Title

Establishing a biblically and theologically based social justice ministry to address the issues of Liberian immigration and acculturation in the United States.

Date of Award

5-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

School

Drew Theological School

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

Abstract

The purpose of this project was an inquiry into the challenges of immigration and acculturation of Liberian immigrants in the United States. The project dealt particularly with the difficulty of the US government-granted Temporary Protective Status (TPS). The project was conducted at Faith-Immanuel Lutheran Church, located in a Liberian immigrant community in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. The project brought to light the plight of exiled émigrés and theologized their painful experiences through the use of the shared personal narratives of Liberian immigrants in the congregation and selected biblical narratives introduced within an immigrant hermeneutic. Scripture was employed with liberation themes of justice. The project also included a one-day acculturation and immigration retreat where the aforementioned narratives were shared and where professional speakers gave information and direction on topics relevant to the stresses of immigration and acculturation into US culture. Forty Liberian immigrants, adults and youth, shared their stories and their difficult and frustrating encounters within a safe and sacred space. Their stories revealed a community suffering isolation, despair, and a different type of exile in the US, their chosen country. The project ended with a Jubilee service celebrating God's presence throughout the struggles in the homeland of Liberia as well as here in the United States. The service celebrated the historical, theological, and African collective spirits. Surveys and interviews were used to determine information about how these issues affected the participants and also to gain feedback about the success of the project. Emphasis was placed on the importance of faith and scripture as tools of empowerment. Overall, participant feedback was very positive. Project results demonstrated an increase in church unity and the motivation for involvement in immigration advocacy. The project also resulted in the development of a networking effort resulting in the possession of a radio station that now offers Liberian immigration programming.