VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 3/30/15)—American Baptist Women’s Ministries hosted a virtual mission encounter, “Crisis at the Border: What Could I Do?” from March 2-6, 2015. “Crisis at the Border,” an online educational event for women, offered the opportunity for participants to delve into issues around immigration and the unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern borders of the United States.
This virtual mission encounter, the ninth such event hosted by American Baptist Women’s Ministries since 2010, had the highest registration to date, indicating a strong interest in the topic among American Baptist women. Women from across the United States joined together in learning about many facets of the crisis of unaccompanied minors and encouraged one another to involvement and advocacy. Guest speakers for the event were Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rae, director of Refugee and Immigration Ministries with Disciples of Christ Home Missions; Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Congdon-Martin, retired director of Supervised Ministries at Palmer Theological Seminary, who recently traveled to Guatemala with a group from her church to live and serve among families there; Mary Clark, Esq., executive director of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services; and Jen Smyers, associate director for Immigration and Refugee Policy with Church World Service.
Through speaker presentations and discussion, as well as emailed daily activities and a private blog for the event, participants gained more understanding of the legal issues facing unaccompanied children and their families, humanitarian concerns, political actions being taken, and how to become more effective advocates for a humane approach to immigration reform.
“There is so much misinformation,” says Rev. Sharon Farral of East Moline, Illinois, a participant in the virtual mission encounter. “Awareness is so important right now! Why are these young people coming to the United States? What happens once they arrive? How complicated is their adjustment? Are they treated with compassion or as social outcasts? As women of faith, we must look to the Bible for direction: ‘Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt,’ (Exodus 22:21, NIV). All of us, today, as we benefit from the freedoms this country offers, must remember our ancestors arrived here for much the same reasons: safety, economic opportunity, religious freedom, education, family.”
Rev. Farral plans to do presentations of what she learned during the virtual mission encounter at upcoming region events, as well as contacting her local World Relief Center to explore how she can be personally involved in providing material support to recent arrivals. Additionally, she plans to phone legislators, send notes of encouragement to recent arrivals, and follow carefully legislation presented in Congress addressing immigration.
American Baptist Women’s Ministries also took action by sending letters to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives at large strongly opposing H.R. 5143, “The Protection of Children Act,” H.R. 5137, “The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act,” and H.R. 1148, “The Michael Davis, Jr., In Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act” (formerly known as the “SAFE Act”). To read the letters, click here.
Virginia Holmstrom, executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries, said, “Our virtual mission encounter helped participants untangle the facts about immigration policy from the myths. For example, one would think that we’d be quick to support a bill called ‘The Protection of Children Act’, but sadly, the proposed bill is laden with compromises that roll back the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which would result in children who are victims of human trafficking being sent back to the dangerous situations they’ve left, putting them at risk of exploitation and death.”
American Baptist Women’s Ministries is a Christ-centered ministry with a commitment to encourage and empower women and girls to serve God.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.