Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Hands of Christ to Immigrant Families

By Lloyd Gestoso, Dean of Social Work at Cairn University

My Christian lineage begins with my Filipino Grandmother. She encountered Jesus as she laundered the clothes of missionaries serving in the Philippines in the 1940’s. My parents also embraced the Gospel. When they immigrated to the United States in the late 1960’s to escape the poverty, political instability, and martial law that characterized that time, they brought their love of Christ with them. They also brought a love for their extended family and as so many immigrants do, they left their home in the Philippines not simply for their own benefit, but out of a desire to help the rest of the family.

So my story is in part that of an only child of immigrant parents struggling to carve out a place in a new country. For many reasons I also struggled academically but my parents had little ability to help me. My mother did not have the skills to help me academically and my father, new to emergency medicine, was busy working 12 hour shifts to support our family.

God used Christian Service Brigade in a significant way to help me make the transition into a culture unfamiliar to my parents and to help me make the transition into a mature man of God. God did something through my Brigade leaders that they probably didn’t realize was even going on. They stepped in where my parents couldn’t, to help me thrive in a new place. Because my mother couldn’t drive and my dad was working really long hours to provide, it was my Brigade leaders who would pick me up and take me home. They taught me the Bible and took me on backpacking trips, teaching me not just how to navigate the Bible, but how to navigate the beautiful world he’d placed me in.

As I reflect back on it I can also see how Brigade really impacted me by exposing me to the dynamic of Christian manhood and leadership that I may not have experienced otherwise. It was through the encouragement of the men in Brigade that I found that God had given me gifts I could use in His service, especially in the area of interpersonal relationships, leadership, and teaching. Most importantly, however, God showed me as a teenager that I could embrace my brokenness and trust in Christ.

Because of this, I eventually made the choice to pursue a vocation in social work. The commands of God to love our neighbor resonated deeply with me. Because of this deep desire to love like Jesus did I found myself pursuing work within diverse populations in need as I worked to finally graduate with a Bible and Social Work degrees.  My master of Social Work is where I met my first heroin addicts, which led to meeting my first AIDS patients, which led to working in several Philadelphia hospitals and a home for people living with AIDS. I came to realize that Christians had to a great extent abandoned those with AIDS and other outcasts which motivated me to teach a new generation about how powerful the grace of God is.

I now work at Cairn University as the Dean of Social Work, teaching students to balance caring for the most vulnerable people in society with living out a transformational gospel which truly changes lives for eternity. Interestingly, I learned many years later that my Battalion Captain was a graduate of the very bachelor of social work program that I studied in and now lead as Dean. But it all began as those early opportunities in Brigade taught me what it meant to be a leader passionate to apply the gospel with an attitude of service especially toward the weakest people in our world. Because of this I look forward to my own son experiencing the impact of Brigade just like I did!  

About Lloyd: In addition to serving as Dean at Cairn University, Lloyd is married to Amy, also a social worker, and they are blessed with two children, Zoe and Elijah. He serves as the chair of the board at Lakeside Educational Network and also serves on the board at SIM, an international mission organization.


  1. Dear Dave Gregg and CSB Team - I think this is a wonderful story and a great testimony to Jesus Christ at a very sensitive time for our country. Unfortunately, rightfully or not, it gives the impression that Christian Service Brigade supports illegal immigration (“The Hands of Christ to Immigrant Families”) at a time when we've specifically elected federal leaders to uphold our sovereignty as a nation and enforce our existing laws to prohibit people from coming into our country who potentially threaten our safety. What the article should have specifically included was a brief, but specific explanation of how Lloyd Gestoso's parents and family came to the United States (e.g., they applied for and were legally granted Visa's and later became American citizens).

    As a Christian, I’m truly supportive of helping the “weakest members of our world.” Jesus taught this in Matthew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    The bible also clearly teaches in Romans 13:1-7 that we are to obey our leaders who God has raised up to govern over us, even if we for some reason we disagree.

    “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

    Thanks for your consideration of my feedback. I sincerely appreciate your service and all that CSB does in the lives of young me to point them to Christ.

    Respectfully yours in Christ.

    Christian Service Brigade Leader

  2. Hey anonymous, thanks for your interest in the article.

    I'm a long-time reader, first-time commenter. Actually, the article is not political at all, except for whatever politics the reader brings to it (and which Brigade cannot control). If the reader brings assumptions to it, it isn't the article that is political, but the reader.

    Brigade is not political, leaning one way or the other. As a Canadian, I can read this article without the spectre of being politically correct, or incorrect, as the case may be. I expect the story did not include immigration aspects because the details are not pertinent to the story, nor to the reader. It is about a young guy in a new place who needed help. Nobody needed to check the passport because that is the government's job, not the local Brigade unit's. Some godly men simply helped a young guy in need, as per the Biblical admonition to love your neighbour (i.e., the Samaritan).

    1. I am a Herald of Christ (1984), pastor, missionary to Ecuador (currently on furlough in PA) and husband to a legal immigrant. That said, I can certainly relate and understand the sentiments of the anonymous comment above. I would not purposely encourage anyone to come to the United States legally and have often tried to deter people from doing so, for their well being more than society's.

      However, there is so much misinformation and fear out there that is not helping our nation's leaders to step up to the plate and deal with the immigration issue. Many times immigration reformation bills have been killed in committee because no lawmakers have been willing to take the political risk. That is a travesty and a very real shame that no one wants to take leadership and/or responsibility for change. As citizens we have not held them accountable.

      I respect other people's thought regarding immigration and the refugee crisis, even though I find it unnerving that most evangelical Christians assume that I support a certain stance whether I do or not. However, I do not support a "blind" acceptance of the current administration's policies without considering the facts and its implications. I believe that the current climate of hate in the United States will do more to keep immigrants, legal or otherwise, out of the United States than any wall building. No wonder that only 1% of the world's refugees even attempt to come to the US.