Dear Partners in Mission:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. -Matthew 25:35
Since Lutherans have been in the United States we have been involved in caring for and shepherding refugees and migrants around the world. In the 19th Century the Pennsylvania and New York Ministerium joined together to care for the every increasing flow of immigrants from Europe to America. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services dates its founding to 1939 when, in the wake of a Europe being torn by war, Lutherans realized their siblings in faith were in need. And there was great need. By1945, globally, one out of six Lutherans was a refugee or displaced person (dp) and 33% of all dp were Lutheran.
For the last two months the convention center in Dallas has been used as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant teens. When word that this shelter was to be set up, an ecumenical and interfaith group of leaders from the Dallas area moved into action. Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian and other leaders came together to work closely with Catholic Charities who had been tasked with coordinating volunteers for this shelter. These bi-lingual volunteers worked closely with the children in the shelter helping them process their claims, get in contact with family, and provide pastoral care and comfort. Your DEM the Rev. Irma Banales was a critical connection to this working group and the NT-NL Conferencia Latina stepped up significantly to provide pastoral care and support as well as ensure an “Evangelical/Protestant” worship option was provided each week led by them and also our full communion partners.
Sunday, May 16th I had the opportunity to go with these leaders and participate in worship. It was a deeply powerful moment. Powerful in sharing the Holy Eucharist with these children seeking a home and welcome, to receive their prayer requests and pray over them, to give out birthday cards so that life moment doesn’t get forgotten, and to see how your NT-NL Conferencia Latina has responded in this time of need. Pictured above are the leaders who were with us on Sunday the 16th; they represent many others who also have taken part in showing up for these children in our midst.
As an immigrant church, one whose memory includes significant displacement of our own people not too many generations ago, we are committed to serving these individuals seeking safety, security, a better life. This commitment may have started in caring for our own but now extends beyond the self-interest of helping our siblings in faith. It is rooted deeply in our understanding of the story of God’s people as told in Scripture. Time and again the people of God are commanded to welcome the stranger and this command comes in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospels. Jesus himself reminds us that when we serve the stranger, we serve Christ. I am thankful for the opportunity we have had in this time to serve. Lutherans showing up for our neighbors, all our neighbors.
In the Risen Christ,