Examples of Church Engagement on Immigration Caring for and ministering to immigrants, regardless of legal status, is the first step for many congregations in engaging on immigration. By building relationships and getting to know immigrants who live in the same community, churches are able to step outside their comfort zone and fulfill their vision to be a church that cares for the “least of these.” The mission has come to our doorstep, and churches are realizing that immigration has opened up opportunities for evangelism. Examples
Wheaton, IL Wheaton Bible Church in the western suburbs of Chicago has had a Spanish-language service for nearly two decades. As that ministry has grown, questions of immigration policy have followed, and Wheaton Bible Church (and their Spanish-speaking congregation, Iglesia del Pueblo) has taken a public stance in support of more generous immigration policies. The senior pastors of the English- and Spanish-speaking congregations co-authored a letter to their Congressional representatives, and the church has also used its annual local missions conference to highlight the plight of undocumented immigrant families.
Orlando, FL At the end of 2007, the leaders of several largely Caucasian evangelical churches and largely Hispanic evangelical churches held an immigration forum where they gathered to discuss their perspectives on immigration and its impact on their local congregations. Relationships between these various local leaders were forged that opened the door for them to jointly write a letter to their local paper in support of immigration reform and commit to educating and involving their congregations in immigrant ministries. There were also opportunities for Anglo and Hispanic pastors to “exchange the pulpit” and preach or teach in each other’s churches. By relating to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and hearing the stories of those in the body of Christ who are directly impacted by the broken immigration system, these local pastors (many of whom had never met before) started friendships that are still deepening today.
Minneapolis, MN During an inter-cultural leadership lunch at the annual conference of the Evangelical Free Church of America, African American and Hispanic pastors came together to share about their mutual struggles and hopes. Hispanic pastors were able to share stories of the hurt and pain in their congregations, many of whom are undocumented. This led to mutual pray and support between the African American and Hispanic pastors in their respective ministries. These African American pastors have continued to champion this cause, becoming as passionate as the Hispanic pastors. As one African American pastor said, “Now I know I have a dog in the race"
Greensboro, NC Immigration is directly impacting the state of North Carolina, a state not traditionally an immigrant-receiving state, leading many in the community to wonder why immigrants are coming to their state and how to engage with them. Thus, many people have started to volunteer at the local World Relief High Point office which resettles dozens of refugees a year, many of whom need friendship and encouragement when first arriving to the United States. This friendship allows these individuals to get to learn about other cultures and have lessened their discomfort and fear of immigrants in their communities.
Denver, CO Many local churches have started immigrant ministries in the church. A few are renting out their church building to a local Spanish congregation that needs a space to meet. Others have started English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in their church, while others have started a food pantry and clothing store to provide for the basic needs of immigrants.
Seattle, WA Churches in Seattle have visited immigrant detention facilities to lead Bible studies and lead worship services with immigrants. Many immigrants while in detention are separated from their families and have no hope of seeing their families again once deported from the United States. Leading Bible studies has led to hope for these immigrants and an evangelism opportunity for those who aren’t believers yet.
Whittier, CA Whittier Area Community Church held a forum in which they invited local experts to share about their perspectives on immigration. A professor from UCLA shared about his experience as a Hispanic professor at a university with a large number of undocumented students, and an undocumented student also shared about his experience attending school and working while undocumented. The pastor of ministries at Whittier Area Community Church invited the entire church and the local community to the event. Many had questions about immigration reform and learned how to engage on immigration reform in their local communities.
Alexandria, VA Local churches here have started an intercultural potluck where people from different cultures bring food that is particular to their culture. Comfortable and fun conversations are often started over food, and eating together allows people to relax and experience different cultures through food. These potlucks have formed relationships between families that were initially uncomfortable with each other and led to other fun events outside of this potluck.
Boston, MA A church provided shelter for immigrant families and children following an immigration raid at a local factory. Since many fathers and mothers were separated from their children, the church provided phones to call their families in detention. The church gathered food, clothing and blankets to distribute to these separated families. The church was also able to translate between the immigrants and government officials. When many of the detained immigrants were moved from Massachusetts to Texas, the church gathered money to buy phone cards for immigrants to call their detained families in Texas.
Laredo, TX Iglesia Cristiana Misericordia, a large evangelical Hispanic church, held a National Immigrant Prayer Rally where church members fasted, prayed, and registered to vote on behalf of their many immigrant church members. This fasting and praying allowed the members to go to God with their concerns and created a spiritual dynamic to the immigration debate.