Suffer the Children
by Dian Kidd, UBA Associate Director
More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 have crossed our southern borders since October 2013, almost twice as many as during the previous year. The numbers continue to grow. Over 75% of those children are from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. (See data at www.cbp.gov)
Children are crowded in packed government facilities that are stretched for resources. AP photos show children sleeping under Red Cross blankets on the floor in holding cells, peering through glass door, and sitting on concrete floors.
In an effort to relieve the crowding, Children are being housed temporarily in many areas in Texas including San Antonio, Galveston, Brownsville, Dallas, and possibly in the future, Houston.
Communities are in conflict as protesters blocking the arrival of buses bring immigrants to detention centers face off against immigration activists calling for compassion. Border security has been increased; the controversy rages at local and national levels as to how to handle the final disposition of these minors; government officials point fingers at one another; and the children continue to arrive.
In the midst of this, the church must determine how we can respond as followers of Christ.
Texas Baptist Men have responded. In May, TBM volunteers in Brownsville, TX washed more than 1,200 loads of laundry and provided shower units for 1,800 showers after receiving a call for assistance with the influx of unaccompanied minors. The Texas Baptist Standard reports on the story in which Volunteer Harold Patterson says, "When we'd wash laundry, we'd find phone numbers written inside underwear with a marker or little pieces of paper pinned to clothes" [as the only clues available to link children to prospective adult guardians in the U.S. His wife, Kathy, describes one 3-year-old child "traveling with a group of youths he didn't know" and carrying an envelope with information about who to contact.
The Christian Life Commission has responded. In a recently passed resolution, the CLC calls upon Texas Baptist "to remember the many biblical injunctions about caring for the 'stranger' or immigrant, as reflected in the words of Jesus, 'I was a stranger and you welcomed me.'" The resolution encourages churches to create welcoming communities, to respond to the need for spiritual support, and to pray for the people of Central America, for the children, and for those responding to them. (read full text)
Texas Baptists (BGCT) have responded. In preparation for the 2,000 unaccompanied children scheduled to arrive in Dallas for temporary shelter, the Baptist General Convention of Texas has establish a fund, identified as For the Children, for those interested in donating to support programs assisting the children.
The Southern Baptists of Texas have responded. Funds are being collected through the Disaster Relief Ministry to be made available to churches along the border responding to this crisis.
Soon, Houston may have our chance to respond more directly. Recently, authorities visited Houston to explore possible sites for temporarily housing children as they await adjudication.
However you choose to respond, pray for these children who are far from home and in harm's way.
BORDER MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES
Current channels for response directly to unaccompanied children remains limited. Options for Response and Ministry are expanded to include families and general compassion ministries to those crossing the borders.
Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls
McAllen & Laredo
(pdf download here)
Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery Volunteer Site
Yellow Cap Certification will be required to minister through Texas Baptist Men and SBC Disaster Relief Call Outs.
Next TBM Orientation
Next SBTC Training