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New! VBS 2020: “On Earth As in Heaven”


It’s hard to believe that it’s time to start planning for 2020 already, but ELCA World Hunger’s new Vacation Bible School program for 2020 is now here! “On Earth As in Heaven” invites children of all ages to learn about God’s world by diving deeply into the Lord’s Prayer. This full, five-day VBS is free and available for download and order (coming soon.)


“On Earth As in Heaven” explores the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer for our world today, using one petition each day to explore faith, justice and the work to which God is calling us. The program this year is unique in that each day focuses on one petition from the prayer and ties the petition to one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in easily accessible ways.

“On Earth As in Heaven” VBS

In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther reminds us that prayer is something “great and precious.” To pray is to give voice to our needs and our trust in God, who meets them.

But to pray is much more than this too. In thanksgiving, prayer gives voice to the things that bring us together. In lament, prayer gives voice to the things that rend us apart. Theologian Karl Barth is believed to have said that “to clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” To pray is to lay bare the pain of the world and to trust God to transform it — and to strengthen us to be part of this transformation.

“On Earth As in Heaven” invites children and adults to (re-)experience the Lord’s Prayer and to see the connections between prayer and service in the world. As the church prays and plays together, we also serve together and walk together toward a just world where all are fed. The stories for each day lift up churches and communities around the world who are prayerfully and powerfully doing their part in this work, while celebrating the diversity with which God has gifted the world.

Daily Themes



Each day includes:

  • An opening to introduce the prayer petition and the topic for the day, including a skit;
  • Small-group times;
  • Stories from projects around the world supported by gifts to ELCA World Hunger;
  • Snacks and crafts from the countries and regions featured in the stories;
  • Games for different age groups;
  • Simulation Stations to help children dive deeply into the topics of the day; and
  • Large-group closing suggestions

This year, we are also excited to include an appendix of handouts to send home, so that parents and caregivers can continue the conversation with children at the end of each day.

Coming Soon

More materials are on their way, including hard copies of “On Earth As in Heaven,” posters and a supplement media kit with logos and pictures you can print, post or put on t-shirts and other promo items!

Look for Us at the E!

ELCA World Hunger will once again be at the ELCA Youth Ministry Network’s Extravaganza in 2020! We will have hard copies of “On Earth As in Heaven,” sample posters and lots of information to help you plan your VBS.

“God’s Good Creation” and “Who Is My Neighbor?” VBS Still Available!

ELCA World Hunger’s VBS programs from previous years are still available! Visit ELCA World Hunger’s resources page to find “God’s Good Creation” VBS and “Who Is My Neighbor?” VBS  – and lots of other resources for children, youth and adults!

For more information about “On Earth As in Heaven” and other ELCA World Hunger resources, please contact Ryan Cumming, program director of hunger education for ELCA World Hunger, at



United States – Mexico Border Experience: Frontiers for Mission

US - Mexico border - beachDirectors for Evangelical Mission:

Invite your mission and ministry partners:

United States – Mexico Border Experience

February 18, 2020

Travel Day: February 17

Registration is now open!

The Congregational Vitality Team is reaching out to Directors for Evangelical Mission and their mission partners with a special opportunity to worship together near the beach at the United States – Mexico border.

The Spanish word for “border” is frontera. As we think about the borders in our lives — country, state, neighborhood, even our churches — why not think about these “borders” as FRONTIERS to explore? How can we grow and learn together, as Christ’s people in mission? How can we explore the frontiers of our faith and reach out to all people in love and service, united in the Good News of Jesus Christ?

This experience will take place the day before the Congregational Vitality Training Event in San Diego in February 2020.


This one-day opportunity on February 18 is also open to people who will not be attending the CV Training Event.




$50 — Includes Registration and Bus Fees

$150 — Includes Registration, Bus, and Double-Occupancy Hotel Room for Monday night, February 17.

$250 – Includes Registration, Bus, and Single-Occupancy Hotel Room for Monday night, February 17.



For Congregational Vitality Training Event participants who ALSO want to participate in the Border Experience, Monday night housing (if needed) MUST be reserved through the Border Experience link.

