The three of them were waiting at the church door when I drove up that afternoon: A mother with her two older teenage sons. She didn’t speak any English, but she had a bathroom emergency.

After letting them in and after they washed up, they asked for a ride to their apartment 3 miles away. And along the way, I heard their story ….

The boys had worked at a restaurant about a half-mile away, up until the manager tried to sell them drugs. In response, they quit and walked another mile and a half — further from their home — to be hired by another restaurant.

They have no vehicle. They walk wherever, however, whenever they can, all to be able to work and survive.

Their father had been taken in by ICE a month before. He had made some mistakes. He had spent time in jail. But it was not until he was released that his probation officer had immigration waiting for him. Though he and his wife had been in the country for over 20 years, though both their sons were citizens, he was taken in while his wife and his sons watched, unable to do anything.

And here was this family, simply trying to survive. Here was this family, willing to walk 3, 4, 5 miles to work, to live.

I am thankful for a number of people who I know that have looked after this family. A sheriff I talked to knew them, knew their situation, and has been looking after the two boys. A lawyer I know has helped them in the midst of past legal troubles and continues to seek ways to help.

But when I hear the rhetoric about immigrants in our country, when I hear an entire group of people categorized as criminals and as dangerous, I want to hold up this family and say, “Do you see them? Have you gotten to know them?” This is a family trying to make it through each day. They are not hurting us. They are not taking advantage of us.

It all begins with relationships, with seeing each person the way that God sees them, unique and wonderful, with gifts to share and stories to tell.

When Jesus divides the nations, separating them as sheep and goats, asking whether they fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the sick and those in prison, he told them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

In the face of the hungry or thirsty is the face of Jesus.

In the face of the naked, the sick, or the prisoner is the face of Jesus.

In the face of the immigrant is the face of Jesus.

In the face of the homeless is the face of Jesus.

In the face of the LGBT teen rejected by his/her family is the face of Jesus.

In the face of the child with special needs is the face of Jesus.

In the face of the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, and the atheist is the face of Jesus.

Jesus wants you to get to know him better by seeing him, hearing him, and being with him in each man or woman you meet.

Get ready. It may change your life.

The Rev. David Armstrong-Reiner is pastor at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 2375 Ga. Highway 20 in Conyers. Contact him at pastor.david@conyerselc.org.

Editor

I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.