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It’s been a busy week, since both the RCA and CRC held their Synods at Calvin College. In lieu of writing more words, I’m happy to share a prayer bulletin that was written by the CRC’s Office of Social Justice, and is deeply on my heart today. In the midst of important conversations about the church’s many roles and responsibilities, there is a world full of suffering, which we are called to love, and for which we are called to pray.

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Migrant Ship Refused Port in Europe

A ship filled with people making the journey from Africa to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea — the world’s most dangerous migration route — was denied entry in both Malta and Italy. Italy recently elected a hardline interior minister, the leader of the anti-immigration League party, who made the decision to deny them port. On board are 629 people, including seven pregnant women and more than 120 children traveling without their parents, as well as Dr. David Beversluis, a relief worker with Doctors without Borders who was raised in the CRC. Spain has agreed to allow the ship to dock, but that journey will take three to five more days, and supplies of water, food, and sanitation are severely limited.

God, for the people on this ship — named, known, seen, loved — we lift prayers for rescue, for dignity, for a future of flourishing. For the politics of this situation — power, negotiations, messaging, ego — we lift prayers for your Spirit’s presence and influence. For the “helpers” — hungry, exhausted, demoralized by callous indifference to human suffering — bring fresh energy, hope, vision. And, God, for us, the church, we pray that the demand, the calling to show hospitality, would grip us, empower us, bless us, and energize us. Change us, Lord.

Domestic and Gang Violence Not Grounds for Asylum

On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved to further restrict U.S. acceptance of immigrants by ruling that fear of domestic abuse or gang violence is not an acceptable basis for granting asylum. Only 20 percent of asylum applications were granted last fiscal year, and now immigration advocates fear that even more asylum seekers from Central America and Mexico will have their claims denied.

God, for the victims of violence who don’t know where to turn for safety, and who will now be turned away from the U.S., we offer prayers for hope, for a way forward, for a safe place to go. For women and children whose cases have been pending, and whose fate is now so dire, we pray for a miracle that might save them from harm. For the decision makers in the U.S. whose ideas and attitudes so deeply affect suffering people, we pray for wisdom and for the dignity of oppressed people to be a central concern. Empower your church to speak up on behalf of all whose voices are not heard in the halls of power.

114 Immigrants Arrested in Workplace Raid

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested 114 undocumented immigrants working at an Ohio gardening business in one of its largest workplace raids in recent years. The mass arrest is part of the federal administration’s aggressive stance on immigration, and particularly its pledge to increase crackdowns on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. In October 2017, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Tom Homan, said he ordered the investigative unit of ICE to increase worksite enforcement actions by as much as fivefold.

God, for the families of people who are now in detention — lives upended, futures unclear — we pray for peace, for a community of support to surround them, and for good legal counsel. For the lawyers, pastors, business owners, and all others who will be affected by such a massive upset to the community’s order, we offer prayers for clear next steps, for compassionate attention to suffering, for a path toward healing.

Canadian Leaders Issue Warning to Migrants Crossing the Border

This month leaders in Canada have issued warnings intended to dissuade migrants crossing the border from the U.S., asserting that simply making it across the border is not a “free ticket” to stay in Canada. The number of migrants making the crossing on foot, often in dangerous conditions, continues to rise since immigration policy in the U.S. has become more restrictive to refugees and asylum seekers and has taken away legal status from some immigrants. Forty percent of such border crossers whose claims were finalized in the first three months of this year were granted refugee status, down from 53 percent for all of 2017, according to data provided by Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board.

God, for those who fear remaining where they are, and also fear making another journey to find safety, we lift prayers. We pray for people in positions of power in the U.S. and Canada who manage a growing suspicion of “the stranger” and a waning attitude of welcome among the people they represent. We pray that they might renew their commitment to seek justice and to address the needs of people who are vulnerable. We pray that we would be people who welcome.

Photo by Don Ross III on Unsplash

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • Grace Shearer says:

    Thanks again, Kate. I am so disheartened by the removal of children from their mothers. So sad! Keep up your good work.

  • Jean Scott says:

    The US has in the past denied entry to ships carrying refugees – during WW!! A ship carrying Jewish refugees was denied entry into every country they tried to enter. And so we are once again in conflict with God’s call for safety to refugees, aliens, and the stranger. God forgive us and may we work for positive change!!

  • Helen Phillips says:

    Whatever happened to
    “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    Such beautiful words, but words that are now meaningless. It makes me so angry.
    Additionally, the people making these stupid, poorly thought- out decisions probably have ancestors not too far back, who were themselves the “wretched refuse,” and their actions have made a mockery of their own patriotism, because it is worthless!

    • /svm says:

      My great-great grandfather was let in despite being “indigent” and “searching for adventure” at age 18. He was white, northern European. Apparently, these words were only addressed to them.

  • Marge Vander Wagen says:

    Thank you for speaking up and offering prayers. I have seen the hopeless eyes, children, parents, young people who were immigrants in Palermo, Italy. Every immigrant was desperate for protection from some type of evil. Our job is deep and wide hospitality, wherever we live.

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