Welcome the Stranger

Feed the Hungry, Speak for the Silent Ones

by Jeanine Elliott

With halting words, she said she wanted to learn English. To say anything more about herself would take more words than she had. I had none of the words that would make her feel at home. What I could say was, “Yes, we can help you learn English.” Did she understand me? She is brave and courageous, moving into a community where it may take several years before she can tell her story to her new neighbors, the English-speaking folk. There is a sparkle in her eye, and I suspect a wicked wit will eventually show itself in her new language.

The seven-year-old girl stands in front of the Food Cupboard and chooses a pudding mix because “my brother would like this.” Probably she would like it, too, but she has already learned not to ask too much for herself. Her mother, a bit embarrassed, says, “This is my first time here. What do I do?” She, too, looks as if she has a hard time asking for herself.

A young man with backpack and bike and no address stops by to report that he won’t be picking up his Care to Share food supply on this day. He is riding to Hillsboro and doesn’t want to carry the load. He accepts some granola bars, juice boxes and apples. He offers to help a couple on foot who are loaded down with cloth shopping bags filled with groceries from the Food Cupboard. He says he will return to pick up his own share.

A BROKEN SYSTEM

The State of Georgia executed Troy Davis on September 21, 2011, even though seven of the nine witnesses who testified that he committed murder have recanted their testimony, and one of the two remaining witnesses has been implicated as the actual killer. The original judge in his case said his ruling was “not ironclad” and the original prosecutor has said that he has reservations about Davis’s guilt.

Troy Davis said this prior to his execution: “The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace.”

The United States imprisons more of its own people than any other country in the world. For every 100,000 U.S. residents, more than 700 are in prison. In contrast, the incarceration rate per 100,000 residents in the U.K. is 125; in Canada, 110; and in the Netherlands, France and Italy it is 90. In Japan, the incarceration rate is 40 per 100,000. Of all the prisoners in the world, one out of every four is incarcerated in the United States.

Oppression

Oppression

Oppressionby Will Fuller, Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ

At our last Justice & Witness Ministry meeting, each person listed the areas of justice where he or she felt special passion. The list was long and varied: racism, child abuse, sexual and gender-diverse marriage, hunger, homelessness, human trafficking, hate crimes, Jubilee, legacies of empire in the Philippines, Haiti, environmental survival.

Varied as the passions were, they had a common theme of oppression. A set of people is deprived of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness so that the oppressor may have these in excess. More than marketplace success or greed, oppression is a system of enrichment akin to the Devil’s offer to Jesus on the mountaintop, “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor,” in exchange for blind worship.

And that was no empty offer; Jesus really could have had all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. The Devil always delivers.

What rich rewards are delivered through oppression! Empires of wealth. Ships groaning with gold and all the riches of Asia. Cheap immigrant and slave labor to till the fields and mine the earth. Land stretching from sea to shining sea, grabbed from “savages.” Cotton, coal, copper. Clothes, computers, cabbages. All for the taking, without question. The Devil always delivers.

As we know, however, the Devil is a trickster. Not so benevolent as Coyote, the Devil puts rich temptations before us in gleaming abundance, lit by the gleam in the Devil’s eye. The Devil always delivers a little bit more…and it’s that evil “bit more” that bedevils our souls.