Building Connection and Finding New Friends Among Migrant Neighbors
An urgent request for support rallies a congregation to act in love and solidarity, forming a beautiful friendship among former strangers.
by Flor Saldivar, Coordinator for Immigrant and Refugee Ministries
[Boerne, Texas] In July 2020, the Rt. Rev. David Reed, Bishop of West Texas, shared a letter with the diocese establishing an Emergency Immigration Housing Fund and requesting support for families released from immigration detention centers in Texas. Immediately, the Immigration Ministries’ inbox was flooded with messages from church members throughout the diocese seeking ways to support these families. Soon after this letter, Immigration Ministries received an urgent request for aid from two of its partner organizations, the Interfaith Welcome Coalition (IWC) and American Gateways. An Angolan family’s twin boys had been transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital, and the family (both parents and their ten-year-old daughter) would need long-term housing while the twins received care and medical support. Their hospital stay would last over a month, and they had no family or other contacts in the U.S. for support.
When St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in Boerne heard their story, they knew they wanted to connect with this family in particular and provide support however they could. A member of the church had twin grandchildren who had needed life-saving NICU care during their first months of life, and the congregation felt a strong connection to the unique challenges this family would face. In addition to housing support, the Rev. Brian Fox, Curate at St. Helena’s, encouraged members of the church to build a relationship with the family by writing letters of love and encouragement in their native Portuguese. The letters were scheduled to be delivered to the family along with a set of blankets during an in-person blessing ceremony and gathering the following week.
“We had a wonderful morning meeting with the family,” shared Fox.“We so enjoyed spending time with the family and praying together with them. It was a holy, humorous, human, and humbling experience for me personally. I hope it was uplifting for the family as well!”
One congregant in particular, Amy Purcell, decided to go one step further and reach out to the family’s oldest daughter, Cassie*. Flor Saldivar, Coordinator for Immigrant & Refugee Ministries, received an email from Purcell after the blessing ceremony stating, “We are picking Cassie up on Saturday for a play date. My daughter is so excited- she is very social!”
The following week Purcell and fellow congregant, Celia Prehn, were announced as co-chairs for St. Helena’s Immigration Ministry team and met with Saldivar to plan a congregation-wide presentation exploring ways for the whole church to get involved with this new ministry. During the meeting, Purcell shared, “We had a wonderful time with Cassie on Saturday! It was funny because Cassie said, ‘You’re my first American friend’ and my daughter replied, ‘and you’re my first Angolan friend!’”
Moving forward, St. Helena’s is hosting a presentation for the congregation to learn more about diocesan Immigration Ministries, and join St. Helena's local team. They hope to continue sharing love, support, and encouragement with their neighbors and new friends.
The diocesan Immigration Ministries supports the work of the Diocese of West Texas and its congregations as they respond to the needs of our neighbors along the border. We coordinate and lead initiatives to empower congregations and aid organizations to provide mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual resources for migrant communities. Click here to sign up for the weekly Immigration Ministries Newsletter.
*Names have been changed to protect the family's privacy.