Opening Our Hearts and Minds: Border Immersion Program through Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey
In the heart of a low-income Hispanic district in central El Paso, Texas, a church unlike any other is changing peoples’ hearts and minds. At the epicenter of the immigration crisis, on the frontera (border), Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey (ELCA) ministers to mainly first generation immigrants and families on both sides of the border but welcomes everyone.
Out of a humble street-front building, the church is a hive of activity with community programs, English classes, after school and summer activities, youth ministry, and an active downtown presence.
But here is the real game-changer. They host a Border Immersion Program which is designed to “consider border issues through a Christian perspective.” In this week-long program, participants from around the U.S. are encouraged to come with an open mind and heart and study the social issues that affect this border area. Visiting the border and talking to border patrol agents, attending deportation hearings at court, meeting with an immigration lawyer, talking with a doctor who runs a free clinic to serve refugees, and going to the wall and talking with people who have been deported: these are just some of the life-changing activities that are part of this program.
Recently, Edmonds Lutheran Church came to Holy Spirit to share their week-long experience with us. “The Border Immersion Program may be considered a reverse mission trip because the border and its people will teach and minister to your group. When you return home, you will have stories and reflections to share with family and friends” and this is exactly what the group from Edmonds did. They were clearly, deeply, and forever impacted by what they saw and experienced, and amazed at the generosity and vision of their hosts.
The leadership of the ELCA and LIRS (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services) has recently addressed the continued crisis at our southern border. “Our nation and its leaders have moral and legal obligation on behalf of those who seek safety in our land”, stated Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. She continued, “We follow a Lord who instructed, ‘let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’. Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of LIRS, made the following statement, “We are shutting our doors to refugees during the worst global and migration crisis in recorded history. During this critical and unsettling time […] we must live boldly into our Lutheran faith tradition and our legacy of courageous and compassionate welcome.”
In response to the presentation by Edmonds Lutheran, the dedication and inspiration of Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey and the guidance of our national leadership, the HSLC Refugee Resettlement Committee and Social Justice Ministry Committee have made a $2,000 donation to Iglesia using your designated gifts to our Ministry in the World fund. Thank you for your on-going support.
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Want to know more about Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey and the Border Immersion Program? (the video is GREAT!): https://iglesiacristorey.wixsite.com/borderimmersion
Want to read the Bishop’s complete article?: https://elca.org/News-and- Events/7975
Want to read the LIRS letter?: https://www.lirs.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Letter-LIRS-ELCA.pdf