Churches Provide Refuge for Vulnerable Children
“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” — Mark 9:37 A few days ago, a Nazarene pastor in a Texas border town was volunteering at a detention center for minors who had just crossed the United States/Mexico border. One boy he met, Roberto*, was 15. In his hometown in El Salvador, gang members had given him two clear-cut options: Join our gang or die. So Roberto fled. The boy’s journey to cross the border took five long weeks, but he was hopeful that the arduous trip would eventually reunite him with an uncle who lives in New York.
Each day, hundreds of children and youth are arriving in the U.S., primarily from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, seeking safety and security. The minors are fleeing situations in their home countries that include violence, danger, extreme poverty, exploitation, and neglect. In the face of this crisis, the Church of the Nazarene is working to provide for the immediate needs of vulnerable youth.
While U.S. federal law requires due process for minors entering the country from Central America, the government does not have adequate resources or personnel to provide for them. As a result, the Office of Refugee Resettlement is seeking groups willing to shelter and protect unaccompanied minors until they can be reunited with family members. In response, the Church of the Nazarene is partnering with the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) and Urban Strategies to provide emergency shelters for unaccompanied minors.
Throughout New York, Florida, and Texas, five Nazarene churches and camps are creating “Centros de Refugio” (Centers of Refuge) to provide shelter, food, protection, and spiritual care to unaccompanied minors, ages 13 to 17. Across the five sites, 145 youth can receive shelter at any time, with an expected 2,175 youth to gain temporary refuge over the course of 18 months.
At the same time, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries in Central America is working with local churches to address the root causes of emigration by developing new child development centers (CDCs) in affected communities. The CDCs, which will be supported through NCM’s Child Sponsorship program, will address issues that are sending children over the border, including extreme poverty, neglect, and exploitation.
“This is the time to say, ‘We’re the church and we’re going to be hospitable,’” said Rev. Gabriel Salguero, who serves as both co-pastor of the Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in New York City and president of NaLEC.
How You Can Pray: Pray for protection, peace, and provision for the hundreds of vulnerable children and youth who are arriving daily in the United States.
How You Can Support: A federal grant will subsidize a large portion of the costs to run the Centers of Refuge, but it will not cover all the costs. The centers will need to provide items such as food, bedding, and backpacks, as well as ongoing staffing. However, due to hygiene requirements, the items must be purchased new. The best way to supply these items is through financial gifts: https://give.nazarene.org/donate/f/123582
Will you help children who are fleeing violence and extreme poverty?
“I am confident that our churches will respond appropriately,” said Dr. 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.”