Volunteer Journey: A Primer on U.S. Immigration

The Adelante Volunteer Journey
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Sara Forsythe shares about volunteering in Adelante Arts Community.

Volunteer Journey: A Primer on U.S. Immigration

Dear friends,

With the midterm elections last week and the approaching caravan from Central America, it's not surprising that immigration has been in the news a lot the last few weeks. There was talk of an invasion; troops were sent to the border; an executive order was signed changing the legal process for seeking asylum, and the President suggested that he may use an executive order to end "birthright citizenship."  Our study of Soerens' and Yang's book, Welcoming the Stranger comes at a perfect time!  This edition of the Volunteer Journey will contain highlights and a summary of chapters 2-4, which provide a critical base of knowledge about immigration that can help us build a well-informed understanding of the issues facing us today.

The authors continue in Chapter 2 by addressing the question, "who are undocumented immigrants?".  In doing so, they differentiate between naturalized citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and undocumented immigrants.  Using the stories of Pedro and Martha and Francisco and Allison, they paint a picture of the everyday struggles and decisions that undocumented immigrants face.  They describe some of the many reasons immigrants come to the U.S., why some may come illegally and why others may overstay their visas.  The authors reveal some of the struggles of "mixed-status families" and talk through a common misconception that suggests that undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes.  And what about young people who came to the U.S. illegally with their parents and grew up here?  Soerens and Yang give us a picture into the unique situation of the approximately 800,000 young immigrants known as "Dreamers", who qualified for President Obama's program called "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals." 

"Understanding the history of immigration to the United States will help us have a perspective on how to view and act toward newer immigrants entering the United States." (p.65) The overview presented in Chapter 3 of our book is a fascinating look at our history as it relates to immigration.  The authors organize the thoughts chronologically, highlighting key legislative markers along the way.  I'll list them here as a reference, but you'll have to read the book to get the details!    "Immigration has always been and will remain a defining issue for the United States of America." (p.65) 

  • The Early Days
  • The first great European wave: 1820-1860
  • Indian Removal Act: 1830
  • The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: 1848
  • Chinese Immigration and Exclusion: 1848-1890
  • The Second Great European wave: 1880-1920
  • The Quota System: 1924-1965
  • The Bracero Program: 1942-1964
  • The 1965 Reforms
  • Immigration from the 1970's to today
  • The Refugee Act of 1980
  • The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

Over my years at Mission Adelante I've heard countless people ask, "why don't they just come legally?"  In chapter 4 the authors discuss our current immigration system and the pathways to legal status in the U.S.  To summarize, there are four basic categories of immigrant visas. 

  1. Employment-based: Available by petition by a U.S. employer, there is a numerical limit and "the majority of these visas are reserved for individuals who have extraordinary or exceptional ability."
  2. Family-based: Based on close family relationships with the intention of reuniting families.
  3. Diversity Visas: A set number visas distributed by a random lottery of qualifying entrants from underrepresented countries.
  4. Refugees and Asylees: Immigration status granted based on a "well-founded fear of being persecuted" for a handful of specific factors.

With the basic foundation of knowledge presented in these chapters, you will be much better equipped to filter through and process most of the information that is talked about so often these days. If you'd like to jump in on this study, here's the plan.  It's not too late!

  1. Purchase the book and read it at your own pace through the trimester.
  2. Follow along as I process the book through regular Volunteer Journey emails during the trimester.
  3. Join me for a lunch and learn discussion at Mission Adelante on December 6th, 11:30-1:00
Please feel free to participate in as little or as much as you would like!

In His Grace,
Buy "Welcoming the Stranger"

Volunteer Journey Lunch-And-Learn 
Thursday, December 6th, 11:30-1:00

Please mark your calendars!  For those who would like to discuss what you're learning on your journey and/or through your reading of Welcoming the Stranger, we will be hosting a "lunch and learn" for all volunteers.  Lunch will be brought in from a local restaurant, so we will need to get an accurate count.  Please RSVP to to let us know you're coming!

