A Cup of Cold Water:

Providing Relief and Love at the Border

Young asylum seeker gets ready for rest after her long journey.   All photo credits: Laurie Smith Photography

Young asylum seeker gets ready for rest after her long journey.

All photo credits: Laurie Smith Photography

Anglicans are Making a Difference at the border, and they need your help!

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For the most up-to-date information about St. Clement’s ministries at the border, please see their new website and ministry ABARA: https://www.abarafrontiers.org.

This article was written in March of 2019

Girl eats dinner while playing with new doll.

Girl eats dinner while playing with new doll.

For the two last years, the Church of St. Clement (Anglican) in El Paso had opened its doors monthly to house 30 of the many Central American asylum seekers pouring into El Paso, TX in search of safety and rest.

Once a month they pick up several vans full of those requesting asylum and provide them three days of a safe place to sleep, food to eat, showers, clothing and even toys for the children. Then they help these individuals and families connect to their sponsors and to the place where they will await their asylum hearings. While the seekers are at the church, they are given Spanish New Testaments and receive prayer from on site intercessors. If they are still there by Sunday morning, they attend the Holy Eucharist at Rey de Paz, St. Clement’s Spanish-language congregation.

When St. Clement’s began this ministry, they were helping meet a practical need. Today, they are trying to address a crisis. Each day, 300-700 asylum seekers pass legally through the US Border checkpoint in El Paso. Then Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement (ICE) loads them up into buses and drives them into El Paso’s downtown, and drops them off with no further assistance. While the federal government does have money allocated for the purpose of housing asylum seekers, as does the United Nations, the funds are blocked from use due to the complex US political debates around immigration. Consequently, ICE has requested that the churches and non-profits of El Paso help; St. Clement’s is one of the churches that answered the call.

While the national debate on immigration rages, how do we respond to an immediate crisis? When the vestry of the Church of St. Clement was asked permission to begin this ministry, they prayed for a month, and then voted unanimously to approve it. “It didn't matter that our immigration system is broken,” explained Rector Bill Cobb, “the ‘refugees’ that are released by ICE and granted temporary legal status tell stories of the profound human need and desperation that led them to journey to the United States. We are reminded of Jesus words, ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40).”

“The refugees released by ICE and granted temporary legal status tell stories of the profound human need and desperation that led them to journey to the United States.”

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The rising tide of asylum seekers from Central America is taking a great toll on the resources and volunteers of the churches attempting to meet this need. And yet the need persists and grows. The team at St. Clement’s, together with Ciudad Nueva, the community outreach mission they founded, is hoping to expand their services, but they need the help of the wider church. This is a national crisis. They just happen to be the ones closest to it. A fully humane, and Gospel-centered response will require many more willing hands and hearts.

Several churches and bishops throughout the Anglican Church of North America have already pledged to support this ministry in various ways. Bishop Eric Menees (Diocese of San Joaquin), who has personal ministry ties to Central America writes,

Praise God for Ciudad Nueva and St. Clement’s for stepping up to the plate and serving "Angels unawares" by offering hospitality to strangers. The Diocese of San Joaquin and I will support this ministry!

Recently, Bishop Mark Zimmerman (Anglican Diocese of the Southwest) and his wife Cindy also volunteered for several days at St. Clement’s.

While all of their help is great start, the need is overwhelming. St. Clement’s/ Cuidad Nueva is praying that the Lord will move more hearts to take part in this ministry in the coming months.

Here’s what we can do:

1) Pray:

Please pray for the situation at the border and especially in El Paso. Pray for the members and volunteers at St. Clement’s and for the many people they are helping.

2) Donate:

In order to more effectively minister to the needs of the asylum seekers, St. Clement’s would like to hire a full time staff person through Ciudad Nueva to help facilitate and increase this ministry. This person would not only minister out of St. Clement’s but help coordinate such ministries throughout the city. (Currently there are only 2 paid staff doing such work in the whole city!) The Anglican Immigrant Initiative is trying to help Ciudad raise $25,000 as a match for a Matthew 25 Grant. You can donate now through Ciudad Nueva’s website.

St. Clement’s will also accept donations to bring food and supplies to asylum seekers in shelters. At the moment, due to the remain in Mexico policy, many asylum seekers are waiting in Mexico. As such the St. Clement’s/ Cuidad Nueva team regularly crosses the border, buys supplies in Mexico and then distributes them to the immigrants. Due to the complications of brining supplies over the borders, monetary donations are the most helpful at the moment.

3) Volunteer

St. Clement’s truly needs volunteer groups to come help them. They are tired and in need of some fresh energy. Consider bringing a group of 6-12 volunteers from your church for 4-6 days at a time. They’ll have you welcoming refugees, making beds, cooking meals, stocking shelves, and praying with their weary guests.

To volunteer please email: sami@ciudadnueva.org or blanca@ciudadnueva.org

Cuidad Nueva is also willing to provide groups with “BORDER ENCOUNTERS.”

Spend 2-5 days immersed in the realities of the US-Mexico border as you explore, listen, serve and reflect

Border encounters will help groups grow in understanding about what is happening at the border, study what the scripture has to say about immigrants, and reflect on how Christians might respond in a way the reflects the Gospel.

Explore the El Paso border region (and our sister city Ciudad Juarez if interested)

Listen to a wide variety of perspectives on the border. Examples include:

  • Presentations by Border Patrol at the border fence

  • Immigration legal services

  • Migrant hospitality houses

  • Local nonprofits serving in both relief & development capacities

  • Hearing from asylum seekers and others who have migrated to the U.S.

Serve at a temporary church shelter for asylum seekers and/or long-term embedded community development efforts

Reflect through Bible studies, group sharing, and prayer
... and return home better informed and equipped to engage with you community

Approximate Cost: $35-$100/day per person - flexible based on how much you would like arranged for you (programming, accommodation, transportation, food, etc.)

Contact Sami DiPasquale for more details

borderencounters@gmail.com 915-269-5528