Gail McGovern earns $600,000 in annual salary.

The Problem (only one?) with Government 

We are deceived and will be disappointed if we think our government will behave right. We cannot expect a callous, removed, impersonal, bureaucratic and cumbersome government to act personally toward what’s happening on the ground. It is simply not designed to do so. It’s role is to enforce the laws. To be frank, we the Church and the world became comfortable when government created programs to help others so we could move on with our lives — not realizing the world of difference we would awake to right now when we assumed that government would act godly and just. There is no substitute for godliness. This is one of the heartbreaks and false comforts of progress without godliness. The government, masters of implementing and evaluating systems, processes, regulations and laws, but unskilled in matters of compassion.

The truth is this: in our government’s attempt to curb the insidious activity of criminals (human and drug traffickers) from infesting our soil, they have made insidious decisions to where families have been torn apart and perhaps irreversible damage done. We cannot stem lawlessness by sacrificing children. Human trafficking, child smuggling, drug trafficking, those wanted for arrest, I get it. We are a nation of laws and laws need to be enforced justly and fairly. We are also a nation of people.

Our Role as Christ’s Ambassadors, as Dual Citizens

I’ve made it a point to remain apolitical on our ministry platforms. My main reason for doing so is to prepare us for God’s Kingdom which is permanent and perfect over the temporary and very imperfect system to which we are geographically subjected. But this issue required a response.

No matter your political leanings, we know that families together is God’s design. Satan loves nothing more than to promote ideologies that seek to distort, divide and destroy God’s design.

Indeed, our nation’s broken immigration system has long needed fixing. Our immigration system is not sustainable in its current state. It is a complex issue and the very complexities are why previous administrations have left it to future administrations to fix.

Some Christians are divided over the issue. But as Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, said on the dual citizenship of Christians: “As citizens of the U.S., we have an obligation to support the government and the government’s laws for conscience sake. As citizens of the Lord’s heavenly Kingdom, we also have a divine mandate to act redemptively and compassionately toward those who are in need.”

As Christians, we should be especially compelled to advocate for those who are caught in the margins — who lack a certain status and thereby more vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment.

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationAs Christ’s Ambassadors, we have been called out from the world to not behave as the world does. In a decaying world that has lost its way, this separation should not make us abstain from bringing light to darkness. This is and always will be our role. To engage so others can see the hands and feet of Christ at work amid insidious, skeptical and unjust situations. If we love God, we will love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). We have an opportunity to demonstrate His love in this issue and many others.

While God certainly has many purposes at work, it’s undeniable the squeeze placed upon our nation and world that has brought many more to their knees, praise God. The situations are being used as instruments to expose on a larger scale the depths of our immorality and prejudices and long-held indifference about it, giving us a real good look at ourselves. The situations are also turning us back to God. As a dear brother reminded several of us in prayer meeting this week, our God is and always has been in control! No matter how things look, His purposes WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED! God cannot fail! (Thank you, Dracy)

As a dear sister reminded me, God is at work even in our suffering. We see this depicted in the lives of those throughout the Bible, and we have experienced His Presence in our trials. The news will not depict this but trust that God is a very present help in our situations. Be encouraged. Take heart for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We need to act like we believe this even amid vast injustice. Concerned as we all are about these children’s future, I am entrusting them to our very present God who holds their future.

Immigration child separation 7 we belong

Many wonder how history and others will remember them. If you’re looking for a mission field, or looking to leave a legacy, start here: May we strive to become a united Body of Christ that hears, shares in and is compelled to relieve the suffering of others, to be a refuge for others. Will we be who we say we are? Yield to however the Holy Spirit leads you to do this and do it without hesitation.

20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-21 #NoRegrets #BoldLiving

May our living be bold.

Our actions do not need to be gigantic but inaction is unsatisfactory.

May we also keep lifted in prayer the parents and children, the social workers and health care community, the faith community, legal community and many others who will be called upon to help rebuild these fractured lives. We pray for their strength where fatigue is certain. We pray for provision and abundance of resources to carry out their efforts.