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Remove the Glass Ceiling

Written by Jason Schoff, Latino Outreach Director

When I was younger, I dreamed of learning to fly jets and becoming an airline pilot.  Nothing stood in my way as far as I knew.  My family and friends told me it was all possible if I worked hard enough, and based on their encouragement, I felt like I could accomplish anything.  My future was limitless.  As a Christian, I fully understand why this is true.  In Genesis 1:26-28 we read that God created each of us in His own image, meaning that He put in humans an amazing ability to do great things, some beyond imagination.

What would your life be like if you couldn't dream about the future?  Many immigrant families journey to the United States, their travel fueled by their dreams.  However, some discover that there is a glass ceiling limiting what they can actually achieve.  This ceiling becomes an inhibitor to dreams and aspirations, and is most disturbing when we see immigrant children learn to doubt the potential of their dreams coming true.  As our ministry has grown, we have discovered the complexities of what undocumented families face, especially undocumented children brought to the U.S. illegally by parents in search of a better life.  These kids may dream in elementary school of being a doctor but by high school they learn that they cannot work legally or get a driver's license, and they surrender their hope of achieving their dreams.  We share in their disappointment.

Last summer our President signed an executive order granting these kids a chance to Dream, provided they graduate from high school.  Since then we have helped five youth complete the paperwork to gain temporary legal status.  What does this mean?  It means we can cheer kids on to dream again, and they can actually believe that it's worth it.  When you remove the glass ceiling looming above a person's life, he or she can again believe great things, and then achieve great things.  A transformation occurs in the lives of those who are granted this chance!  As advocates for immigrant families, we wonder what amazing things the parents, too, could achieve, were they given a similar opportunity.  How might our cities and churches benefit from our neighbors' dreams? This is why we stand with other Christians (Evangelical Immigration Table) who share the conviction that our laws must be reformed so as to honor the image of God in each of us.  Please join us in praying that national legislators who are tackling this issue will share this conviction.

In other news:

  • One of our Bhutanese friends who is hearing impaired recently went missing for two days. His family was very worried until the police located him safe and sound at KU Med Center. Our friends from Deaf International were a huge help to his family during this time. What a beautiful thing to see His children gather around others in a time of need.
  • A group of community leaders, volunteers, and staff are headed to the Christian Community Development Association National Conference in New Orleans next week. Please pray that they would hear from God during this time and come back with fresh ideas and renewed vision of what it looks like to work in partnership with our community.

Prayer needs:

  • Please pray for the Bhutanese ESL Lead Team as we plan program components for the fall.
  • The Adelante Thrift team continues to search for a retail location and will view two potential sites this weekend. Please pray as we continue the process of finding the right store location.

Other needs:

  • We're looking for three copies of the Jesus Calling Bible Storybook to use with the younger kids in our Kids Adelante outreach Bible study. (Here is the listing on Amazon.) We're specifically requesting the books, not monetary donations. Please contact Molly at if you would like to contribute one.
  • Our LIT Library is coming closer to completion!  We are in need of some furnishings to make it feel like home, such as a colorful rug and bean bag chairs.  If you have an item to donate please contact Megan McDermott at or Kristen Maxwell at
  • Want to hang out with some fun kids and make a big impact? We are looking for volunteers for our Leadership development program and also for our Outreach Bible Study! Opportunities are available Monday-Thursday.  Please contact Megan if you are interested at
  • Our Bhutanese Leaders in Training Program is getting ready to start our second year! We are currently looking for 4 mentors to serve on Wednesday afternoons.  If you are interested in learning more, contact Kristen Maxwell at
  • Kids Club, our Bhutanese Kids Outreach is in need of 7 mentors, 6:30-8:30 on Tuesday nights from September 24th-December 10th.  If you are interested, or know of someone who might be, contact Kristen Maxwell at

