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Issue 7-14

Stranger Hospitality

While coming home from the Stratford Festival this summer, David and I crossed from Canada into the United States at the bridge that spans the shores from Windsor to Detroit. These years, we are prepared for tighter security—everyone, grandchildren and friends, held their passports at the ready—but we were not prepared to watch the Chinese family in the SUV ahead of us be taken into custody. Before our eyes, a fiftyish father and mother, a grey-haired grandmother and their two children, one college-age son and a high school-age daughter, were ordered from their car and handcuffed like common criminals.

I cannot express to you the rage I felt. I wanted to shout at the immigration officer, kick the booth, holler, "My son works with immigrants!" (as though that would provide any leverage to do any good), and demand a full explanation.

"Well they must have done something wrong," you may be thinking. Perhaps, but probably not. There might have been some visa irregularity, but certainly not the kind deserving the shameful and humiliating actions the border officers chose to take. I'm still infuriated about it. In my eyes, the actions of U.S. Immigration was way out of line; I am certain that this bewildered family was not of the hardened terrorist ilk. And if you had been a witness with me, you would have felt the same.

Marlene Molewyk, a member of the Hungry Souls writers' mentoring group, writes about growing up as a child of Chinese immigrants.

"I'm the fourth of five children born to Chinese immigrants. Like my siblings, I was born in Michigan and thus have been a U.S. citizen from birth. But despite this fact, I grew up feeling unwelcome in this country.

"It began when I was a very young child, about 3 or 4 years old. We lived in Detroit's north suburbs, and my dad really liked eating at a Chinese restaurant called the Yummy House, which was located across the Detroit River, in Ontario, Canada. To drive from the U.S. to Canada, we had to pass through a border security checkpoint. Other cars would stop at the checkpoint for a minute (if that), then receive permission to whiz through. But not us. Never us. We always got stopped and questioned as if we were criminals, guilty until we proved our innocence.

"The checkpoint guard would ask my dad where we were going, how long we'd be in Canada, etc., and then ask for my parents' passports. After scrutinizing the passports, the guard would turn his/her attention toward me and my siblings, demanding to each of us in turn, 'Are these your parents?' 'Yes.' 'Is this your mother?' 'Yes.' 'Do you have a birth certificate?' My mom would produce our birth certificates to prove we weren't lying, and after scrutinizing each one, the guard would usually let us go on our way.

"But sometimes, the guard would tell my dad to pull the station wagon forward, then make all seven of us get out of it, so the car could be searched for God knows what. As we stood there, helplessly watching this happen, car after car of Caucasian people would whiz through the checkpoint, staring at us through their windows. It made me want to scream, 'Stop staring! We've done nothing wrong!' And this was only half the trip—there was still the return trip back to the U.S. from Canada. Although I hated being treated like this, we went to Ontario frequently enough that the border routine eventually became an annoying but accepted part of my life. So accepted, in fact, that around age 12, I actually began carrying my birth certificate in my purse. My mom also gave me my Social Security card to put in there as well, just in case."

How do I know the Chinese family at the U.S./Canada border were not dangerous drug smugglers? Well, I do have a son who works with immigrants. His newly established office shares the Mainstay Ministries suite with us. His business card reads,

"Dynamis Immigrant Aid
(Dynamis - Asistencia al Inmigrante).
Low-cost professional immigration assistance.
(Asistencia profesional de imigración a bajo costo).

Let's just say, having heard hundreds of horror stories about the treatments of immigrants (legal, with papers), not to mention illegal immigrants, I, because of Jeremy Mains, have a unique, and perhaps privileged, exposure to the drama of the immigrants among us. And because of the years of teaching and writing I have done on Christian hospitality, this unique and privileged insight on immigrants is colored by a passionate insistence about church people's responsibility toward the strangers who come to our country.

