People from all walks of immigration ministry met recently at University UMC in San Antonio to collaborate at a September 21-22 Immigration and Border Ministries Vision Summit.
Leaders from Justice for Our Neighbors, Methodist Border Friendship Commission, Interfaith Welcoming Coalition, the Holding Institute, Manos Juntas, Outreach Vitality of the Rio Texas Conference, and the Eastern Conference Methodist Church of Mexico were some of the participants learning from each other’s work.
Each organization had a chance to share and listen to the ever-changing issues surrounding the immigration crisis. 420,000 Central Americans are crossing the border annually.
“We are trying to help develop strategies without adding another layer of bureaucracy,” said Abel Vega, Outreach Vitality Director. “The purpose was to hear border ministry response work, strategies, and challenges to reflect our biblical mandate, church’s response to this work, and to envision Rio Texas’ holistic response to strategies of this work.”
Other organizations across the border are trying to provide holistic counseling and care for women and children abused while migrating across Mexico to the border.
Ephraim Guerrero, an immigration attorney for CONAM (National Commission of Migratory Affairs) and the Eastern Conference Methodist Church of Mexico, is fundraising to open a shelter in Monterrey to help provide for 15 victims of sexual assault and human trafficking.
“We are trying to get resources to have our own shelter because women and children are being directed to the government,” said Guerrero. “They can bring us these women and children so we can assist them in psychological, administrative, and legal ways.”
The meetings are hoping to spur a church-wide resource map where immigrants can find shelter, legal aid, or food supplies along the journey to the border.
“I think it is important to follow-up on a map, especially for migrants on their way to their sponsor,” said Susan Hellums, Border Mission Coordinator for the El Valle District UMC. “What was important is we got together and sat at the same table together. The process was very good. We learned about a lot of ministries that we can put on a map.”
As partnerships and connections develop in the later months through ZOOM video conference meetings, more places of interest and resources may be pinned for an immigration resource map.
“We are hoping to answer this question: What actions do we need to take over the next two years that will demonstrate greater impact and connection of our immigration response and border ministry realities?” said Vega. “I think these connections will strengthen and increase impact to our neighbors.”