University Christian Church Deepens its Relationship with Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries
UCC Responds to the Border Refugee Crisis with an Increase in Donation
In response to the unending human tragedy concerning refugees on our southern border, University Christian Church’s Outreach Council has extended its continual support for UCC’s financial commitment to Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries (SWGSM).
We initially donated $100,000 to the organization in 2015. Given the current immigration situation and the future needs of immigrants and refugees who will be assisted by SWGSM, our Outreach Council presented a proposal to the UCC Church Board to for an additional $50,000. When you combine the $50,000 grant that Northway Christian Church of Dallas gave SWGSM with that church’s further offer to match contributions up to $50,000, UCC believes our increased donation can make a powerful impact on ministry to these individuals and families who are in desperate need.
Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries (SWGSM) was founded in 1985 by Reverend Feliberto Pereira. A prisoner in Cuba under Fidel Castro, Feliberto was imprisoned because he refused to obey an order not to preach. Upon his release, he made his way to the United States on a “Freedom Flight,” and soon settled in Los Fresnos, TX.
Determined to be a Good Samaritan to all immigrants who were in the situation with which he was personally familiar, Rev. Pereira established Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries with the specific purpose of aiding refugees seeking asylum in the United States, primarily from Cuba and Central America. Working closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries has helped more than 20,000 refugees begin life anew by sharing the love of Jesus Christ through gifts given “to the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40) Services offered to refugees and asylum seekers include housing, food, clothing, legal aid, transportation, family reunification, and counseling.
In response to the current debacle along the border, Reverend Pereira shared the following:
“Over the last 33 years, most of the people we serve have come fleeing for their lives. I myself was a political prisoner under Fidel Castro in Cuba. I suffered the conditions of torture on my mind, body, and spirit. I can tell quickly if someone is a real survivor or telling me a ‘make-believe’ story.
The situation in Central America now, and for many years, is one where poverty and wars cause broken relationships and broken families. While not everyone turns to drugs, gangs, and cartels, to escape the pain, the whole community experiences the effects. Few are spared, and some come under intensely cruel violence and torture. Many are killed. Many flee the country in credible fear for their lives.
The governments are unable to control this violence, and sometimes they are in collusion with the gangs and cartels. Parents are forced to either watch their children starve or be tortured, or seek a better life in the U.S. If they choose the latter option, they face the additional choice of either leaving their children behind or making the dangerous journey with them.
Sadly, the children left behind are often subject to additional violence and poverty. Having seen this pattern, many parents feel compelled to escape with the clothes on their backs and the child they love. Almost every single person has been tortured, sometimes by the gangs, the police, or the army. Still, they move on to get to the U.S. border to apply for asylum. Scars – physical, mental, and spiritual – abound.
As Disciples of Christ, Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries belongs to a Christian tradition which is committed to using our hearts, our heads, and our bodies to answer God’s call to justice (Micah 6:8). But, what is justice in this situation? If this is the man by the side of the road, will we be the Good Samaritan?
Immigration is not a blanket entry ticket into the United States for everyone. It is our call to justice that families must be kept together, that courts must be properly staffed, that humane conditions are for everyone – every one of God’s children, without exception.
Here is what we know at this point:
The situation on the border is constantly changing. The more we plan, the more effective we are in creating a better situation for the children and families. But, we have absolutely no time frame on this, and, as they say, the best laid plans…
Presidential orders are given and can be enacted immediately, or they could take weeks or months. The families could go only to federally funded centers, or they could be left to their own resources, which are almost non-existent. SWGSM could ultimately help 60 families, or none. So, planning, flexibility, and prayer are all needed. Also, to be blunt, we need the financial resources to do our work.
Over the next weeks, we hope you will be in prayer for our staff, volunteers, and all of those who are in detention and newly released. Especially pray for the healing of the children and their caretakers.
When the situation improves, it will not go away completely. The children and families will be HERE, and they will need to be reunited. It is unclear when and how that will happen and if the government will pay for the transportation to reunite them. They will need to rejoin each other and then travel to friends, family, and newly assigned immigrant courts across the U.S.
Typically, released immigrants are just put on the street in front of the detention center. This is how it has always been done. If they are lucky, someone calls us, and we are there to pick them up, provide food, clothes, spiritual care, housing (if needed), and put them on the bus with tickets to their new home.
We know from long experience, and from recent trends, of these regular needs:
- Communication with family
- Medical and mental health care (especially provided in fluent Spanish)
- Safe transportation, with money for food along the way
We know that our ability to provide health care, even for a few days, could be taxed by the fact that, even on a sliding scale, it is expensive and overcrowded. And, we know that the average cost of transportation to family and friends is $350 per person.
Opponents of our work and greater border concerns in general often say that immigration is a “cushy deal.” It is not. Detention is still detention, not freedom. Justice requires commitment, not cruelty. And we are still Christians, and that requires us to give beyond our comfort, and to trust and believe in God.
We will pray together and work together toward the good for all our brothers and sisters, for the children, in God’s Holy Name. ¡Bienvenidos!”
UCC will evaluate the value of the gift with the stories of those whose lives are enriched by the caring ministry of SWGSM. Legal aid provided, basic human needs met, families reunited, hope rekindled, gratitude expressed, a chance to live as God intends all people to live are the measurements of the value of this proposal.
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