Over the last few weeks, the news cycle has honed in on the influx of children crossing the U.S./Mexico border. The numbers have been striking! What at first seemed like a “problem” has grown to a “crisis.” As our Bishop pointed out, “… when 52,000 child refugees cross the border, compassion wanes and the very real burdens of caring for our neighbor prompt a harsher response.” Predictably, Americans are polarized over this issue, but not necessarily along predictable lines.
As politicians and pundits offer their opinions on what the U.S. government ought to do with the growing number of minors crossing the border, what are Christians to do?
As we consider the question of how our faith informs our response, it can’t be ignored that throughout Scripture there is provision for the pilgrim, the refugee, the immigrant. The Bible consistently points towards identifying with and offering hospitality to the alien and stranger. Indeed, as the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings wrote last week, “Christians worship a child who fled from violence in his home country.” No matter what our individual political affiliation, our faith guides us to see the image of God reflected in the immigrant, documented or otherwise.
Certainly, there are concerns about resources. How will these children be provided for? As Christians, we believe in a God of abundance, not scarcity. We believe in a God who has created enough for all. And this is a prime opportunity for us to reflect on that abundance. Still, each of us has unique gifts, passions and capabilities. Recognizing this, over the last two weeks members of the Bishop’s team have done our best to compile various ways you and your congregation might respond to the growing need along our southern border.
The Diocese of West Texas’ department of World Missions is receiving donations that “can be drawn from and disbursed as needed by our coordinating rectors,” as Bishop Lillibridge recently wrote. These rectors and their congregations are serving these refugees first hand and do not see any decrease in need for the foreseeable future. You might host a special collection at your church, work or school.
HOST A DRIVE
Bishop Lillibridge has written that there is need for “hygiene kits, water bottles, toothpaste, soap, diapers, snacks, underwear, t-shirts, and so forth.” While monetary donations to buy necessary items are best, conducting a collection of these goods may be a great way to get children and teens involved. These congregations also need sturdy backpacks. If your congregation decides to do a collection and “backpack stuffing” during Sunday School or youth group, let us know and the diocesan office will collect these to send down to the Diocese of West Texas.
THESE ITEMS WILL BE MOST HELPFUL:
- Small/snack-size water bottles
- Non-perishable snacks: Ritze crackers, animal crackers, peanut butter crackers, etc.
- Sturdy shoes (remember that people will be walking for days in these shoes)
- Kids: all sizes
- Women’s: no larger than size 7.5
- Men’s: no larger than size 9
- Women: Most women are not taller than 5 feet
- Men: Most men are not taller than 5.5 feet
- Hygiene items (hotel size)
- bar soap
- 2-pill Tylenol
- Band Aids
- hand sanitizer
- handwipes (soft-sided packs)
PLEASE SEND ITEMS TO:
St. John’s Episcopal Church
2500 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501
RAISE YOUR VOICE
There are several ways to, as Bishop Mariann prompted, “raise our voices in compassion and conviction during this crisis.” The Episcopal Public Policy Network has provided a form for you to let decision makers know that you support a proportionate and humane response to the needs of Central American children. You can also visit the Interfaith Immigration Coalition website and easily find directions on how to call your member of congress to urge that cuts to refugee services helping unaccompanied children be stopped. You can also sign the petition organized by Faithful America, urging President Obama to stand by what Pope Francis has called a “humanitarian emergency.” Make sure to share your actions with us on social media (@washdio), and include the hashtag #migrantchildren in your post or tweet.
Updated on August 7:
Learn more about the crisis, proposed legislation, and what you can do on August 13. From 4-5pm, Episcopal Migration Ministries and the Justice and Advocacy Ministries of the Episcopal Church will host a free webinar. Register now for the webinar. Space is limited.
There is an unending need for volunteers to assist those serving these refugees along the Texas border. We are exploring the opportunity to take a group of volunteers down to the Diocese of West Texas to serve these refugees. If you are interested in discussing logistics, please contact me at [email protected].
Lastly–but most importantly, we must pray. As Bishop Mariann and the Presiding Bishop have mentioned, now is a time to pray for these children, those that care for them and those that influence their future. During worship on Sundays, at home over meals with your family, in small groups and in Bible studies pray over this crisis. We cannot forget the power of prayer. As the early Christian author Tertullian wrote, “Prayer cleanses from sin, drives away temptations, stamps out persecutions, comforts the faint hearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travelers safely home, calms the waves, bemuses robbers, feeds the poor, overrules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports the faltering, sustains those who stand firm.”
- Loving Father, in your infinite compassion, we seek your divine protection for refugee children who are often alone and afraid. Provide solace to those who have been witnesses to violence and destruction, who have lost parents, family, friends, home, and all they cherish due to war or persecution. Comfort them in their sorrow, and bring help in their time of need.
Show mercy to unaccompanied migrant children, too, Lord. Reunite them with their families and loved ones. Guide those children who are strangers in a foreign land to a place of peace and safety. Comfort them in their sorrow, and bring help in their time of need.
Show us how we might reach out to these precious and vulnerable children. Open our hearts to migrant and refugee children in need, so that we might see in them your own migrant Son. Give us courage to stand up in their defense against those who would do them harm.
For this we pray through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
(From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services)
- July 18-20 has been named the Interfaith Weekend of Compassion and Prayer for Unaccompanied Migrant Children. Resources are available, including collects, litanies, prayers, and suggested texts