Baptists in New Mexico Continue to Aid Migrants as Border Crisis Continues

The city of Deming declared a emergency after the U.S. Border Patrol began releasing asylum-seeking migrants in the community after they are processed and waiting for a hearing. The community has responded with help, including two BCNM churches. | A group of asylum-seeking migrants from Guatemala and El Salvador wait for a bus in Deming, N.M. Photo by Xchelzin Peña/Deming Headlight

Serving asylum-seeking migrants is as simple as “a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name” says Frieda Adams, a former 20-year veteran Southern Baptist missionary and current coordinator for medical personnel in New Mexico’s Dona Ana County.

Adams is one of many Baptists in New Mexico providing humanitarian assistance to asylum-seeking migrants vetted and released by United States Customs and Border Patrol agents, en route to approved immigration sponsors in other parts of the country.

In the nearly three months since U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began releasing asylum-seeking migrants in the border state, at least eight churches affiliated with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico have provided, or are currently providing, assistance to migrants in three communities — Albuquerque, Deming and Las Cruces. Several New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief (NMBDR) volunteers have also provided assistance.

Albuquerque

On March 14, following a meeting with several local faith-based ministries and representatives from the City of Albuquerque’s Emergency Management Office, NMBDR Director Ira Shelton, began mobilizing his team to respond to the needs of migrants. Between March 14 and 26, NMBDR volunteers prepared and distributed approximately 320 meals. Sandia Baptist Church, Albuquerque, allowed NMBDR to use their commercial grade kitchen to prepare those meals. Shelton, citing Matthew 25, said if New Mexico Baptists “can bring hope, help and healing, then that’s what we need to do.”

On April 22, approximately 30 members of First Baptist Church of West Albuquerque served lunch to migrants in Rio Rancho, a suburb of Albuquerque.

The church’s pastor, Stephen Baum, said the congregation’s response is not political, but rather, the priority is to “put food in hungry bellies and do that in the name of Christ and just show the love of Jesus to these folks.” NMBDR provided equipment for the meal, while the church covered the cost of the food.

Las Cruces

In mid-April, Calvary Baptist Church in Las Cruces partnered with Peace Lutheran Church and other local faith-based organizations to feed and house asylum seekers in their community. Dennis Garcia, a North American Mission Board church planting catalyst for southern New Mexico, and a member of Calvary, said in April that the situation provides “an opportunity to be light to our neighbors.”

“They may not be our physical, tangible neighbors for long,” he noted, “but during the time that they are in our city they are the people God is bringing and we have an opportunity to be a tangible expression of God’s love and grace and mercy in their lives.”

Adams, who works closely with Calvary, said that she was “extremely grateful” for the church’s efforts, adding that serving migrants is “about obeying Matthew 25. It’s about being the hands and feet of Jesus.”

In a July 3 written statement, Garcia said, “right now the number of families coming to Las Cruces [is] much lower than just a few weeks ago. This is good in the sense that aid workers have a more manageable situation. However, it also means these families are being held at the federal detention centers longer.”

Another church member is working to schedule and coordinate medical care for shelters in the city.

As of July 3, Garcia said he is “working with Border Servant Corps to assist with systems development and strategic planning.” Border Service Corps is a Las Cruces-based nonprofit organization that “promotes and demonstrates justice, kindness, and humility through the exploration of community, simplicity, social justice, and spirituality in the U.S. and Mexico border region,” according to its website. Border Service Corps is not in partnership with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico (BCNM) or the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Source: Baptist Press