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Celebrating the gifts of new immigrants


Diversity speaks to the loving, come-one, come-all nature of God

By Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service/Photos by Rich Copley

The Rev. Alexandra Zareth of Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) led communion during the “Gifts of New Immigrants” service on Wednesday at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

LOUISVILLE — Whole wheat bread, tortillas and Korean sweet rice cake served as emblems for the body of Christ during Wednesday’s Chapel service, “Celebrating the Gifts of New Immigrants,” at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Grape juice and prune juice represented the blood of Christ. Why prune juice? Because in many countries, grape juice is very expensive. Just about any type of red or purple juice is used in communion services around the world.

During Wednesday’s service, worshipers passed the peace in their own heart language, followed by a recitation of The Lord’s Prayer in English and Bemba, led by Margaret Mwale, a native of Zambia and associate for community development and constituent relations with the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People. Bemba is one of more than 73 languages spoken in Zambia.

Margaret Mwale of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People read the Lord’s Prayer in Bemba, one of the more than 73 languages spoken in her native Zambia, during the “Gifts of New Immigrants” service on Wednesday at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Yes, God is here today, and we are all welcome here this morning,” said the Rev. Ralph Su, associate for Asian intercultural congregational support in Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries at the Presbyterian Mission Agency, during his homily.

“I was an immigrant from Taiwan, and I am a new immigrant from California to Kentucky,” Su said. “Immigration is an act of hope for God’s promise of abundance and faithfulness. People arriving in new places carry this hope with them and become gifts to the communities they join.” Jesus, the Word of God incarnate, was an immigrant to the world, Su said, adding that Jesus is “the hospitality of God to the world,” and that Jesus has “broken down the hostility between us and God, between us and other people.”

Su shared a story of an encounter he and his wife, Joy, had six years ago, which began with an anonymous phone call requesting assistance for a woman found sleeping in a park because she had no home.

The Rev. Ralph Su and Rev. Dr. Paul Huh led the congregation in the hymn “May the Love of the Lord” to conclude the “Gifts of New Immigrants” service on Wednesday at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Su, an immigrant from Taiwan, also delivered the homily.

“In the beginning, I was reluctant to respond to the request,” Su said. “but the words of Matthew 25 came to me and a voice saying, ‘Ralph, you need to walk the talk and practice what you preach!’”

When Su and his wife arrived at the San Jose Fire Department’s Station 19, they met a frightened and depressed Asian woman. While Joy talked with the woman, her husband made several calls to area shelters. But none had room for her.

Joy told her husband, “Let’s take her to our home tonight!”

That decision was not without hesitation and struggle, he admitted.

As the couple helped the woman load her things in their car, they learned her name, Xenia, which is Greek for “guest” or “friendship” and hearkens to the ancient Greek concept of hospitality.

“In that moment,” Su said, “I realized that Xenia was not just her name but a way of God’s mission!”

Su fondly remembers a couple, the Littles, who showed kindness and hospitality to him when he arrived in the U.S. in 1985. “Mr. and Mrs. Little welcomed me into their home,” he said. With a little financial support from the Littles, Su studied theology. “The Littles made a huge impact on my life and ministry,” Su said.

“Friends, as we become a Matthew 25 church, let us be Xenias, welcoming people who are far from their homes with hospitality, generosity and courtesy. Let’s offer the gift of hospitality through actions in the name of Jesus Christ for the least and those in need among us, adding our ‘little straws,’ as the 2019 Advent Devotional puts it, to the manger of Jesus.”

The Rev. Jieun Kim Han, associate for Partnerships and Mission Formation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), led the congregation in singing “Come to the Table” during the “Gifts of New Immigrants” service on Wednesday at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

“We are all the same around the table. That’s the place where we share our meals, our humanity, our dreams and our celebrations. But we also share what makes us sad or what we’re going through,” said the Rev. Rosa Blanca Miranda, associate for Latino/Latina Intercultural Congregational Support. Miranda is the first Mexican Presbyterian woman educated in Mexico to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She said there is a popular saying around the table in Mexico, Las penas con pan son buenas, meaning, “Whatever you suffer tastes better with bread.”

The Rev. Paul Junggap Huh, PC(USA)’s associate for Korean translation, wrote the lyrics for the hymn “Come to the Table,” sung during worship by the Rev. Jieun Kim Han, associate for partnerships and mission formation in Presbyterian World Mission. Huh’s friend Hyan Chul Lee composed the music and Huh also translated the hymn into Korean. It’s included in the “Glory to God” hymnal. Han and her husband, the Rev. Myung Sung “Martin” Han, served with the PC(USA) as mission co-workers in Shenyang, China, from 1994 to 1998.

The Rev. Dr. Paul Huh played the postlude for the during the “Gifts of New Immigrants” service on Oct. 9, 2019 at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Earlier in the week Huh led a cross-cultural Bible study on the Oct. 13 lectionary passage from Luke 17:11-19. He pointed out the word “foreigner” as part of his immigrant life experience. A staff member reflected that it was the Samaritan, the foreigner, who was the only leper among the 10 to thank Jesus for being healed. She grew up with the image of a “Samaritan” as a positive image because of this.

“I told her that the immigrants need to hear that from the larger society, confirming the good gifts they bring for the wounded people,” Huh said.

The Rev. Ralph Su is the associate for Asian Intercultural Congregational Support in Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries. He is a minister member of Presbytery of San Gabriel in Temple City, California, and has served congregations, new church developments and new worshiping communities in California, Ohio and New Jersey. He taught Christian education at Taiwan Theological College and Seminary in Taipei, Taiwan. He works with mid councils to revitalize Asian congregations, grow new worshiping communities and facilitate the development of resources for various Asian language groups.

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