  • Please use the Border Experience link above to reserve your Monday night housing.
  • Register for Tuesday – Thursday housing using the CV Training Event link found on the Timing and Training Tracks page. Don’t worry, we will reconcile all the housing requests so that you will remain in the same room for the week’s events.


UPDATED (12/4/19) Rough Agenda:**

  • 8:15 am: Load charter buses at Town and Country Hotel; depart by 8:30 am.
  • Up to 200 participants will cross the border to the Mexico side to participate, and up to 100 people will participate on the US side.
  • Join in a border worship experience in a park / open space near the beach (approximately 10:00-11:00 am).
  • Lunch (arranged with our help, “on your own”)
  • Travel by charter bus to an immigrant-hospitality center on the Mexico side of the border OR to one or two historic Latinx churches on the US side of the border. This activity will include time to process and share regarding this experience.
  • Return to the hotel (via charter bus) approximately 4:30 – 5:30 pm.
  • Testimony from this experience will be shared at the Congregational Vitality Training Event, which begins Wednesday, February 19.
  • Participate in an optional dessert reception gathering Tuesday evening (beginning at approximately 7:30 pm). You will have an opportunity to hear about what other participants experienced (on each side of the border). This activity is for:
    • People who can stay longer in the evening before traveling home OR:
    • People who have been invited by their DEM to register (using a separate link) and stay overnight Tuesday night to participate in the CV Training Event, which begins Wednesday, February 19.
    • Housing is extremely limited at the Town and Country Hotel: People who are not involved in the CV Training Event who need a room on Tuesday night will need to book their own room at a nearby hotel (there are plenty!) if planning to stay over on Tuesday night. Thank you!

** Exact details may vary. We will keep you posted!


What You Should Bring:

  • A valid (blue) US passport that will not expire for at least 6 months from February 18, 2020. Please see the very important legal notes below.
  • Water
  • Money (U.S. dollars are fine) to purchase food/lunch/snacks.
  • Snacks, such as snack bars and fruit.
  • Comfortable shoes (high-sided tennis shoes or boots), and please dress for the weather and for walking on sand and through watery/muddy paths.
  • Sunscreen and/or a hat.
  • Travel light, as you will be walking for 30+ minutes both to and from the worship site.


Important Participation Notes:

  • All participants must be present at the Town and Country Hotel, San Diego, and ready to travel to the border at 8:00 am, Tuesday, February 18. This may mean you will need a hotel room on Monday, February 17.
  • Participants must be able to walk for up to 30 minutes to and from the worship destination (sandy/wet area near beach).


Legal and Safety Considerations to Help You Plan

Preparation Requirements:

  1. All participants MUST submit the following to our team and to a designated alternate person: emergency contact information including name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address in case of a participant’s ill health, detainment, death or other circumstances.
  2. All participants who plan to enter Mexico MUST have a valid US (blue) passport that will not expire for at least 6 months after February 18, 2020.
  3. All participants who plan to enter into Mexico MUST make a copy of their passport and give it to a family member or other designee.
  4. All participants who plan to enter into Mexico MUST sign an ELCA waiver (available at registration).


Additional Important Notes

  1. No participant is to allowed to drive a vehicle into Mexico. We have been advised that driving into Mexico without proper Mexican auto insurance is a very serious violation of Mexican law that is strictly enforced by Mexican authorities.
  2. Please check the following US State Department sites for risk information concerning Mexico:


Questions? Contact Pastor Anna-Kari Johnson (se habla Español).


Ministering with immigrants in detention in New Jersey


The Rev. Ramon Collazo is a second-career pastor from Puerto Rico who ministers with immigrants in detention. It’s one way he channels his passion for immigration reform and raising awareness about human rights.

Quickly after finishing his time at United Lutheran Seminary (formerly, Luther Theological Seminary at Philadelphia), Collazo received a call to serve as mission developer for a new Synod Authorized Worshiping Community (SAWC) called Santa Isabel Ministry to Immigrants in Detention. This ministry focuses on providing spiritual care and hope for Puerto Rican and immigrant inmates at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey.

One mission starts another

The Iglesia Luterana Santa Isabel Latino Mission congregation in Elizabeth launched the SAWC in 2015. Itself a mission congregation — sponsored by the New Jersey Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — Santa Isabel started the new detention ministry SAWC as one way to care and advocate for immigrants and their rights. The congregation also hosts a citizenship drive twice a year and collaborates with the New Jersey Coalition for Justice.