Love, prayers and blessings,

Nicole

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Who You Know: Favor and Consequence

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

You’ve heard the statement said that “It’s not what you know but who you know.”

Possessing knowledge of something and/or having connections to help resolve situations or to advance efforts are beneficial. More often than not, it’s in the “who we know” that delivers our immediate help. This is the case as we’ll see displayed in Daniel 2 and throughout the book of Daniel’s 12 chapters.

Who Daniel knows — the living God — proves to be his blessing to others by correctly interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. This relationship granted Daniel and the other “wise men” in Babylon a pardon on their lives for the king was going to “cut into pieces” the magicians, sorcerers, and wise men who had promised to interpret his dream and had failed. Through his relationship, commune with and prayer to God, God provided Daniel the dream’s meaning. Because of this, Daniel was given favor with King Nebuchadnezzar and was promoted to a high position, making him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and lavished with many gifts. In addition, “at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.” (Daniel 2:49)

Who Daniel knew not only gained him favor, promotion and spared his life, it also saved others’ lives and gave his closest and godliest wise men promotion and favor with the king.

The favor bestowed was temporary for in chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar builds an image of gold, 90 feet high and nine feet wide in the province of Babylon. He issued a decree ordering everyone to worship the image or be killed. Others did, but Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not. They were committed to honor, worship and serve the Lord God. The magicians whose lives were saved by Daniel, now saw an opportunity to have Daniel’s men destroyed. The magicians went to King Nebuchadnezzar and told him that Daniel’s men would not worship the golden image. This infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar and he summoned them into his presence.

Despite the king’s threats, the men remained committed to serving the Lord and would not worship the golden image. Well, you know how this part of the story goes. Infuriated by their refusal to worship the golden image, King Nebuchadnezzar orders Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be tied up and thrown into a fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than usual (Daniel 3:19-20). In this process, the men were committed to serving God whether He delivered them or not.

You know the story. The furnace’s heat was so intense that it killed the soldiers who escorted them. God joined His godly servants in the fiery furnace. They were unbound, unharmed and didn’t smell of smoke. Upon witnessing this, King Nebuchadnezzar saw how mighty the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and decreed that no one say anything against their God or they would be “cut into pieces.” (Daniel 3:28-29). He further said, “for no other god can save in this way.” The men were once again promoted by the king in the province of Babylon.

 

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How amazing is that?! Because of the Who that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew it brought them to be recipients of opposition yet also great favor and promotion. There’s no one like our God! None!

Daniel goes on to interpret more of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. By chapter 4, King Nebuchadnezzar now acknowledges the work and miracles of the Most High God. He once again calls upon Daniel to interpret a disturbing dream he had, for all of the sorcerers, diviners and magicians had failed to do so, once again. He knew that he could trust Daniel to give a correct interpretation. But more importantly, he trusted Who was Daniel’s source of information/revelation.

In verses Daniel 4:34-36, King Nebuchadnezzar by this time is praising “the Most High God,” (this is after he lost his mind and throne for seven years, and then God restored him, per the dream) and says, “I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation (v. 34).” By verse 37, King Nebuchadnezzar says, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

This is powerful. Look at this transformation undergone by King Nebuchadnezzar! An arrogant king is humbled. Who would have thought this possible in the earlier part of his and Daniel’s relationship? What I love about this entire journey of Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar is this:

  1. Daniel never apologizes for or compromises who he knows (God) to someone who did not initially believe in his God.
  2. WHO Daniel knows (God) is both a blessing (he and his men were promoted multiple times by the king, and he was able to spare the lives of the other false diviners) AND a consequence (Daniel’s men were thrown into the fiery furnace for not worshiping the golden image). Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not compromise their relationship with God and were committed to Him, whether He delivered them or not.
  3. Through the CHARACTER and faithfulness of God and Daniel, Daniel became endeared by King Nebuchadnezzar and through that, King Nebuchadnezzar came to see the true God.
  4. Daniel’s intimacy with His God paved the way for King Nebuchadnezzar to experience God personally and glorify God in his life.

