Responding to Cuban Migrants in Nuevo Laredo

UMCOR blankets were taken to the Holding Institute [1] as an offering of support for the arrival of Cuban migrants who are on hold in Nuevo Laredo and various parts of Mexico as a result of the January 12th change in policy regarding Cubans seeking asylum in the U.S. - known as “dry foot – wet foot” [2].

A truck in transit from Las Vegas to Laredo carrying donations [3] collected by the Cuban American communities in the Southwest U.S. contacted media outlets in Laredo. The volunteers were looking for assistance in getting the cargo across the border to Nuevo Laredo, where many Cuban immigrants are being held. That news story led them to the Holding Institute. Since then, response has broadened. Additional supplies arrived from Houston and more supplies are expected to arrive this week from Oklahoma and Miami.

Cuban American restaurant entrepreneur Sergio Perez continues to generate national response and support from the Cuban American community, the United Methodist Church and the Methodist Church of Mexico are engaged in conversations on how best to respond. The work of the Methodist Border Friendship Commission [4] is happening in real time. The Commission is defined as the churches of the Rio Texas Conference and the Eastern Conference of the Methodist Church of Mexico – located essentially within 25 miles on each side of the U.S. / Mexico border.

As the Methodist Churches in Laredo and Nuevo Laredo respond through receiving, sorting, and delivering relief supplies to the need-at-hand; First United Methodist Church, Laredo is coordinating logistics with the nearby Baptist church in providing daily meals and whatever assistance is needed. There is consideration of Connecting with the Mexican legal community to offer insight to this situation because the Cuban refugees are limited in the time they may stay in Mexico. The Cuban immigrants are not being allowed entry into the U.S. prior to the policy change. At some point, they may be facing possible deportation back to Cuba. If that may be the case, many expressed fears that they face even hardships in Cuba upon their return [5], [6], & [7].       


This response effort is fluid. As more supplies arrive to FUMC, Laredo, they are working to organize storage in the basement of the church as well as storage units in the church’s parking lot. At the moment, the following support is needed over the next 30 days.

  • Volunteer Teams are needed to help organize the donations received in preparation to take donations over to Nuevo Laredo trip-by-trip.
  • A long-term volunteer(s) is needed now for the month of February to serve as a logistics coordinator at FUMC, Laredo. The church has RV connections on the premises if that is helpful to potential volunteers. This could be a response of long-term volunteers who may be able to stay for the month or a series of volunteers staying weekly.
  • PRAY for a just resolution to this situation and pray for all who wait upon the Lord. PRAY for your part in this ministry along with the other volunteers.
  • GIVE MONEY to First UMC, Laredo “Finding A Way” Designated Account to help with storage, utilities, cash for food and hygiene items that must be purchased, detergent, fuel for transporting hot meals, calling cards, labor, etc.

NOTE: Clothes or bedding is not needed those are only allowed in small personal use amounts and must be new. It is asked that anyone crossing aid over to Nuevo Laredo should be coordinated through the Holding Institute. 

To offer and coordinate your support, contact Rev. Paul Harris at 956.436.4255 /

District and Conference Visit Border Ministry

Rev. Robert Lopez and Susan Hellums of El Valle District organized a one-day visit with the Methodist Church of Mexico, in particular to visit the network of ministries through Manos Juntas [Hands Together Ministry – Advance #3020527].

Manos Juntas seeks to address the lack of proper housing, access to schools, and health services affordable to the poor of Mexico. By partnering with different institutions like local churches, schools, the Red Cross, Rotary Clubs; and even local, state, and the federal government; Manos Juntas implements programs that educate, inform, and empower people to make better decisions for their daily life.  


In Pharr, Texas – A group of El Valle District pastors and District Superintendent Rev. Robert Lopez and Missions Coordinator Susan Hellums pray for the day’s visit to Reynosa and Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Led by Willie Berman, Global Ministries missionary and director of Manos Juntas, the group spent the day visiting the network of ministries in the area responding to community and migrant needs.

Pastor Hector Silva shares about the ministry of Senda de Vida [Life Path], an ecumenical and UMC / Methodist Church of Mexico supported ministry. Senda de Vida receives migrants and refugees who have had an arduous journey through Mexico, many coming from Central America fleeing violence and economic hardships. Some endure violence and robbery on their journey. Senda de Vida is a place of respite where sojourners can stay and be refreshed spiritually and physically. 

At a migratory high point, Senda de Vida has hosted about 500 people. On this day, the Guatamalen men prepare to go to work to restore a home of a family in the neighborhood that burned down. Pastor Hector says that all who are part of this community have gifts to offer. 


Some migrants look for work in Reynosa while others contemplate going across into the United States. In spite of their journey struggles, having a transitional spiritual home and community of faith brings a sense of joy and comfort.  After hearing a testimony of one of the sojourners, Rev. Lopez offers a prayer for all on the journey and gives thanks for this ministry. "The border is a complex and unique place, I do not pretend to understand it all but it was a humbling experience to offer prayers of comfort to the men, women, and children housed at Senda de Vida ministry in northern Mexico."

Willie Berman speaks about one of the clinics under the direction of Manos Juntas. Rio Bravo offers affordable healthcare services for the community under Centro Medico. All medical staff are indigenous with the exception of those coming from the U.S. offering specialized services.

Manos Juntas engages in the UMC outreach effort In Mission Together [1]. It strives for mutual partnerships with the communities and the congregations of the Methodist Church of Mexico and the UMC. Likewise, Rio Texas churches are engaging in ministry in the colonias [2] on the U.S. side as well ecumenical collaboration responses in offering hospitality to refugees arriving weekly [3].

To capture this border reality in person via a ministry exploration site visits, contact Susan Hellums of El Valle District at 956.648.8509 / and Willie Berman of Manos Juntas at 956.648.8712 /

This article was written by Abel Vega, Director of Outreach Vitality, Mission Vitality Center, Rio Texas Conference, United Methodist Church




[2] colonia = In the United States, colonias are unregulated settlements that began to emerge with the advent of informal housing. Colonias are considered semi-rural subdivisions of substandard housing lacking basic physical infrastructure, potable water, sanitary sewage, and adequate roads.