We read about families at the border being split up. We weep. We cry. We wonder what we can do (see one idea here). The work at the border is indeed important and deserves our attention and our cries, but it cannot divert our ongoing attention from our work right here in Massachusetts. Churches here are currently hosting people who are on the verge of being deported.
First Congregational Church, UCC in Amherst opened its doors to Lucio Perez nine months ago now. Lucio is the father of four children and a husband. Not yet deported, he is living somewhat separated already from his family as he has taken refuge within the church. Lucio wears an ankle monitor and has an active order of deportation which is only being held at bay by virtue of loving and encircling arms of First Churches and other surrounding faith communities and individuals who have stepped forward to ensure his sanctuary. Lucio has lived in the US for over 18 years where he has worked as a landscaper and provided for his family. His attorneys continue to try to work his case, but at this time there is no end in sight.
For the support of this family and this church and any others in the future, the MA conference established the Sanctuary Churches Fund. The fund can go to support UCC churches actively hosting a person in sanctuary to offset their additional costs or, at the church’s discretion, go to offset the cost for the family (with the exception of attorney’s fee). When someone takes sanctuary, their ability to earn money to support themselves or their family is greatly curtailed if not cut off completely due to their confinement within the church.
Fortunately, when we unrolled this fund, many of you heard the call. You sent donations as individuals and as churches. Because of this, we have been able to make disbursements to First Congregational Amherst and, God willing, will be making even more.
The need, though, is not over. While currently only First Congregational Amherst qualifies as a recipient that could change at any moment as several other UCC churches stand at the ready. Recently, South Congregational Church, UCC in Springfield did host a person, who did receive a stay of removal and is now back with her family.
So we ask that you consider making a donation to the fund. As summer turns toward fall, we ask that you approach your mission team or council or whomever is in charge of budgeting and consider earmarking a portion for this cause.* We ask you to post this flyer in your church and include it in your newsletter. We ask you to personally appeal to one person who you think might have a heart for this work.
Our work need not be here or there. We need not move onto the next news story, leaving this one in our memory. We can do our work here and there. We can actively love all God’s children at once. We can strive for justice at the border and here in Massachusetts. We can focus on the newer issues and continue to hold in our line of sight the ongoing need as well.
The issues surrounding immigration are complicated, especially undocumented immigration; but our faith is clear, “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34)
* Donations to the Sanctuary Churches Fund may be made online here; or a check made out to MACUCC with the fund name in the memo line may be mailed to MACUCC, 1 Badger Rd., Framingham, MA 01702.
Note: If you or your church needs assistance discussing sanctuary, immigration, or a related faith topic, the Refugee, Immigration, and Asylum Task Team is here to help. Contact Pastor Dawn Adams and Pastor Lindsay Popper.
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