This statement was given by Rachel Birkedal, ELCA Churchwide Assembly voting member representing the North Carolina Synod. Rachel shared this message during discussion period at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly (#ELCAcwa) prior to the passage of the ELCA’s #AMMPARO strategy.

“I served as a Young Adults in Global Mission – ELCA in Mexico and later as a Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC) member with a free legal service provider to asylum seekers in the upper Midwest. In Mexico, my fellow YAGM have served at migrant shelters throughout the transit routines in Mexico. We have felt fear as we have watched migrants and our friends travel through Mexico, as they approach the border and ask for asylum.

Upon returning to the U.S., I have worked primarily with woman and children fleeing violence in the northern triangle of Central America and the networks that support them. My co-workers and I have sat at the table and held the stories of those seeking asylum. We have held the life stories of woman escaping domestic violence, youth who are persecuted for being young and unwilling to join one of the ruling gangs in their country, and so much more. Time after time we heard horrific stories and time and time again we have seen resilience and a fight that some how got them to our country to ask for safety.

There are countless obstacles that this vulnerable population face in their home countries, in transit and once in the US. Those who are in the process of migration or seeking asylum in our immigration court system need the community and the Church to continue to tell them that they are human; that they are valued, that their lives have meaning and that we will not leave them alone in an immigration system that is almost impossible to navigate with out support.

The work is not new. It is already being done. Those who work with migrants and asylum seekers have been touched by the lives we have encountered and I hope that if you haven’t found a way to feel connected, that this strategy will implement programs and advocacy that will allow you to be affected by the lives of your neighbors as I have been, and that the spirit will move us together to continue to provide refuge and “amparo” for those who desperately need it. For these reasons and more, I support the AMMPARO strategy. Que dios les bendiga. Gracias.”

Learn more about how the ELCA is Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation, and Opportunities: