A young man who looked about the age of my daughters (mid to late-20s), stepped to the microphone at a recent meeting. Eddie shared that about 20 years ago when he was 4, he and his mother came to the United States. Like so many today, they came on foot. They were hungry, foot sore and determined to have a better life. Like many refugees, they were detained by our Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as their stories and qualifications for refugee status were investigated. Eddie has a few memories from that time; he remembers the cold, they were always so cold. He still remembers the trauma to his mother when people tried to separate them. She would not allow them to take him and they remained together through the process. Eddie is a documented, contributing member of our society, a community organizer, and a man with deeply held American values. He said, “All we ask for is an opportunity.” I saw a young man who in many ways is so like my own daughters. Another woman, Marta, shared that she came to our country 26 years ago as a refugee with young children. She wanted to join our military. It took her 16 years to get her permanent residency, but she followed the rules. She also served in our military and is now a retired veteran. Do you know what the number reason is that people are fleeing to our country? Take a few guesses before reading on. The director of ICE told one of the organizers the main reason people are fleeing to our country is illegal organ trafficking. The best organs come from teenagers. They are finding murdered children with their organs removed.
I realize that immigration is a contentious issue in our country and in our churches. The folks that I am talking about in this article are coming through the legal process. They have been detained by ICE, checked out, and entered into our legal system to become legal refugees. These people have sponsors who will care for them and a court date that has been assigned to them. In Tucson, our Desert Southwest Conference was approached by ICE and at their request our conference set up a shelter that temporarily houses people who have been released from detention and are on their way to sponsors in other parts of the country. This shelter ministry became The Inn. The Inn’s hospitality includes shelter, showers, clothing, food, and help in getting to the bus station or airport. See more about The Inn at www.dscumc.org/theinnproject. We are working with our enforcement and legal system not against it. Surely offering the people compassion, hospitality, and short-term assistance is something we can all support.
There is an urgent need to provide the same kind of hospitality in the metropolitan Phoenix area. There are now folks in similar situations being left on the streets with no place to go and no one to help them make arrangements to get to their sponsors. The need for hospitality is great. Since the beginning of this year there are days where up to 300 persons; men, women, and children are dropped off on the side of a street with no resources to support themselves. Fortunately, churches like City Square UMF and partner organizations like All Hands Arizona have stepped in to help. There are so many ways to help and our community partners have leaders for each area who are ready to help you help others. Here are a few:
Family Hosting and Hospitality – churches or individuals who have space can temporarily host a family(s). The average stay is 2 nights. The folks are looking for a safe place to shower and sleep. Providing them with some food for their 2-3 day bus journeys would also be helpful.
On-Site Volunteering – City Square UMF and other churches who are hosting families need volunteers to act as hosts and cooks, to play with the children, to offer a smiling face, to do a wide variety of tasks. Bilingual people are very much appreciated. Volunteer at a sister church.
Transportation – provide transportation and guidance to the bus station or airport. The leader of this task also gives them a bag of items for the trip, a map of the U.S. and a page with typical signs in the airport or bus station they need to follow. Backpacks supplies can be found at https://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/373OH0G2GWOSW/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_ws_jqdKCb7XJ4Y2N. They include a lightweight like-new backpack, deodorant, toothpaste & toothbrush, tissues, lip balm, lotion (all travel-sized), plastic reusable water bottle, small comb, small notebook & pen, travel snacks (peanut butter crackers or chips, granola bar & a sweet item), sandwich, quart, and gallon zip lock bags. Kids bags include: colorful drawstring bag, small toy or stuffed animal, activity pad or small coloring book. Other items: 5-6 sanitary napkins sealed into a zip lock bag for women, 5 diapers in a gallon zip lock with a sandwich bag full (1/3 inch) of baby wipes. Label bag with diaper size.
Food Preparation and Serving – provide meals at an on-site location like City Square UMF.
Clothing – donate clothing (any child size up to adult medium: winter jackets, pants, shirts, shoes, shoe laces) or help sort clothing. If you want to help but are uncomfortable around strangers this is a good task for you. There is a desperate need for people to sort clothing. Typically, they do it on Saturdays from 10:00 AM-2:00 PM.
Medical Assistance – community partner 100 Angels is organizing this effort. If you have medical training join a group who does triage and minor medical care (this group has 60 medical professionals in it now). They have a list on Amazon’s baby registry of items they need.
Translate/Travel Coordination – community partner The Last Mile provides pre-paid phone kits to families with the contact number of two translators to help them during their journeys and in case of an emergency. A phone kit costs $50. Many families return the phones when they get to their destinations. Want to help? Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or your church want to get involved, contact, Billie Fidlin BFidlin@dscumc.org, Beth Rambikur (BRambikur@dscumc.org) or me. To volunteer for any of the tasks above communicate with the leaders directly by texting 81010 and putting in the message @ahazhost to host a family, @onsitev to volunteer at a site, @clothingdo to donate or help with clothing, or to help with transportation @drivingst. Still have questions? You may contact me at NCushman@dscumc.org.
Jesus said two statements that sum up the requirements of our faith – love God with all you are and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:36-40) We have an opportunity to offer our neighbors compassion, hospitality, and hope at a time they are extremely vulnerable. Please be generous. I will be working with the West District leadership team to offer a district-wide mission project to help with this need. Stay tuned for more details…