Welcoming the Stranger: Why I Am Proud to be an American Baptist
The reflection below was written by Rev. Don Ng, ABCUSA vice president and nominee to serve as president for the term running from January 1, 2014-December 31, 2015.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are the times when I was growing up at the First Baptist Church of Boston. At Christmas, I remember the tree in the fellowship hall that was taller than any tree I have ever seen, especially inside a room. And in our living room at home, church ladies would teach us how to play parlor games like “who stole the penny.”
I grew up American Baptist because the FBC helped my father sponsor my mother to come to America after World War II. My father was drafted into the US Army and completed an honorable service as a corporal. Now having been granted citizenship, under the Displaced Persons Act, he unified our family with the help of FBC. It was only after my mother came to Boston that I was born. And the rest is history!
I have no idea why FBC started reaching out to the Chinese in Boston, and how my father first started attending that church. But for a church that was largely all white for the many years since its founding in 1665, it had a heart for welcoming the stranger. When immigrants and refugees come to a new land, they have often left behind all their life tools to survive and become successful. What was once familiar and normal is now very foreign and disorienting. The stress of navigating daily living can take a heavy toll on mental health and family life. On many occasions, professional qualifications are often unrecognized in one’s new country, sending people to work in unskilled jobs and devastating confidence and self-esteem. Even after serving in the US Army, my father became a Chinese laundryman and a Chinese restaurant waiter. My mother worked as a seamstress, making pennies on every garment she sewed together. While this may have been hard work for my parents and other immigrants and refugees coming to our shores, I am personally grateful for the commitment that American Baptists and FBC of Boston have to immigration and refugee resettlement.
When we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the prisoner, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). I understand that in comparison to other religious groups, American Baptists are the leaders in immigrant and refugee resettlements! Based on my experience, they are!
One of the main agendas facing our country today is passing new immigration legislation. Progress may be made because of political and economical strategies. But as Christians, we have another mandate for a new immigration policy because we are all members of God’s family. I am proud to be an American Baptist because we have welcomed the stranger and in doing so, we are continuing to welcome Jesus Christ in our lives and in the world.