Every day as many as 400 vulnerable children cross the border between Mexico and the U.S. Their numbers have surged, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors coming into the U.S. during the past nine months and as many as 100,000 expected by the end of the year.
Three-fourths of the children traveling without an adult come from three Central American countries: Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. According to reports, parents and families are sending children to the U.S. so they can escape violence and poverty. The U.S. federal systems designed to take detained minors through required legal processes have proved inadequate to meet the demands of the recent influx of unprotected children and youth.
In light of the developing humanitarian crisis taking place along the southern U.S. border, the Church of the Nazarene is actively assessing the situation to determine the best ways the church can be involved in meeting the needs of these children.
The greatest need is creating temporary shelter for the children as they go through the legal system that determines their permanent placement. According to U.S. law, children who are detained at the border must be housed and protected while they go through these judicial proceedings and other legal processes.
In response, the Church of the Nazarene partnered with the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) and other faith-based organizations to provide temporary shelter through a federal grant for unaccompanied minors. Gabriel Salguero, co-pastor of The Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in New York City and president of NaLEC, is leading the multi-agency response.
“Our focus is doing ministry with these children while they are in our country,” Salguero said. “These are real children real lives. As a church, we cannot turn our backs on them.”
As part of the joint project, two Nazarene churches are slated to provide ongoing shelter and care to vulnerable, unaccompanied youth. These churches will create child development centers equipped to give emergency relief to between 25 and 100 children at a time for up to 18 months. The centers will provide shelter, food, clothing, education, counseling, spiritual care, and legal assistance for youth ages 13 to 17.
Joel Tooley, pastor of the Tavares, Florida, Church of the Nazarene, will coordinate the denomination’s multi-faceted response. Tooley confirmed six Nazarene districts are currently involved in direct ministry to children impacted by the border crisis.
“For over a month, leaders have been assessing the complex landscape of this crisis,” he said. “While there are many sensitive issues surrounding this situation, we are reminded that our focus as the church must remain on these vulnerable children.”
The Church of the Nazarene will continue to respond with care for vulnerable minors in the following ways:
Prayer: The U.S. church was invited by its government to participate in the active care of children; this is a significant opportunity for the church to serve with prayer.
Support: Church leaders on the USA/Canada Region are focused on creating temporary child development centers in Florida, New York, Texas, and Arizona. As temporary centers open, opportunities for short-term employment or volunteers may arise. Those who would like to financially support efforts to minister to children caught in this crisis can give through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.
Advocacy: Church leaders invite U.S. citizens to advocate on behalf of vulnerable children and for reformed immigration laws that reflect biblical values.
The Board of General Superintendents endorsed the efforts of the Evangelical Immigration Table. They are joined by leaders of other denominations and Christian organizations, including Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent of The Wesleyan Church; Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; William A. Roberts, national commander of The Salvation Army; Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family; Stephan Bauman, president and CEO of World Relief; William Robinson, interim president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; and Daniel F. Flores, president of Sociedad Wesleyana.
“I am confident that our churches will respond appropriately,” said David Busic, Church of the Nazarene general superintendent. “We will open our hearts to anyone who is in need. The Father of the fatherless urges us He compels us to respond to these children with care and compassion.”
For more information on how you can become involved, contact email@example.com or a U.S.-based district ministry center.
–Nazarene Compassionate Ministries
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