By Marv Knox
Refugee families who live in a Tijuana shelter supported by Fellowship Southwest have expressed thanks for the blessing they have received, Pastor Juvenal González reported.
Since 2018, Fellowship Southwest has supported a network of pastors and congregations who minister to immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. The immigrants have journeyed from their homelands—mostly Central America, but also the Caribbean, South America and Africa—seeking asylum in the United States.
When the ministry began, they camped almost literally on the pastors’ doorsteps. The pastors began feeding them and allowing them to sleep in their church buildings. Fellowship Southwest started supporting the pastors and churches—providing money for food, diapers, basic medical supplies, clothing and blankets.
Later, the U.S. government implemented its Migrant Protection Protocols—also known as “Remain in Mexico.” All immigrants now must wait on the Mexican side of the border as they wind through the asylum process, which takes months. So, the pastors began serving and protecting immigrants in Mexico, either setting up feeding programs in tent cities and government shelters, or opening shelters themselves.
Now, Fellowship Southwest’s Immigrant Relief Network supports pastors and congregations who serve refugees from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to donations from supporters, FSW sends monthly checks to purchase food and supplies, rent buildings for shelters and food storage, and troubleshoot needs, such as replacing worn-out appliances and bald tires.
Several families who live in the Juventad 2000 shelter in Tijuana—across the border from San Diego—sent thanks through González, Fellowship Southwest’s partner there. When the immigration crisis flared in 2018, González launched a ministry based on his personal network of church starters and small-church pastors in Tijuana.
Fellowship Southwest began working with González by purchasing food to provide breakfast as well as building showers for the massive El Barretal migrant center in Tijuana. More recently, FSW has provided monthly stipends to purchase food for refugees, and also to help feed bivocational pastors, whose incomes have been devastated by COVID-19.
The immigrant families praised Iglesia Bautista el Calvario, whose members consistently cooked meals in the shelter and manifested the presence of Christ. “The food has always been freshly cooked, homemade and served with love,” González noted. He reported expressions of gratitude from five families:
The Rocha family is from El Salvador and has lived in Juventad 2000 for a year. “For us (the feeding program) is a blessing, because if we have to buy each meal, every day would require a lot of money,” they said. “These meals are heaven-sent and a huge blessing. We could not have the luxury of having these meals every day, and for that we thank all the people that made this possible for us. … Now, it is our family, but there are many more coming.”
- The Pablo-Lozano family have lived in Juventad 2000 four months. They expressed thanks for freshly cooked meals “served with love by the church family.”
- Paola and her children moved to the shelter five months ago, and in addition to meals, they have received diapers and formula for her newborn baby. “We have been blessed in this shelter, and please continue to share with the needy people,” Paola said. “I want to thank all those who donate money, clothes and everything to provide for us.”
The Reyes family received meals when they lived in Juventad 2000. And now, even though they no longer live there, they receive support from Iglesia Bautista el Calvario. “The church continues supporting our family to transition into the community,” they said.
- The Silva family from Guatemala lived in the shelter six months and, like the Reyeses, are settling into the local community and expressed gratitude for the support that enabled them to stabilize their lives far from their homeland.
Stories of similar families can be repeated over and over, all up and down the border, thanks to compassionate Christians who contribute to Fellowship Southwest’s Immigrant Relief Ministry. From the start, the ministry has been able to answer every request for support from every pastor in our network.
God’s goodness—reflected in the generosity of our supporters—often reminds me of the Old Testament story of the widow of Zarapheth. On the point of starvation, she and her son befriended the prophet Elijah. Because of their faithfulness and care for a stranger on a journey, the flour and oil that sustained them never ran out.
COVID-19 has impacted good people everywhere and maybe even distracted some from the needs of immigrants on the border. But Fellowship Southwest’s fund has not run out, and we’re still feeding and loving immigrants like the Rochas, Pablo-Lozanos, Reyeses, Silvas and Paola and her children.
If you would like to read about Fellowship Southwest’s Immigrant Relief Ministry, click here.
If you would like to provide support for the ministry, click here.
Marv Knox is coordinator of Fellowship Southwest, a CBF network in Arizona, New Mexico, northern Mexico, Oklahoma, Southern California and Texas.