As Believers, we do not have to compromise God when engaging with others who do not believe. We have what the world needs. The relationship we have with God and His faithfulness toward us will speak volumes with many who will place us in trusted positions because of what they see God doing through us, even if they themselves choose not to seek Him. Because of Who we know, we will be able to bless others to see the goodness of God where others have failed. Through Him, we will have greater influence to govern, to lead and to provide counsel on some of our world’s most challenging issues. We will be given access that will puzzle others who will say, “How did you get that?”

Let’s be real: there are some folks where just your association with them is always a consequence and no good can come from it! 😦 There will always be consequence and discomfort in knowing the Lord. Daniel’s story shows us that and if you’ve lived for God more than one day, you know this too. However, Daniel shows us that there is an abundance of blessings beyond what we can imagine (even hearts changed for eternity) in following Him, unabashedly. Never compromise and never discount what your influence is doing now and for eternity. Never discount that God is at work. #Harvest

Nicole

 

 

 

You Cannot Be Gentle in This Fight

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

For the past three weeks, I’ve been praying on and drafting a blog post on the importance of “who you know” based on the book of Daniel. I’ve nearly completed it and was prepared to share it with you today or this weekend. But, a more immediate subject is impressed upon my spirit to address now with the Body of Christ. You can expect to receive the Daniel message sometime next week.

Kate Spade, 55. Anthony Bourdain, 61. Too many others to count. This Tuesday and now today, we are grappling with the sad and sobering news of lives lost to apparent suicide. Bad news travels fast particularly in today’s real-time news cycle at our fingertips— received on our phones, pads and various devices communicated across myriad platforms. As outside onlookers, the breaking news alerts of their deaths shocks us to our core, gives us pause and conjures up questions of “why” because we have benefited from their many gifts and talents. From a distance, we see them smiling, seemingly living well, traveling the world, basking in the fruits of their talents and enjoying life.

But by the news accounts, the external did not match the internal, what we as outsiders were not privy to seeing. We don’t know the inner turmoil they battled. Even for those closest to them, some of the “whys” remain and will remain. We lift their families, loved ones, friends and colleagues in prayer as they process these losses.

I write this article not as someone who has ever contemplated committing suicide. This will not be a data-driven article on suicide. I want to preserve that information for a more in-depth discussion we’ll have on our radio show/podcast as we relaunch our show later this summer/early fall since our hiatus last April. Some of us have been praying about various regions of the U.S. that are experiencing a significant uptick in suicides and we’ll discuss that on the show as well.

This is a message to strengthen and encourage.

I shared earlier today and through previous blog posts on overcoming anxiety and illness this year. While I experienced healing around mid-March, I underwent further attacks to my physical and mental health in late March up through early May. More returned trips to the ER for heart palpitations with heart rates that had doctors very concerned. Labs coming back showing that my body is sound, perfectly healthy and yet heart rates were off the charts. They ruled out this and that. Sent me home. The enemy, our formidable adversary, Satan, kept pounding my head with more thoughts about death, not being alive to complete the call on my life and ministry God has for me, etc., etc. I thought I was losing my mind.

As we continue in our walk with God, He extends us out further to advance His Kingdom; to be light where there is darkness. This is what I do and desire to do more of and yet, sometimes I wanted to isolate. I felt like my head was in a fog, quite simply oppression. The enemy had me running back and forth to doctors’ appointments, multiple tests were run, getting the all clear every time. These were ridiculous “errands” and not a good use of my time or resources. But this is the enemy’s plan. He can’t steal our salvation but he can sure try to steal our peace, joy, time, resources, focus, etc.

