It’s hard to step up and be a leader. Often, I’ve found myself thinking, “Someone should do something about _______________ (fill in the blank: e.g. climate change, immigration, etc.) Peter tells us today, “Be examples to the flock,” because through our actions in service to others, we lead by example.
In October 2016, at age 50, I had my first experience with Ignatian contemplative prayer at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth in Wernersville, PA. I attended an 8-day silent retreat (I mistakenly thought the silent part was optional). In my prayer and meditation, I saw a vision with a whiteboard, and letters which appeared one-at-a-time—i-m-m-i-g-r-a-n-t—and then disappeared. As a 30-year environmentalist, immigration issues weren’t really on my radar. But hateful rhetoric about migrants and refugees was on the rise.
Following the lessons I learned through contemplative prayer, I became a volunteer as a compassion advocate for strangers—immigrants and refugees.
I moved from Austin, Texas to New York City because I felt a calling to be a member of the Church of St. Francis Xavier. It hit me when I arrived for Mass as a visitor, and saw a giant “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome” banner hanging from the fence.
I’m now part of the parish prison ministry to asylum seekers. The detainee waits (often alone) for several months for a court hearing at an immigration detention center. It’s something I wouldn’t normally do because I don’t have much issue expertise, but now my heart is so full when I visit my assigned detainee. I’m this one man’s first friend in America, demonstrating to him (he’s originally from a “s***hole country”) a different narrative than the one coming from Washington, DC.
This Lent, you can be an example to the flock. Speak up for migrants and refugees at home, work, or school. Contact your legislator, or join an immigrant advocacy organization.
“I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35)
Kevin Tuerff is a social entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is passionate about finding solutions for climate change and refugees. Kevin’s hometown is New York City where he is a member of the Church of St. Francis Xavier. His true story of being an American 9/11 refugee is portrayed in the Broadway musical COME FROM AWAY, and in his memoir, “Channel of Peace: Stranded in Gander on 9/11.” He is also an ambassador for Charter for Compassion International. Follow him on Twitter @channelof_peace.