Christian Churches on Both Sides of Mexico-U.S. Border Prepare to Minister to Immigrant Caravan

Jorge Zapata

Pastors and ministry leaders on both sides of the Mexico-United States border are gearing up to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the immigrant caravan that began in Latin America and now is marching through Mexico toward the United States.

A coalition of churches on both sides of the border, including pastors from Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa, Mexico, and from Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, met with Jorge Zapata, associate coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Texas, and other leaders to plan frontline ministry to the immigrants.

South Texas ministers involved in the effort include Alvaro Corales, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Alamo; Chad Mason, missions pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen; and Lorenzo Ortiz, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel in Laredo. They will create a Facebook page and website to provide consistent updates on the coalition’s ministry, as well as opportunities for supporting the missions endeavor.

‘United, not divided’
The coalition of churches is a nonpartisan, ecumenical endeavor, Zapata said.

“We are working together for ministry, for the good of the people,” he emphasized. “We are united, not divided.”

Participating organizations include the Assemblies of God; the Baptist General Convention of Texas; Children’s Hunger Fund; Child Fund; the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and its regional affiliates CBF Texas and Fellowship Southwest; Convención Bautista Hispana de Texas; Define American; Hearts4Kids; Pentecostal congregations; the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association; the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; Way of the Cross Ministries; and nondenominational congregations in the region.

The Mexican government also has indicated its support for the ministry, promising to open shelters for the immigrants and urging churches and other ministries to feed and serve the immigrants through the shelters, Zapata said. The Mexican government advised congregations not to open their facilities or members’ homes to caravan participants.

If the caravan reaches the U.S. border at McAllen—the quickest route—it will arrive between the weekend after Thanksgiving and the first weekend of December, reported Ryan Eller, executive director of Define American. Meanwhile, members of the Families Belong Together Coalition are traveling toward the caravan and will provide updates on progress and needs, he said.

The U.S. government still is considering options for how it will respond when the caravan reaches the border, Eller added. Stays in detention could range from brief to extended, depending on the immigrants’ status regarding asylum and visas.

Also, if it follows the pattern of previous caravans, this one is likely to dissipate before it reaches the border, he said. Some immigrants will drop out, and some will separate from the larger group. Still, hundreds of people are expected to seek entrance into the United States. With Mexican and U.S. government plans in place, they will need ministry and support in northern Mexico, he added.

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SOURCE: Baptist Standard; Fellowship Southwest, Marv Knox