Important dates:
  • Volunteer Orientation & Training: Saturday, September 21, 9:00-12:30 All volunteers should attend this training once at the beginning of serving with Mission Adelante. It's also a great way for someone to become familiar with Mission Adelante's ministry. If you or someone you know is interested in finding out more about what we do, and about our volunteer opportunities, please plan to attend/encourage him or her to attend this informative training. 
  • All Volunteer Huddle & Dessert: Monday, September 23, 6:30 p.m. We encourage everyone that will be volunteering with us during our fall trimester to attend so we can prepare for a great launch. 
  • Fall trimester programs launch: Week of September 23

The Faces of Immigration

Written by Lauren Timberlake

Photos by Molly Merrick

We have recently shared several posts inviting readers to investigate what the Bible says about immigrants and to examine attitudes in the light of those truths. That is hard work, and we thank God so many are taking the time to engage in something that we really care about at Mission Adelante. Today, we’d like to focus on one of the reasons why we care so much. Immigration is not just theology or politics to us-- it is individuals and families, grandmothers and little boys, friends and even co-laborers with us in our efforts towards sharing the message of Jesus. Here are some photos of the immigrants in our community, taken at last week’s trimester-end celebrations. As you scroll, please pray for these people and the community they represent, for their families and their futures, for health and stability, for life and hope.

Ratna, Julie, and Ran walk into the Bhutanese Family Fun Celebration together.

Beth loves on kids as they wait in line for food at the Latino End of Trimester Party.

The youngest group from Kids Adelante lines up together after receiving awards.

Brenda and Tika enjoy creating temporary henna “tattoos” together at the mehndi station.

The program awards are finished, and Krishna and Janelle help get the Nepali dance party started.

Michael earned the pinnacle award for learning all the verses and not missing a day of Kids Adelante this term.

Kids Club friends Sarah, Kabita and Pramoda spend time together as they wait for dinner.

In other news:

  • Informational meetings were held on Sunday afternoon for students who are interested in beginning the application process for the Leaders in Training Program for the 2013-2014 school year.  Many students attended and have begun the application process!
  • More than 90 evangelical leaders from Kansas City gathered on Tuesday to hear from Noel Castellanos, CEO of Christian Community Development Association, about our call to confront injustice for the benefit of our neighbors, specifically, in this case, injustice in the form of out-dated immigration policy. See Fox 4's news coverage of the event.
  • We're always grateful for donations to our Resource Center.  Please help us out by not leaving donations outside of the Resource Center, or inside or outside of our facility!  The weather can make a mess out of them!  Please contact Molly at to arrange a time to drop-off your donation.

Prayer needs:

  • As we reflect on the past trimester and consider the feedback we've received, pray for God to lead us to continue to shape our programs to best serve the needs of immigrants, and to most clearly demonstrate to them the love of Christ.
  • Jarrett & Kristen Meek and family's sabbatical is about to conclude, and although we find ourselves increasingly eager to welcome them back to Kansas City this Monday, we know it will be a taxing transition for them.  Please pray for the Lord to supply extra energy and patience for them in the coming weeks.

Important dates:

  • Bhutanese ESL Volunteer Snacks and Training: Saturday, May 4, 2:00,at Lauren Timberlake’s house. Please consider joining us for fun, prayer and some cultural training as we keep learning how to love the Bhutanese well. Please contact Jenny Dunn at for more details.
  • Volunteer Orientation & Training: Saturday, May 18, 9:00-12:30All volunteers should attend this training once at the beginning of serving with Mission Adelante.  It's also a great way for someone to become familiar with Mission Adelante's ministry.  If you or someone you know is interested in finding out more about what we do, and about our volunteer opportunities, please plan to attend/encourage him or her to attend this informative training.
  • All Volunteer Huddle & Dessert: Monday, May 20, 6:30 p.m.  We encourage everyone that will be volunteering with us during our summer trimester to attend so we can prepare for a great launch.
  • Summer trimester programs launch: Week of May 27