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Welcome all immigrants

2.8. 2017 Posted By: Elwood Yoder 840 Times read

Elwood Yoder has taught high school history and social studies courses for 34 years, since 1988 at Eastern Mennonite High School. Elwood has written seven books, including congregational histories and historical novels. Elwood is Editor of Shenandoah Mennonite Historian, and he is also Editor of Today, a publication of Eastern Mennonite School.

Nine generations ago my immigrant ancestors stepped off the Francis and Elizabeth ship in the Philadelphia harbor. They spoke German, which British officials in the English-speaking colony of Pennsylvania viewed with suspicion. They had large Amish families, which threatened to overwhelm the Quaker colony with German-speaking residents. They believed in nonviolence and refused to fight against the Lenape, Iroquois or the French. They came in waves to Philadelphia, flooding the city with German settlers. When they sloshed ashore, someone in the Pennsylvania commonwealth changed their name from Joder to Yoder.

My immigrant ancestors who came in 1742 fled Germany as refugees. Pushed out by interminable wars that made no sense amidst monarchical battles that drug on for decades, and with their land destroyed by incessantly marching troops, my refugee immigrant ancestors came desperately looking for good farms, new opportunities, and religious freedom. They found all three in this great land.

My neighbors in the friendly city of Harrisonburg, Virginia, welcome immigrants and refugees who resettle here. Hundreds of newcomers attend our schools, receive care from our churches and find jobs in the area. Muslim mothers come to the public school bus stop near my house to pick up their children at the end of the day, similar to the practice of many other parents. The Muslim children I have taught are some of the finest, most respecting, hardworking and decent students a teacher could ever hope to have in their classroom.

We need to welcome immigrants to these shores and embrace their differences, not push them away in fear. With proper screening and vetting, we could continue to resettle refugees in these United States, without interruption. I am well aware that my U.S. passport and birth certificate give me privileges and securities that first and second generation immigrants, with papers in process, do not have. It is because of their worries and fears that I feel compelled to speak out against the recent changes in immigration and refugee policies in the United States.

Before 9/11, when tourists could still climb up the stairs inside the Statue of Liberty without reservations and security checks, my wife and I took our children to New York. We went up the narrow staircase inside Lady Liberty and looked out from her crown. There we could see the blue water expanse that she must have watched, with open arms, as thousands of huddled masses streamed to these shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

I hope that the United States government will continue to welcome hardworking immigrants and desperate refugees and make our nation friendly again.

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11 Responses to “Welcome all immigrants”

  1. Lynn Miller says:

    Elwood,
    Trump’s executive order suspends immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. It provides exceptions for Christian refugees. Only 1% of Syrian refugees admitted by Obama were Christian. 98.8% were Sunni Muslim.
    Compassion is subjective.
    In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the good Samaritan did not jeopardize his family’s safety by taking the man into his own home. He repaired his wounds and personally paid for his rest in an inn. He did not make political requests on others to contribute (taxes) to something he personally saw as worthy. He quietly took action with his own finances.
    Government has a primary responsibility to its own citizens’ safety and economics. Believers should show compassion where the Holy Spirit directs us and from our own pockets.

  2. Lynn Miller says:

    And furthermore Elwood, you stated that we should embrace differences. Welcoming ALL immigrants is reckless, based on what we know today. Not all immigrants love America. Some want to kill the infidel and impose Sharia law. Sharia law is being observed in the U.S. now, and a few public schools are teaching Sharia law instead of the constitution. Muslims worship another god.
    “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14
    Truth and common sense have no home in extreme liberal ideology. Same-sex marriage, abortion, feminism, all rebellion to God–but worthy of marching, blogging, writing articles by segments of MC USA. We are living in end times, and God said he will send a strong delusion to those who do not love the truth.

    • Randa Hendricks says:

      I don’t see Elwood promoting “extreme liberal ideology” here. He is speaking to the biblical call to welcome and care for the foreigner and alien.