One morning, after being pounded relentlessly by the enemy, I called a dear sister in Christ who is a mighty prayer warrior. I seldom reach out to people like this but I was desperate. I knew my call to her was likely inconvenient timing because of her work schedule but I prayed that she would answer, and certainly she did. When her jovial voice answered, I shakily shared with her what I was experiencing. She immediately went into full throttle prayer. I began crying (folks who know me know I don’t do this) for what seemed like 10-15 minutes. Then, that thing just broke. It lifted. Was gone. No more. DONE. We laughed! We spoke for an hour and my spirit was lighter, my head clear and I was back! I should have reached out sooner!! I am grateful to her and the saints!

She said many great things during our conversation but certainly one statement that I have implemented and will share with you. She said, “We need to get angry.” 

I asked her, “Get angry?”

She replied, “Yes. We don’t get angry enough at what our adversary, Satan is doing. We need to get angry.”

I instantly understood what she was saying. And she was right–at least in how I had been responding to the enemy’s attacks.  I had to:

Get angry that Satan was trying to steal my health (and your health too).

Get angry that Satan was trying to steal my peace (and your peace too).

Get angry that Satan was stealing my time and resources with distractions (and yours too).

FIGHT punch

Though I am a fighter, I was still being too passive. I realized that I had to be intentional because the enemy was definitely intentional about trying to derail me. I could not be gentle in this fight. And neither can you be gentle in your fight. Punch the heck out of him. Nor do we give Satan any authority. He can only operate with the authority we give him.

For those of us advancing God’s Kingdom, living daily as Ambassadors of Christ, we can expect opposition. God will often place us in direct conflict with the enemy (sift us like wheat, Luke 22:31), but I promise you, you will be stronger and spiritually mature if you keep your focus on Jesus, in whom lies our victory. Saints, we have a formidable adversary who wants to derail and destroy you by any means possible. It’s important as soldiers in God’s Army for people to see us victorious but for them also to see our battle scars. David, Job, Moses, Paul and countless saints before us experienced those battle scars in part because of their weaknesses even while advancing God’s will. If you don’t have battle scars, don’t have something to lose/gain, then you don’t have skin in the game.

As one dear seasoned saint told me about our adversary, even when things appear chaotic everywhere: “The devil is serious about doing harm to humanity. The difference between him and many of the saints in carrying out efforts, is that he is disciplined, organized and committed.”

Saints, this is indeed spiritual warfare. As our enemy is so committed, we must be committed, disciplined and organized in our prayer life, in our walk. We should do nothing less. Our enemy won’t. We must be fit for the fight (read our blog post on what it means to be F.I.T.). We, you cannot be gentle in this fight. PUT ON your helmet of salvation to guard your thoughts. TAKE UP your shield of faith to thwart the enemy’s fiery darts coming at you. WIELD the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God so you can immediately respond to the enemy’s lies. Remember that you are already positioned in victory through Christ Jesus.

Today, I am at the best I’ve ever been. I feel like I’ve undergone a six-month metamorphosis and have come out newer, stronger, more resolved and more emboldened for God’s Kingdom. What I’ve gained and learned is indescribable and has prepared me for the next level. I pray this for you too.

I shared this prayer earlier on social media, and will include it here as well. I was first praying it aloud but was led to post it.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to give us life and life abundantly (John 10:10). In You, is Life! For those who seek You and trust in You, we know that You have good plans and a good future for us (Jeremiah 29:11). We come against the murderous and suicidal spirit in the earth; the thief that seeks to kill and destroy. We reject the spirit of anxiety, depression, despair and hopelessness. We reject the enemy’s lies which are ALWAYS counterfeit to the truth and Your promises. Father, we pray those battling this right now may feel and know and be settled by Your love, joy and peace. Reset their minds with thoughts of hope and peace. Help us to be a refuge to those who are hurting. Where they feel faint by this life, give them strength. May they know that they are loved by many, but most importantly, loved by You. Thank you. In the name of Jesus, we ask this. Amen.

Love and blessings to you my brothers and sisters,

Nicole