Jennifer Piper of AFSC recently spoke to the Rocky Mountain Conference of United Methodist Women. This diverse group of women gathered in Denver from the surrounding states and one of the topics was immigration.

Piper used the Book of Ruth in her breakout session to show how the laws of a given time period are often based in social stigma and not necessarily the will of the Spirit or God. In the story, Ruth and her mother in law, Naomi, return to Bethlehem where the mother-in-law is from. Because Ruth was a Moabite she is not allowed to worship with Jews, to take meals with them or marry one.

However, Ruth is a hard worker and a smart young lady who owns property in nearby Moab, all of which make her pretty attractive to Boaz, a Jew, as he gets to know her. He originally employs Ruth out of pity and compassion since her mother-in-law was a relative of his. The group discussed how the social stigma and religious wisdom of the time frowned upon all of this and how Boaz received many blessings for instead valuing and welcoming the stranger.

Then the group read together stories of how people of faith supported immigrants at both Ellis Island and Angel Island (for a fascinating history, click here), oftentimes vouching for people they did not know and/or providing forged documents to aid in entry to the United States.  Each group answered the following questions:

1)      What values do you recognize in the immigrant and the person of faith’s testimony?

2)      Would you do what the immigrant did to enter the US? Why or why not?

3)      Would you do what the person of faith did to aid immigrants? Why or why not?

After lively conversation about whether  trusting in the Spirit when vouching for someone you don’t know is lying or not and about how to evaluate the justness of laws, several group members ordered copies of the Who Is My Neighbor curriculum to take back to their churches and use.