Welcoming the Stranger—My Half Marathon Journey In Solidarity With World Relief

Royce Francis shared a series on writing this spring, drawing on his expertise as a professor of engineering who also teaches engineers to write. We had a great response to that series, and we’re happy to welcome Royce back to the blog for a new series on immigration, inspired by an InterVarsity Faculty Conference. Image: Ruth and Boaz, one of the biblical stories of welcoming the stranger. 

The news around migration to the US over the past few months has been engrossing, and I felt I could no longer remain silent. My engagement with this issue this time around started last year at the InterVarsity Northeastern Regional Faculty Conference. Robert Chao Romero was the keynote speaker, and his presentations centered around the theme Migration as Grace. So much of what he spoke on was familiar to me, but so much about immigration policy was new and somewhat shocking. During the past year, much has been said in public discussions on the topic of immigration, but I’m afraid that much of the discussion is just not well informed.

Therefore, I have decided to run the Baltimore Half Marathon in support of World Relief. World Relief is a Baltimore-based refugee resettlement agency who also does work advocating for comprehensive US immigration reform. To show solidarity with and appreciation for their work, I am using my 12-week training cycle for the Baltimore Half Marathon, to open a dialogue around US immigration policy and immigration reform. I hope that you will participate in this conversation by following the discussion here at the blog. If the Lord moves you, you may also prayerfully give a donation to World Relief at <https://www.worldrelief.org/give>. And please, if anything is moving or informative to you, would you please discuss the things I bring up over the next few weeks among your friends and family?

What Will I Be Doing?

I will be entering into focused training for the race using a 12-week program starting on 29 July 2018 for the race on 20 October 2018. In conjunction with this training, I will be publishing a weekly blog series in 12 installments on the InterVarsity Emerging Scholars Network blog. Each of these posts (after week 2) will be focused on a chapter in the just released InterVarsity publication, Welcoming the Stranger (2nd edition) by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang. I had just finished the prior edition a couple weeks ago and feel that there is much worthy of being shared with the greater public around immigration. I can’t wait to share with you all what I think of the updates, and of course, I’ll share a little about my training too!

Why Immigration?

Immigration has a major presence in the news cycle again due to the enforcement actions of the Trump administration. In combination with some of the rhetoric President Trump has used to engender support for his policies, immigration has become a compelling yet divisive topic. Moreover, despite the ubiquitous presence of immigration in public discourse, most of the discussion on immigration is either uninformed or misleading. For example, many would believe from hearing the news discussions that there is no agreement on what should be done. However, this is far from the truth, and there have been several bipartisan legislative proposals that are victim to the divided times we find ourselves in. Immigration, very simply, is something that God has drawn my attention to.

There are some with whom I have discussed my interest in immigration, and these discussions have raised some important questions that are worth mentioning:

  • Why do you care so much about immigration when we have so many unmet needs in the Black community? (I am African-American…)
  • How can we accept so many illegal immigrants when we can hardly afford to support our own citizens? (Note: While I will use “undocumented” for the rest of my posts whenever I feel it is necessary to make a distinction between types of immigrants—and usually I don’t—I’m simply reporting the wording of most persons’ concerns. And most people do not use “undocumented” they use “illegal”…)
  • Immigrants who come here don’t care about our (Black) issues and look down on us; why do you care so much about their concerns?
  • Illegal immigrants are breaking the law. Shouldn’t they be held accountable for their actions?
  • The US is a European, Christian nation, and our culture could be irreversibly affected by immigration—legal and illegal. These affects may not be desirable and could accelerate negative cultural trends.
  • To whom do immigrants show allegiance? How can we be sure that they love this country?

These are just a few of the questions and concerns that have been raised in my conversations with students, colleagues, friends, and associates. If you are reading this and it sounds like I’m airing a personal conversation—I’m not. It just happens that your views are much more common than you might anticipate. I’ll probably disappoint some of you since I won’t answer all of these questions directly. More importantly, addressing immigration concerns and policies indirectly addresses all of the questions I’ve just raised, and others I haven’t.

How Can You Follow the Conversation?

You can follow the conversation by subscribing to the Emerging Scholars Network blog, or following the Emerging Scholars Network on Twitter. Please remember to leave your thoughts and comments!

Peace and Blessings,


Image credit: Poussin, Nicolas, 1594?-1665. Summer, or, Ruth and Boaz, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54182 [retrieved July 30, 2018]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nicolas_Poussin_043.jpg.

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Royce Francis

Royce is an associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering at the George Washington University. He conducts and teaches under the broad theme “SEED”: Strategic [urban] Ecologies, Engineering, and Decision making. His research and teaching interests include infrastructure sustainability and resilience measurement, risk analysis, and drinking water systems analysis. Royce is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA).

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  • chykman@yahoo.com'
    Chike commented on August 1, 2018 Reply

    Looking forward to the discussions Royce!

    • royceworld@gmail.com'
      royce commented on August 6, 2018 Reply

      Absolutely, Chike. Look forward to engaging you and others on this issue here at ESN!

  • Kle.seaton@gmail.com'
    Kelly Seaton commented on August 5, 2018 Reply

    What a great idea, and I look forward to the series and your thoughts!

    • royceworld@gmail.com'
      royce commented on August 6, 2018 Reply

      Thank you very much Kelly. I look forward to learning from you through this series as well. Thank you for your note and I look forward to your comments. Best! RAF

      • kle.seaton@gmail.com'
        keseaton commented on August 6, 2018 Reply

        Thank you! I have been involved with World Relief locally here in Durham, and they are a wonderful organization. I really appreciate their thoughtful approach to refugee resettlement and community engagement through Good Neighbor Teams.

  • lfranc12@jhu.edu'
    Lucine francis commented on August 6, 2018 Reply

    Looking forward to it..and looking forward to hearing about your training…

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