We should be the ones insisting upon, lobbying for, marching with, and raising our voices (as wisely as possible) about the need for comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform (which both presidential candidates support, by the way). Sadly, I am often ashamed at the way fellow and sister Christians demonstrate the old stereotypical xenophobic (fear of stranger) mentality, demonize the alien among us, and as far as I can see, disregard the Scriptures that teach over and over, "The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19: 34, NRSV).

Frankly, when I look at this kind of treatment through the eyes of other nationals, I am embarrassed for my country.

In the September/October 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, Jorge G. Castañeda, the Global Distinguished Professor at New York University, who was the Foreign Minister of Mexico from 2000 to 2003, writes, "These (Central American) countries are deeply affected by the current immigration climate in the United States, and they would benefit greatly from the type of comprehensive immigration reform that both McCain and Obama have supported. The Bush administration's regrettable decision to build fences along the U.S.-Mexican border, raid workplaces and housing sites, detain and deport foreigners without papers, and more recently and more tragically, launch criminal proceedings against workers with false or stolen papers and subsequently sentence them to several months in jail before deportation is seen in Latin American as a hypocritical and vicious offense against societies and governments that harbor some of the most favorable feelings toward the United States in the world. These actions are accurately perceived as futile, nasty, and unfair, and, worst of all, they are conducive to growing anti-American sentiment in many countries. They play right into the hands of the 'anti-imperialist' faction of the Latin American left."

So. What does all this have to do with our inner journey? Isn't Soulish Food supposed to emphasize the inner pilgrimage?

Our attitude toward the stranger among us has everything to do with our inner disposition, because the soul is the center out of which godliness rises. If we are racist in our souls, we will be racist in our actions. If we are terrified within ourselves of any neighbor of another culture, we will outwardly withhold those beautiful actions of gracious friendliness. The state of our interior selves frames the quality of our exterior behavior. We must begin with an interior journey if we are to extend hospitality outside ourselves.

Hospitality, welcoming the stranger, is one of the hallmarks of mature spirituality. Indeed, here is a dramatic litmus-test question: Am I hospitable to the stranger? If not, if inwardly I clutch, feel fearful or judgmental toward that person of another race or culture, that is a pretty good indicator I am not filled with the nature of Christ. I have some inner growing to do. I need to re-examine Scripture and discover God's heart of love for the whole world (not just my country, ethnic group, or people of my skin color!). If I have not as yet found a way to be hospitable to that Iraqi (or Indian or Mexican) neighbor next door, it is a pretty good indicator that I have not as yet grappled with God's world-embracing love. Nor have I made His love my own.

This internal wrestling match with our private disposition toward the stranger is crucial in our times. Quoting António Gutierres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, "The twenty-first century will be characterized by the mass movement of people being pushed and pulled within and beyond their borders by conflict, calamity, or opportunity. War and human rights violations are already scattering millions across the world in search of safety. Globalization, with its attributes of economic expansion, unresolved poverty, and enduring insecurity, is prompting many people to leave their homes in search of better lives. Climate change and environmental degradation will further exacerbate such trends. At few times in history have so many people been on the move."

Let the words of Augustine, who wrote to the church in the fifth century, have impact in our lives today: "On this occasion of the concourse of so many strangers, and needy and suffering people, let your hospitality and your good works abound."

What will it take for my home, my neighborhood, my community, and my nation to welcome the often confused, bewildered, traumatized and haunted migrant to our shores? What one small adjustment can I make in my inner attitude that will help me accept the alien as my neighbor?

Let me give a few practical suggestions. Several recent movies highlight the illegal- immigrant experience. Under the Same Moon is one, and The Visitor is another. I recommend both. Then the documentary Wetback is a must-see. This deals with the arduous and treacherous journey of illegal immigrants from Central America. We need to know what impels their life-threatening actions before we turn stone hearts toward them.

David Mains has also created a remarkable 5-sermon Advent series titled From Another World to Ours. It is a powerful and practical introduction to the foreign-born among us set against the Christmas story. This would be good for a church or Sunday School class. PowerPoints and videos are available. You can order by going to

Karen Mains

GOAL: 600 Global Bag Ladies Project shopping bags
to be sold

600 bags @ an average of $20 margin each = an estimated $12,000
 -95 bags already sold = $1,270 toward our goal.                                        
Goal to Go: 505 bags = $10,730 (!)

