A small Hispanic congregation from the Distrito Hispano has been leading the way since last October 2018 by welcoming the stranger in its church.
Moved by the love of Christ toward its neighbors, a ministry of compassion was started by The Good Shepherd congregation in Mesa, Arizona, and Rev. Hector and Pastor Cecilia Ramirez. Due to the great crisis caused by the number of immigrants coming to the United States to seek asylum or refuge, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reached out to various Arizona churches to assist immigrant families.
ICE officials would take immigrants to bus stations once their status had been processed. Most of the time, the families didn’t have any idea of what to do next. ICE recognized that the involvement of churches more easily ensures that minors and parents can stay together rather than children being taken to detention centers.
The Good Shepherd church gladly responded to ICE’s request but soon realized it faced a big challenge: besides feeding the families, they needed to provide showers, toiletries, clean clothes and sometimes a place to sleep.
Part of immigrants’ day at the church also includes attending a service in the sanctuary, where they hear a message about hope. Through this regularly-offered message, nearly 300 men, women and children have placed their faith in Jesus.
At night, the sanctuary turns into temporary sleeping quarters where people usually stay for up to three days. Immigrants also receive three meals each day until they move on to their next destination.
Besides providing food and a place to stay, the church has helped purchase plane or bus tickets, assisted in getting individuals on the correct mode of transportation, provided snacks for the trip and supplied papers with English instructions so they can ask for help in being guided to connecting flights or buses.
God has provided an ample number of volunteers — cooks, doctors, nurses, people to distribute clothes, those who correspond via phone with the immigrants’ family members, as well as donations like toiletries, toys, bedding, blankets and pillows.
Rev. Ben Margeson from GracePoint Wesleyan Church in Brookings, South Dakota, took a team of volunteers to The Good Shepherd to help. Rev. Ashley Jennings and Village Church in Red Rock, Arizona, have provided donations and volunteer work, as have El Monte Wesleyan Christian Church (El Monte, California) with Rev. Asdrubal Chacon, and Monte de Sion (Los Angeles, California) with Pastor Daniel Nunez, as well as Revs. Eduardo & Paola Lopez.
The Ramirezes are grateful for the support given from fellow pastors and congregations. They recognize that God has been faithful and has provided everything they have needed to love their neighbors well. Those at The Good Shepherd greatly appreciate your prayers for this compassionate work to continue.
Johanna Rugh is the director of Spanish Ministry Education and Clergy Care for The Wesleyan Church.