Assistant Minister's Corner - Rev. Monica Dobbins

29 January 2018

On Monday, January 29, our congregation became the first in Salt Lake City to offer physical Sanctuary to an immigrant family seeking to avoid deportation. This effort has required hundreds of volunteer hours, deep prayer and reflection, and logistical arrangements from a large crew of people, both within and outside our church. What a thrilling moment, as we come together for love and justice, giving so much of ourselves for this precious family!

It’s important to remember that this is not about us, though. We are the conduit through which justice may be carried out, but as in any act of love, we are putting the needs of someone else first, before our own needs and wishes. We are providing hospitality to a family we’ve never met – a family who’s scared, away from home, unable to leave our facilities because of the immediate risk of deportation.

Most of us have had the pleasure of having overnight guests in our own homes, and that’s a good starting place for us to think about how to be good hosts to this family. There are some crucial differences, however. Check out these tips on how to be a good host to a Sanctuary family:

  1. ALWAYS LET THE GUEST LEAD. If you find yourself in a position to help our guests in any way, always check with them first to ask how they prefer things.For example, the guest may want to cook or wash up for themselves, instead of having someone do it for them. You aren’t being inhospitable by refusing that request! Let them know you’re ready to help if they wish, but respect their decisions.

  2. It’s natural to be curious and friendly, to want to introduce yourself and get to know our guests. But try to remember that they would much rather be at home than with us: they’re in our church as a last resort in their pursuit of a legal path to stay in the country. We must be sensitive to the emotional exhaustion of being in that position.  And as in any case when you’re spending time with strangers, even well-meaning ones, it takes time to build trust and get to know people. So a friendly hello is welcome, but try to be as unobtrusive as possible. When the guest is ready, they may wish to share their story with us and start making connections. Always let the guest lead.

  3. Even when trust has been established and relationships are forming, there are some questions which are never appropriate to ask. We should avoid asking about our guests’ documentation, about the situation they fled or why they are here in the US, or any other sensitive personal details. Think about the most sensitive or painful things in your life – we all have things we’d rather not talk about with anyone but our most trusted confidants.

  4. There are so many other things they might want to talk about – their profession, their hobbies, their favorite recipes, sports – anything!There are so many volunteers who are contributing to this effort. They are committed to keeping our guest safe and as comfortable as possible. Our staff are also working hard to contribute to the effort. When you see them, be sure to thank them and ask how you can help!