The year 2020 will go down in history as one of our nation’s most difficult. We’ve dealt with pandemics, economic recessions, angry civil discourse, and racial tension in the past. We’ve never had to deal with all of them in a single year. There are some who are suffering more than others. We should acknowledge them.
Jesus Thanked the Foreigners
I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon” (Luke 4:25-26).
Early in his ministry, Jesus preached a sermon in his hometown of Nazareth that almost got him killed (Luke 4:16-30). As far as we know, he never went back.
What did he say that made people angry enough to form a lynch mob? He simply reminded them of two times in Israel’s history when the children of God were too entitled and spoiled for God to work with them, so he turned to foreigners to get the job done.
No one likes to hear that.
Honoring a Heroic Sacrifice
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
The Hispanic Heritage Foundation will be recognizing nearly 3 million farmworkers who have served as essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic with this year’s Heroes Award during their 33rd Hispanic Heritage Awards.
“Every single time we take a bite of food, we should think about the importance of our farmworkers in our lives, especially during the COVID-19 crisis as they put themselves and their families at risk to nobly nourish our families. Their service is nothing short of heroic,” said Antonio Tijerino, president, and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.1
At least fifty percent of all farmworkers are undocumented and even though the government considers them essential workers, they are not eligible for any measure of assistance from the $3 trillion stimulus package.
“Their work conditions make it nearly impossible for farmworkers to be able to abide by the social distancing, handwashing and other requirements that health care professionals say are necessary to prevent the transmission of the illness,” said Monica Ramirez, founder and president of the advocacy group Justice for Migrant Women. 2
A Discriminating Virus
It’s disturbing to discover that the Covid-19 virus is discriminating against people of color. Wherever this virus came from, it obviously doesn’t like me and my familia.
According to the CDC, Hispanics are 2.8 times more likely to get the virus than whites. Fortunately, they are only 1.1 times more likely to die from it. But with more of them getting it, more of them will die from it. Blacks are 2.6 times more likely to get it, and an astonishing 2.1 times more likely to die from it.
I told you — this virus is racist.
Covid-19 and People of Color
Seriously, the numbers are not hard to explain. According to the experts, it’s a combination of factors.
- Underlying Health Issues. Blacks and Hispanics have a higher rate of health issues such as heart disease and diabetes.
- Housing. A larger percentage of Hispanics and Blacks live in crowded multi-housing environments, making social distancing more difficult.
- Healthcare Access. Unfortunately, access tends to be limited for Blacks and Hispanics because of factors such as lack of transportation, childcare, ability to take time off from work, communication and language barriers, and lack of insurance.
- Occupation. Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately represented in essential work settings such as healthcare facilities, farms, factories, grocery stores, and public transportation.
The Invisible Heroes
Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).
It’s the last factor I want to draw your attention to. More Hispanics are contracting the virus because more of them are unable to work from home. The hands-on, labor-intensive work they do, demands that they leave the security of home to show up.
In addition, a higher percentage of Hispanics live from paycheck to paycheck. Their jobs do not allow them to work from home, and their finances keep them chained to their jobs. In other words, they don’t have any choice but to throw themselves onto the path of the virus.
I know that Hispanics in general and immigrants, in particular, are not the only persons in this difficult situation. However, higher numbers of them are, and because the immigrants among them are foreigners, half of them undocumented, they are invisible. They don’t exist.
I want you to see them.
Open Your Eyes
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?” (Matthew 25:38).
I’m not sure why this is so important to me. Perhaps it’s because over the last few years immigrants have been at the center of heated and angry debates; their mere presence angering some people. Perhaps it’s because people of color have been highlighted in the news lately as thuggish, angry, and violent looters.
I needed a moment to avert my tired eyes from those images, my tired mind from that angry debate, and focus on the very good people of color who are risking their health for me every day. Too many of them are dying so that I can continue my comfortable lifestyle.
I’m not asking you to apologize for that. I simply want you to see them.
I want you to see that most immigrants are dedicated Christians, deeply devoted to God; only here because all other avenues of income have dried up in their country-of-origin.
I want you to see that the people who are looting and destroying are choosing the wrong path because they are in deep, deep pain; and, are a very small percentage of all the people of color in our nation.
I want you to see the foreigners — the immigrants — who are picking and washing your lettuce so that you can have your hamburger the way you like it; making your beds so that you can have a clean and sanitary hotel room; washing and mopping your hospital floors so that your grandmother in ICU has a fighting chance to beat Covid-19.
I want you to see Jesus standing in the Nazareth pulpit … hear his sermon … and never forget the year God went to the foreigner to save our nation.