Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
Disciples respond to migrant concerns
Migration has been a part of human experience for as long as there have been people. In our own religious tradition, the earliest stories of the Hebrew Bible are often about people needing to leave their homeland and find a new place to call home. Maybe they are forced out (Adam and Eve), step out in faith (Abraham and Sarah), or have fled a climate crisis (Jacob and his family). In the gospel according to Matthew, even Jesus’ own family flees due to fear of political violence. Across generations, our faith ancestors had to cross borders so that they could continue to thrive, provide for their families and, ultimately, faithfully serve God.
There is not just a common theme of migration in the Bible, but a constant reminder from God that those who are migrants, foreigners, aliens to the land, should be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion. (Exodus 23:9)
Unfortunately, many who come to this country to claim asylum from unsafe conditions in their home countries are not met with safety, encouragement, or welcome. Whereas refugees receive their designation from the United Nations, asylum seekers present themselves at a port of entry and request asylum. While awaiting legal hearings to review their requests, asylum seekers rely on sponsors to provide for their basic needs. Sadly, many are deserted by sponsors; left without support,they struggle to get a foothold in their new country. In the Arizona Region, Disciples congregations are living out the guidance from Ephesians to welcome the stranger and foreigner, offering support for asylum seekers who have crossed the dangerous Sonoran Desert in an effort to find a new, safer home in the United States.
With support from Week of Compassion, the Christian Church in Arizona has created the Arizona Disciples Border Initiative (ADBI). Disciples in Arizona recognize the need to actively engage in their communities, which in Tucson includes the borderlands of the Sonoran Desert and multiple border-crossing stations.
The Arizona Disciples Border Initiative focuses in two areas: education about immigration and border issues, and care for and support of asylum seekers.
When it comes to education about immigration and border issues, a local, hands-on, immersive experience is best. Comunidad Limen Christian Church and First Christian Church in Tucson join to offer the Caminantes Border Immersion program, led by Rev. Pedro Ramos-Goycolea.
This experiential opportunity brings Disciples and other interested groups from around the U.S. and Canada to Tucson to experience and witness the militarization of the border, including powerful personal conversations with recent immigrants, detailing the realities of migrant concerns.
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S., who pass through a port of entry legally, are required to have a sponsor who will house and care for them until they are able to do so on their own. Occasionally, a sponsor falls through or fails to meet their obligations, and a family who is moving through the process legally is stuck without a safety net. The ADBI will focus on such families.
At First Christian Church in Tucson, a ‘hospitality center’ provides short-term shelter to such families until they are able to care for themselves, and Saguaro Christian Church’s ‘Sol Food Ministries’ is creating programs to help families develop food-business opportunities. As the ADBI continues to develop, there will be opportunities for every church across the Arizona region to be involved in ways that are faithful to their gifts, resources, and missional calling to welcome the neighbor.
As migrants and refugees increasingly bear the impacts of political conflict, economic injustice, and climate change, Disciples explore creative and faithful responses to this vulnerable population. Living out a faith that uplifts the dignity and thriving of all of God’s people, Week of Compassion is grateful to serve alongside Disciples in every region, working together to transform suffering into hope.
To learn more about connecting with the Arizona Disciples Border Initiative, join any of the virtual town halls with Rev. Ramos-Goycolea:
Email to receive info on joining these sessions.
Ignite the spirit of justice within your faith community. Embark on a journey of compassion and solidarity. These virtual gatherings will unveil the realities of the border, the stories of those affected by policies, and the urgent need for action. Disciples can be a beacon of hope in a world yearning for transformation.
Our thanks to Rev. Dr. Jay Hartley (Christian Church in Arizona) and Rev. Pedro Ramos-Goycolea (Comunidad Limen / Caminantes)
for their collaboration on this story; and to Rev. Ramos-Goycolea and Rev. Ailsa Guardiola González
(First Christian Church, Tucson) for photos and permissions.
region / focus :