      • Lynn Miller says:

        While I don’t doubt Elwood has a wonderful, generous heart, he stated that Trump should not have temporarily suspended immigration and that we should embrace the differences between Christians and Muslims. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Jesus. Muslims do not believe this even a little. I can never embrace their beliefs nor Sharia law. Can you?
        President Trump is in a transition period and needs time to digest policies currently in place. We have safety issues with immigration, and he wants to create a vetting process that will ensure our safety as much as possible. Is this wrong? Also, at some point, surely you understand that welcoming all immigrants is economically unfeasible. Should we prioritize the foreigner over our own homeless? We are not in a position to care for the entire world. We are in debt beyond my ability to comprehend. This has not been a consideration for the past eight years. It is now.

      • Rainer Moeller says:

        I doubt about the “biblical call.” Historians seem rather unanimous that the ancient Hebrews did in no way intend to found a haven for the huddled masses of the whole world. They intended to found a haven for one people. And everything the Bible says about welcoming the stranger must be interpreted within this context.

    • Mennoknight says:

      Can you cite a source for public schools teaching Sharia law? No one here is suggesting embracing Sharia law, and allowing someone to come into your country is not the same as endorsing every belief that they hold.
      Maybe “some” do want to kill us. “Some” people want to do just about anything. But no refugee from any of these countries has killed an American yet, while a million refugees have arrived in Germany, only a handful of Germans have been killed (and Angela Merkel’s approval stands around 75 percent), so clearly your fears are overstated. You should probably be far more worried about heart disease for yourself and your family and far less worried about Muslims. Lots of Americans were afraid of Jews historically, too. Twenty percent of Americans wanted to expel them all from the country in the 1930s, and we turned down Anne Frank’s family’s application, along with so many others. Was that a good choice?
      David Jost

      • Lynn Miller says:

        Google it, David. But it looks like you have already made up your mind. And why don’t you get out there and fundraise to pay for all this if you have such a heart for it. But no, you would rather ask everyone else to pay for what you believe in. Put your money where your mouth is and then it might mean something.
        http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/09/10/lawmakers-fear-islamic-indoctrination-schools/72038416/
        http://www.islaminourschools.com/
        http://www.akdart.com/islam4.html

        • Mennoknight says:

          Actually, you don’t know anything about what I do with my money at all.
          Having students memorize (and write to demonstrate knowledge of) the Five Pillars isn’t indoctrination, any more than having students memorize the U.S. reasons for entering WWI or the reasons for the secession of the South. As for the piece on Canada, it looks to me like a case that’s a response to a case of religious discrimination. Unfortunately, 150 words isn’t enough space to detail the third source, but it’s a mixture of isolated individual cases and complete distortions.
          No one here buys this odious propaganda. There are millions more Muslims in Western Europe, yet they have no political power. None of the refugees that have come from those seven countries have killed an American in the U.S. We don’t need to be scared of them; we need to be scared of you.
          David Jost

  3. Randa Hendricks says:

    Elwood, thank you for these words of welcome and embrace for some of “the least of these.” We sometimes forget that most of us were immigrants at one time. Thank you for reminding us of that with your family’s immigration story.

  4. Bob Gerber says:

    Events have changed our situation since 1742. We need to trust but verify as we welcome others. There is a safe, simple path in place to enter legally.

  5. Roger Horst says:

    Interesting article that elicits conversation, but MC USA does not desire conversation with those with divergent views. At least Elwood steps outside the box a bit by paying lip service to the need for vetting.
    When I took my Ohio youth group to see Sheriff Joe Arpaio while at the Phoenix convention as an assignment by convention planners, and in full knowledge and blessing of MC USA, to hear another side of the immigration issue, we were thrown under the bus and subjected to public shaming, name calling and abhorrent social media behavior not just to Sheriff Joe but to our group of youth as well. And by church leaders no less, even one who self identifies as the “Peace Pastor.” It’s a shame that no one in Mennonite leadership ever bothered to go and have a conversation with Joe. Otherwise they would have discovered that he is not the “devil” but a human being. And they would have discovered that Joe married a Mennonite from a founding family of a Mennonite congregation with family still in the Mennonite church, a marvelous connection to use as a basis for dialogue. Instead, the only Mennonites to engage in conversation were a small group of Mennonite youth from Ohio.

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