Peace, Compassion Know No Borders
North Texas faith leaders take part in immersion trip to learn more about plight of asylum seekers
Discussions on race and immigration issues between two childhood friends who both became pastors – Rev. Dr. Owen Ross and Rev. Steve Miller – led to a recent immersion trip that gave clergy and laity an up-close look at life along the Texas-Mexico border.
The duo, who grew up in Henderson, Texas, believed pastors and faith leaders should witness the border situation first-hand to help churches understand the issues with compassion. Last week, 16 passengers from the North Texas Conference, boarded up a bus headed for McAllen, Texas, and soon picked up passengers from Waco, Austin and San Antonio. All told, more than 100 faith leaders took part in the venture.
Rev. Ross, director of the North Texas Conference’s Center for Church Development, and Rev. Miller, founder of the U.S. Christian Leadership Organization, worked with Texas Impact to make the idea of a special “Courts & Ports” initiative focused on asylum seekers across the border in Matamoros.
The “Courts & Ports” program, part of Texas Impact’s ongoing advocacy intensive, takes small groups of faith leaders to Texas’ southern border each week to monitor federal criminal court proceedings, meet with asylum seekers and volunteer at local humanitarian ministries.
“Courts & Ports is allowing faith leaders to see for themselves the chaotic conditions the Administration’s policies have wrought. We urge Congress to reassert legislative authority and end the chaos,” said Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact.
Said Rev. Ross: “These pastors come from various denominations, cultures, races and political affiliations, but with a united desire to learn and to faithfully advocate for the sojourning families at our border. No other contemporary political issue is more frequently and consistently addressed in Scripture than immigration. The Church cannot be silent while our government mistreats these sojourners.”
The two-day experience started with participants spending a day training to cross the border, learning about immigration issues and educating others about their experience. The next day, participants crossed the border to meet asylum seekers and hold a prayer vigil at the Gateway International Bridge praying for migrants and demand Congress protect migrant children and families on U.S. soil.
The participants heard stories of fear, illness and desperation leading them to seek asylum. One woman left her children with her mother who is sick to find work in the United States to buy her mother’s medicine. Others shared detention is better than waiting at the border because they would have access to drinking water.
The experience was sobering for the participants.
“When we all came back across the border, we were overwhelmed with grief at the conditions in which those awaiting a hearing are having to live and the events they daily face,” Rev. Ross said.
Later this month, faith leaders will travel to Washington D.C. to speak to lawmakers about this experience and conditions at the border. The hope is their witness will create policy changes.
“The story of our faith is a story of people on the move, including Jesus Christ himself whose parents fled to Egypt with him in the night due to violence in their home country,” said Rev. Amy Spaur, pastor at Christ’s Foundry United Methodist Mission in Dallas. “God is clear how we are to respond – we are to welcome the stranger, foreigner and immigrant and treat them as one of our own native citizens. In fact, when we welcome the stranger, we welcome Jesus himself.
“My faith compels me to join my voice with the chorus of faith leaders asking for fair, just and humane policies on our Southern border.”
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2019