Some Baptists See Caravan of Central American Migrants as a Ministry Opportunity

Natanael Ramírez Villegas (third from left), pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Bethel in Santo Domingo, is pictured with a group of immigrants from Central America. (Photo courtesy of Natanael Ramírez)

While some politicians in the United States have referred to the caravan of Central American immigrants traveling toward the nation’s southern border as an “invasion,” some Baptists in Mexico and South Texas view the situation as a ministry opportunity.

Natanael Ramírez Villegas, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Bethel in Santo Domingo, a community near the Mexico/Guatemala border, began preparing for a ministry to immigrants last December.

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By the end of May of this year, his congregation and several other churches in the Convención Regional Bautista Costa de Chiapas—a regional Baptist association in southern Mexico—were offering food and spiritual care to immigrants passing through Tapachula. The churches focused their limited resources on providing aid to women, mothers with children, senior adults and people with disabilities, Ramírez explained.

“Everything begins with the call Jesus gave us to go to the nations, but now they are coming to us,” he said.

Ministry to the immigrants has opened the eyes of the churches that are participating in it, he said. He recalled one young girl who said, “They are walking right next to us, and now it is the right time to share the gospel with them and offer something for them to continue their journey.”

Fear of violence prompts migration
Although his interaction with immigrants is brief, Ramírez said, he has heard and seen why they leave their homes.

“I met a young woman who had made plans to leave home with her brother, but the day I met her she had just heard her brother was unable to leave Honduras and was killed by a gang,” Ramírez said.

Wars, drug violence, climate change, persecution and lack of opportunity are among the factors that explain why families leave their home countries, said Danny Carroll, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and author of Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible.

“We need to put this into a global perspective, because the same kind of desperate move that we’re seeing coming out of Honduras is the same kind of thing we’re seeing coming out of Sudan or Syria,” Carroll said.

Drug violence has permeated all aspects of society, and just like it happened in Colombia, the governments of Honduras and Guatemala have been infiltrated by the drug cartels, Carroll noted.

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SOURCE: Baptist Standard, Isa Torres

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