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Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate

by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang

With sparkling clarity, Jenny Hwang and Matt Soerens illuminate the complexities embedded in the controversial immigration debates.

IVP Books, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426, 2009, 240 pages, $15.00.

Reviewed by Evvy Hay Campbell, department chair and associate professor of intercultural studies at Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois.

With sparkling clarity, Jenny Hwang and Matt Soerens illuminate the complexities embedded in the controversial immigration debates. Welcoming the Stranger is, at its heart, deeply instructive—guiding the reader on a journey to both a personal position on immigration and an informed understanding of potential action steps.

A key strength of the book is the systematic and logical manner in which it sets forth the immigration dilemma and then provides a foundation for a response through articulating an historical perspective of immigration to the United States, a biblical way to think about immigration, and an insightful discussion of the politics and policies of immigration reform.

The book is infused with an intense concern and compassion that the authors bring to the issue of immigration out of their experience as World Relief staff in the areas of policy, advocacy, and resettlement. Immigrant anguish is given a personal face by Hwang as she describes the separation of undocumented Guillermo from his 3-year-old daughter following his deportation after being pulled over at a traffic signal for a broken headlight. Compassion is stirred by Soerens as he relates the plight of Delfina, who lost the toes of her right feet to a freight train when trying to reach Albuquerque after successfully crossing the Rio Grande en route to the U.S.

Multiple informative sidebars richly supplement the text. They explode myths and provide understanding on issues such as immigrants and taxes, access to public benefits, and the dishearteningly limited paths to legal status in the United States. The book also provides a fresh discussion of the church and immigration today. Ministry to immigrants in the form of resettlement programs, immigration and legal services, and English as a Second Language classes reciprocally enrich churches and their members who serve. In 2007, half of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 1,458 new congregations were ethnic and African American congregations. The Church of the Nazarene, the Christian Reformed Church, and the Church of God likewise report significant growth in immigrant churches. Indeed, in the United States the fastest growing evangelical churches are independent immigrant churches. Prayer, giving, educating, advocacy, involvement, and addressing root issues are all set forth in a challenging concluding chapter as ways to individually and corporately respond to immigration. Such engagement is a challenge that Hwang and Soerens inspire us to undertake. That, in and of itself, makes Welcoming the Stranger worthy of a careful reading.

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Welcoming the Stranger

Presenter: Matthew Soerens, US Director of Church Mobilization, World Relief Description: Refugee and immigration issues have dominated headlines globally recently. While many American Christians view these…