Wow, what a year!

Written by Bill Mefford, director of the Civil & Human Rights program at the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society. NJFON works closely with GBCS to advocate for immigration laws that are just and welcoming..  Many JFON supporters and volunteers collaborate with Bill and his team to advocate at the local, state and federal level. Bill is member of the NJFON board of directors.

Bill Mefford

Here are a few things we accomplished this year:

  • Over 300 Family Unity Prayer Vigils in support of just, humane immigration reform.
  • Thousands of calls as the Senate Judiciary Committee marked up the immigration bill. (We didn’t get the bill we wanted, but we avoided an entire train wreck of a bill.)
  • A letter signed by more than 130 bishops and United Methodist organizations to the full Senate asking for just, humane immigration reform.
  • Hundreds more calls to the House of Representatives urging its members to say no to the SAFE Act (Strengthen & Fortify Enforcement Act) and say yes to genuine, solution-based reform.
  • Dozens of letter drops to in-district House members’ offices urging them to support genuine, solution-based immigration reform.
  • Over 200 screenings of the film “Redemption of the Prosecutor.”
  • A letter sent to the Senate asking for solution-based immigration reform — the most solution-oriented letter I have seen from any faith organization — signed by 1,335 United Methodist bishops and clergy in just six days! On the seventh day we rested.
  • Hundreds of calls into the Senate Judiciary Committee urging its members to reform mandatory minimum sentences and to support the Smarter Sentencing Act.
  • Over 300 churches participating on Dec. 15 in remembering and praying for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting one year ago.
  • Over 50 churches who became Immigrant Welcoming Communities.
  • Over 50 churches who are Healing Communities.

Innate part of being

Whew! Makes me tired just reading this: That’s a lot of stuff! But the good news is that we aren’t doing this just for the sake of doing stuff.

We do this — we make calls, show films, sign letters, urge our pastors to sign letters, put on screenings, meet with our elected leaders and their staff, and have one-on-one conversations with our neighbors and fellow church members inviting them to participate in changing the world with us — because we believe political advocacy and organizing are necessary, innate parts of who we are as followers of Jesus and our missiological faithfulness.

Man, I love being a Christian.

We change the world because we have been changed by God’s love, mercy and grace. We can do no less because God did so much.

Man, I love being a Christian. I love being part of the Body of Christ. When we leave behind the silliness of church fights that so easily entangle and distract us, we can get some serious stuff done.

Because of all of this year’s activity, here is how I have seen things change:

  • Along with a few other faith leaders, United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño was asked to meet with President Obama to talk about immigration reform.
  • Immigration reform no longer seems like a distant dream, but an inevitable reality.
  • Bipartisan legislative efforts exist around criminal-justice reform, such as the Smarter Sentencing Act.
…But the work also remains daunting..Immigration reform unfortunately remains viewed as an economic prosperity/border security issue rather than the human-rights issue it truly is.The work is hard, and it is all but impossible if we attempt to transform the world on our own. But we don’t have to. United Methodists everywhere are part of corporate efforts to build movements to end mass incarceration, to defend and support the rights of immigrants, and to reduce senseless gun violence.

Don’t you want to be part of United Methodist teams dedicated to changing the world? I do! Sign me up!

2013 has been amazing. I am amazed by YOU and all YOU have done, individually and especially collectively. Thank YOU for working so hard, refusing to give up, and for working for God’s Kingdom dream of justice to be made real in this world.

2014 focus

2014 is going to be fun. It’s going to be challenging, but it’s going to be fun. Here is our focus:

  • We want to see genuine, solution-based immigration reform that reunites families and grants full citizenship to undocumented immigrants.
  • We want to see an end to all deportations: not one more deportation.
  • We want to see sentencing reform.
  • We want to see strengthened reentry programs for those coming out of prison.
  • We want to see conversations change in our congregations and communities around gun violence and the need to have a more responsible process associated to gun ownership.
  • We want to see more United Methodists join us in the life-transforming work of building congregational movements to change the world and see God’s Kingdom dreams come true.

So much to be thankful for

We have so much to be thankful for when we look back on 2013. And we have so much to do when we think of 2014.

But right now, let’s give God thanks for allowing us to participate in this Kingdom work. And let’s enjoy Christmas. I pray you hug your kids or grandkids. I pray you enjoy time with the people you love: play in the snow, go see a movie, enjoy the bowl games, eat some good food, get a little exercise, and sleep in a couple of days. Take care of yourself. Love life.

And get ready, 2014 is coming and we are going to change the world …