Have you considered giving GBLP tote bags as gifts? One of these shopping bags was recently purchased "in honor of" a person being celebrated, who really appreciated the donation in their name and the purpose of the GBLP bag. Other suggestions have been to fill a GBLP tote bag with shower gift items for an upcoming wedding, give these bags as Christmas gifts, or purchase several as favors for a women's retreat.

To receive your own Global Bag Ladies Project tote bags, click on this GBLP Purchase Order, print it off, fill it out and send it with a check made out to Hungry Souls/GBLP for $20-$50 to Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60187.

Hungry Souls Christmas Party in September

For those of you who are in the Chicago area, Hungry Souls will be holding a Christmas eco-shopping party for micro-credit purposes. Carla Boelkens brought $500 worth of jewelry back from HIV/AIDS widows in Kenya. The purpose of this party is:

  1. To provide you with Christmas gift choices that will help other women and their children live.
  2. To expose you to our growing line of eco-shopping bag products.
  3. To give you a brief exposure as to how micro-credit works.
  4. To talk about the Kenya Micro-Enterprise Journey in March.

If any of you are interested, we will answer questions and take suggestions.

WHERE: Mains’ home in West Chicago IL at 29W377 Hawthorne Lane
DATES:  Saturday, September 27 at 7:00 P.M.
             Sunday, September 28 at 4:00 P.M.

Please give me some idea if you are coming.  My e-mail address is . We would love for you to bring interested friends and family, but I need to have a head count.

A Meeting of Women’s Minds:
A Microenterprise Journey to Kenya in March 2009

The details and day matrix for the Kenyan Microenterprise Journey are complete! I am terribly excited about this trip. We will be meeting and dialoguing with many Kenyan women who are working to solve their own problems. The purpose of this journey will be to discover ways we can collaborate in these solving-problem ventures. United Nations and WHO (World Health Organization) studies have shown that the most successful grassroots projects in Africa, ones that are sustainable and effective, are organized and run by women.

We will be leaving the States March 25 and returning April 6. Interested? Follow this link for more details and costs.


The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted bi-weekly on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the bi-weekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to

Karen Mains

Karen Mains

"Our attitude toward the stranger among us has everything to do with our inner disposition, because the soul is the center out of which godliness rises."
Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs Magazine

One of the most informative periodicals I receive is this journal. Because many viewpoints are presented, not just one side, I find that this stretches my capacities and keeps me thinking about the state of the world. The editors' viewpoint as stated in the journal reads, "The articles in Foreign Affairs do not represent any consensus of beliefs. We do not expect that readers will sympathize with all the sentiments they find here, for some of our writers will flatly disagree with others, but we hold that while keeping clear of mere vagaries, Foreign Affairs can do more to inform American public opinion by identifying itself with one school. We do not accept responsibility for the views expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, that appears in these pages. What we do accept is the responsibility for giving them a chance to appear."

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Hungry Souls
Christmas in August

In this year, when economics are tight for so many, we invite you to give gifts from the Mainstay Ministries catalogue that can have rich meaning in the days ahead. If you think about your gifts in August and order them early, you will be sparing yourself the grief that often comes from last minute frantic shopping. Let us help!

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Advent Retreat of Silence
December 3-4, 2008

The cost will be $120 for this guided retreat. If you register by October 1, this cost will be reduced to $100. If you invite and register one or two new attendees by October 1, we will reduce the price of the retreat to $90 for each of you. Now that is a bargain!

We have room for 60 retreatants in private rooms with their own baths. You can register now by contacting our volunteer registrar Melodee Cook ( ). Checks should be written to Hungry Souls/Advent, Melodee will tell you where to send your check. We can return checks for cancellations only if notified by November 25. This is when we must give the number to the Retreat Center and pay for that number.

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