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Amid border crisis, government works with faith-based groups
NASHVILLE (BP) -- The surge of unaccompanied children from Central America illegally crossing the U.S. border has prompted renewed discussion of how government and faith-based organizations can partner to meet humanitarian needs during times of crisis. Some assert that such partnerships are helpful to both faith groups and government.The relationship between government and disaster relief teams from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) is a "perfect match," Scottie Stice, SBTC interim director of disaster relief ministry, told Baptist Press. "To work with government is not anything that is uncommon."
More than 47,000 children were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol for crossing the border illegally between October 2013 and May 2014, with the possibility of 90,000 being apprehended by the end of the 2014 fiscal year Sept. 30, the Brookings Institute reported. In comparison, 24,481 unaccompanied children were apprehended in 2012 and 38,833 in 2013.
The massive number of children fleeing poverty and violence in Central America has prompted the federal government to call on faith-based groups to assist, including SBCT Disaster Relief; the Georgia Baptist Children's Homes and Family Ministries; BCFS, a partner organization with the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT); Texas Baptist Men, another BGCT cooperating partner.
Most SBTC DR deployments occur in response to requests from churches, Baptist associations, local governments, the state of Texas and, in the case of the immigration crisis, the federal government, Stice said.
When the Federal Emergency Management Agency contacted SBTC DR in May, Texas Southern Baptists responded by providing 434 volunteer days of labor at the Brownsville Border Patrol Station over a three-week period. Volunteers prepared 21,000 meals for more than 1,300 children while providing shower and laundry facilities as well. SBTC volunteers also distributed 181 Bibles and 1,213 Gospel tracts and presented the Gospel four times.
Stice said reports that Christian ministries have not been allowed to discuss spiritual matters with immigrant children are inaccurate.
"With the border crisis, we were actually on a federal installation," Stice said. "We weren't there to conduct Sunday School or Vacation Bible School obviously, but we interacted with the kids. We know that some of the kids were Christians because we were talking to them -- those of us who spoke Spanish. It wasn't an atmosphere where we were able to do evangelism, but we were able to interact with the kids."
Stanley Carlson-Thies, president of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, told BP that some faith-based organizations are natural partners with government during crises even though government funds cannot be used to fund explicitly religious services. He used the analogy of salads and brownies to explain what types of services are appropriate for religious organizations to provide in partnership with government. Read More
At Texas-Mexico border, First Baptist's volunteer team assists at processing centerMcALLEN, Texas (BP) -- A chain-link fence along the sidewalk separated De Dorman and the rest of McAllen, Texas, from the immigrant processing center set up at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Beyond the fence, khaki-colored tents stood tethered to the asphalt parking lot. Generators ran air conditioning units in each tent, keeping the temperature somewhere near 70 degrees ... Read More
At border, Baptist leaders see hope among child detainees
SAN ANTONIO (BP) -- Southern Baptist leaders recognized something when they toured federal government facilities for children who have fled to the United States without their parents -- hope.Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Russell D. Moore, the SBC's lead ethicist, joined others in tours Tuesday (July 22) of two centers established to address the crisis of unaccompanied minors crossing America's southern border."These children are not issues to be resolved but persons bearing dignity and needing care."The centers in McAllen and San Antonio, Texas, are part of the response to a wave that includes more than 57,000 underage children who have been apprehended at the border with Mexico in the last nine months. Most of the children -- and sometimes children accompanied by a young parent or parents -- have fled Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which are plagued not only by poverty but by violence among gangs involved in drug trafficking.
-- Russell D. Moore
"I was struck as we were walking through the facility with two things: a sense of fear and a sense of hope," Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in a written statement. "A sense of fear when I asked the kids why they made the trek up to the United States. And a sense of hope: I saw many crosses and Bibles. Many people are desperately hoping for an end to the violence where they come from."
Floyd said, "These are real people who are looking for hope, and we have the greatest hope that anyone can give them. ... [W]e need to provide them that hope -- hope that we love them, hope that we care for them, hope most of all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that will change their life and give them hope forever, whether they remain in the United States or they go back to their homeland.
"People will go a long way and tackle obstacles when they feel that hope is possible. They are hoping for a better life," Floyd said.
Floyd and Moore were among pastors and other religious leaders who walked through a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention center in McAllen and a Department of Health and Human Services shelter in San Antonio. Among those participating in one or both of the tours hosted by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention were Jim Richards, the SBTC's executive director; Daniel Flores, the Roman Catholic bishop of Brownsville, Texas; and SBTC pastors. Read More
Caring for child refugees, church is 'stretched' at Texas border 'to be more like Christ'McALLEN, Texas (BP) -- While most of America sees the border crisis on the nightly news, leaders at Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, Texas, recognize it as a mission field in their own backyard. Read More
SBC leaders to tour border facilitiesWASHINGTON (BP) -- Southern Baptist national and state leaders will tour federal government facilities being used to address the crisis of unaccompanied children crossing America's southern border. Read More
FIRST-PERSON: The road to Jericho & the border crisis
Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, describes the influx of Central American children into the U.S. as "more akin to the situations we've seen on the African continent, with warlords dealing in human trafficking. These children and families are fleeing a drug war exploding in violence all around them." Read More
Child refugees summon ministry, compassion"[O]ur instinct ought to be one of compassion toward those in need, not disgust or anger."WASHINGTON (BP) -- The crisis of unaccompanied children and others crossing America's southern border is more than a political problem to Southern Baptist pastor Shannon Talley. Read More
-- Russell D. Moore
CALL TO PRAYER: Responding to the crisisSouthern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd addresses the crisis of Latin American children flooding across the Texas border. He urges that love be extended to the refugee children; that the immigration system be fixed; and that Christians pray diligently. Read More