The Elizabeth Detention Center is specifically designed for immigrants who either do not have proper identification of their citizenship or have committed a minor crime. It holds male and female citizens of multiple countries from Latin America, Europe and Asia. Collazo first became active in this  detention ministry when he was invited to provide prayer during a rally outside its walls.

Santa Isabel detention ministry

Rev. Ramon Collazo (shown second from left), with ministry partners who presented the Puerto Rican Christmastime music tradition of Parranda to inmates at the Elizabeth Detention Center in December 2018.

Ministry in detention

Collazo brings a unique voice to this ministry, which centers on doing intentional work to help and share the gospel with its immigrant community and other detainees. He hosts two worship services each week. Each service typically has 50 to 100 participants in worship, Bible study and prayer. Collazo also spends time offering prayer over specific requests or distributing rosaries and Bibles.

On December 27, 2018, Collazo gathered together a few ministry members to bring the Puerto Rican Christmastime music tradition of Parranda to the  detention center’s residents. “We gathered not in a porch, but in a conference room, with guitar and cuatro puertorriqueño (a guitar-like instrument) to practice. We began the Parranda to the dorms, where we surprised the men and women with ‘Feliz Navidad’ and other songs.” Collazo could feel the joy this activity created in the residents as well as a strong sense of unity where it would normally be absent during Christmastime in the  detention facility.

Raising awareness of immigration reform

Collazo has learned much from hearing the stories of people who have tried to flee from oppression but then had to face the harsh reality of being forced to return to the situations from which they fled. He believes, “If we don’t watch the news and don’t put ourselves in their shoes, nothing will change.”

He points out that the reality is that change does not always happen from institutions, it happens through people who are willing to advocate and show empathy to those who are hurting. “It has to come from God, and it has to come from our hearts because we love God and are called to serve our neighbors.”

Touching the hearts of people is where we meet the authentic work of the gospel. Collazo is living this out wholeheartedly and invites fellow congregations to pray for those affected by immigration policies.


by Blake Thomas, Congregational Vitality Team

edited by Kris A. Mainellis, Program Director for Communication and Events, Congregational Vitality


A common witness: Lutherans and Episcopalians team up in West Denver new start


Sunday morning is a lot busier these days at the corner of Raleigh Street and 5th Avenue in West Denver. For the past several years a new community of God, called Latino Ministry West Denver (Cristo Rey), has been growing in the church building at this intersection, in this changing neighborhood just south of busy 6th Avenue and west of major Interstate 25. Known to the neighborhood simply as Cristo Rey, the new-start congregation connects with its community and actively engages people to be in relationship with each other and Christ.

Cristo Rey arose after an unsuccessful attempt to create a new church by merging a shrinking Anglo congregation and a Latinx faith community. Although the merged congregation did not last, it helped point to a new direction. The church building retained an important community connection, serving as a popular place to host family celebrations and a home for community activities, including a growing Head Start preschool program. This connection strongly suggested that a Lutheran Latinx congregation could thrive.

The Rocky Mountain Synod and the New Start team (now called Congregational Vitality team) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America decided to close ALMC / Cristo Rey and try again, in a new way, with new leadership. The church closed at the end of July 2016, and then reopened the very next month, in August, as Latino Ministry West Denver (Cristo Rey), a Synodically Authorized Worshiping Community Exploration. But there was a twist – the new start’s developers are from the Episcopal Church.

Quirino Cornejo communion service

The Rev. Quirino “QC” Cornejo leads a communion liturgy for children at the Cristo Rey new start in West Denver.

New start, new leaders

Thanks to the full-communion partnership between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church, Cristo Rey’s leadership comprises an Episcopal priest, the Rev. Quirino “QC” Cornejo, and ministry partner Margarita Reyes, who is married to Cornejo. This dynamic duo embodies an ecumenical spirit, connecting people to the message of Jesus in new and welcoming ways.

One of the most compelling parts of this story is the background of these two leaders. Cornejo is an ex–Roman Catholic priest — now an Episcopal priest — leading a Lutheran congregation with the partnership of his ex–Roman Catholic, now-Episcopal wife.

