“Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a desert road.) So he got up and went. On the road he encountered an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home, sitting in his chariot, reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked him, ‘Do you understand what you’re reading?’ The man replied, ‘How in the world can I, unless someone guides me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and join the journey” (Acts 8:26-31, NET).
The seventh annual Immigrant Connection Conference commenced with a reflection on Acts 8. The Holy Spirit prompts Philip to travel on a specific road where he would encounter an Ethiopian eunuch. Here, Philip is given a second call — to join (kollaō in the Greek translation) the Ethiopian. Kollaō is the root word for glue in Greek, and in telling Philip to kollaō with the Ethiopian, the Holy Spirit says to join his journey, share life with him and stick to him like glue!
Rev. Zach Szmara, executive director of Immigrant Connection, reminded conference attendees this same call extends to the church today. As Philip was called to kollaō with the Ethiopian, a foreigner — we’re also called to kollaō with our immigrant neighbors, colleagues and community members. We’re called to build connections and meaningful relationships with immigrants.
This reflection was an affirmation and deep encouragement to the nearly 90 conference participants who understand and actively live out the call to kollaō in their work and ministries across the country. The staff members of the Immigrant Connection Legal Network who gathered for this conference are from church-hosted Immigrant Connection local sites that are focused on providing welcome and service to the immigrant families. In fact, this legal network has collectively served over 17,000 immigrant families since 2014!
The Immigrant Connection Legal Network is made up of 23 local sites around the nation providing immigration legal services — services that allow immigrants to gain or maintain lawful immigration status. Immigration legal services are critical for the health and well-being of immigrant families and their communities, so this legal network is committed to joining the journeys of immigrant families and providing high-quality services in their communities and regions.
In addition to the focused legal training time, peer-to-peer learning and best-practice sharing, this conference was a celebration of the values that propel the organization forward in its mission to make immigration legal services available to every immigrant family in the United States.
The values that uphold Immigrant Connection are:
The life and teachings of Jesus compel us to love, welcome and value immigrants. We affirm the rights of immigrant families, each made in the image of God, and we are committed to seeing immigrant families thrive in their local communities.
We are committed to excellence and innovation as we build programs and systems to train, launch, and resource a national network of sustainable sites that are able to offer high-quality immigration legal services in local communities.
A church-based model enables us to bring immigration legal services access to hard-to-reach communities in a sustainable manner: (1) churches exist in nearly every town/city, (2) church-hosted sites drastically reduce start-up and overhead costs, and (3) churches are trusted local entities.
Our training and leadership model is focused on “home-grown” leaders, experts, and staff. We equip and empower individuals to become immigration legal experts in their own localities and to serve their own neighbors, communities, and regions through immigration legal services.
We build authentic, mutual partnerships in order to make a lasting impact for immigrant families. Every partner is creating with us a future where all immigrants have access to immigration legal services.
Immigrant Connection’s values have been foundational to the organization’s growth over the last eight years. Immigrant Connection continues to be the largest and fastest-growing church-based legal network in the country. In 2022, five new sites opened, and Immigrant Connection staff members are on pace to serve over 6,000 immigrant families this year. Sites opened in 2022 were:
- Immigrant Connection at Celebrate Church, Mankato, Minnesota
- Immigrant Connection at La Gran Comision Wesleyan Church, Columbus, Ohio
- Immigrant Connection at Hart Wesleyan Church, Hart, Michigan
- Immigrant Connection in the Valley, McAllen, Texas
- Immigrant Connection — Awaken City, Boston, Massachusetts.
In the conference’s plenary sessions and workshops, Immigrant Connection staff members gained valuable insights and training, as well as a clearer vision of how to bring more and better services to immigrant families across the nation. This legal network returned to their respective sites and communities with a deeper passion and commitment to kollaō.
Learn more about Immigrant Connection and how you can join the call to kollaō:
Sera Han leads Communications for Immigrant Connection.