Cornejo grew up a child of the Roman Catholic church in Mexico. He discovered his vocation early in life and committed himself to the priesthood at the age of 12. Ordained in the Catholic Church on May 25, 1991, in San Angelo, Texas, Cornejo served as a Catholic priest for 20 years in West Texas. Reyes, too, grew up in the Catholic Church and discovered her gift of evangelism as part of that tradition. She led adult and youth faith formation for years.

Sharpened call, new leadership role

Cornejo and Reyes met in Texas. A short time later, “after 20 years of service as a Catholic priest, I began my discernment process to answer God’s call to form a family,” Cornejo said. Reyes and Cornejo moved to Colorado, got engaged and joined the Episcopal Church. They were married on March 18, 2016, and Cornejo was received as a priest in the Episcopal Church on June 18, 2016.

The Episcopal Church sharpened Cornejo’s sense of vocation and offered a way for the couple to continue to serve God as priest and evangelist and follow the call to form a Christian family. The couple have a daughter, Analey Sophia.

Just as Cornejo found a renewed sense of call in the Episcopal Church, so too did Reyes. In her ministry through Cristo Rey, she has focused her vocation using a new lens: “Now I call myself a Lutheran evangelist,” she quipped. “Our faith formation classes adhere to Lutheran theology, and I consider myself a strong advocate.”

Margarita Reyes youth ministry leader

Margarita Reyes (shown back row, center) leads Christian education for youth (and adults) at Cristo Rey.

Connecting in a new way

Cristo Rey relates to the neighborhood in a unique way as its two Episcopalian leaders serve in a Lutheran setting. Nearly 90 percent of the people in the community are of Latinx descent and many have strong Catholic roots. Worship is central, and Cornejo and Reyes are passionate about connecting the gifts and interests of the community and developing leaders through spiritual formation and outreach.

Reyes conducts faith-formation classes for adults, youth and families at 11:30 am each Sunday, and Cornejo leads worship and preaches at 12:30 pm. Families are drawn to Cristo Rey for traditional reasons — baptism, first communion, quinceañeras and Christian education. Once involved, they experience the joy and sense of purpose in belonging to this life-changing, thriving faith community. Changes range from Sunday morning priorities to how people interact with one other. Reyes recalled learning how one couple’s relationship had been transformed since the husband began treating his wife with more respect: “his wife thanks QC every time she sees him!”

Invested in the community

From its beginning, the people of Cristo Rey have impacted their community in a positive way. As the new start began to reach out to the surrounding community, Cornejo and other leaders noticed changes taking place in the neighborhood. “We’ve been building relationships. When I first started here, we had car break-ins in the parking lot four times in one month, and even a car that was stolen was hidden at the back of the church building.”

Now, the people look out for each other and are invested in the ministries of the church. The congregation reaches out to the community with Thanksgiving dinners and a Christmas Giving Tree. Recently, they partnered with a nearby larger Lutheran congregation to host a community dinner for the neighborhood.

The Latino Ministry West Denver (Cristo Rey) began with three people but now has grown to more than 100 people (45 families) in one year, and it is still flourishing. Cornejo believes it will move from a SAWC to an organized congregation most likely within another year.

Building relationships and fostering ecumenical connections

Ministries such as Cristo Rey are taking off across the country as a result of relationships nurtured between synods and the ELCA churchwide office, as well as ecumenical connections with full-communion partners.

The involvement of the ELCA’s Congregational Vitality team with the REDIL (Red Ecumenica para el Desarollo de Iglesias Latinas) Latinx ecumenical network was essential to finding Cornejo and Reyes to lead Cristo Rey. The REDIL network is a partnership among the ELCA, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and Reformed Church in America.

Cornejo and Reyes are inviting others to look at life in a new way. These two leaders embody an evangelistic emphasis with an ecumenical spirit, and that’s exactly what attracts the community and connects people to the message of Jesus. They are setting a powerful example of how people from differing denominations and traditions can come together to grow in relationship with Christ and make a difference in the world, in common witness.


by Kris A. Mainellis, Program Director for Communication and Events, Congregational Vitality


Irma Banales: A journey of faith


Irma Banales portraitIrma Banales has walked an interesting path to become a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She currently serves as director for evangelical mission for the Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod. But her journey began in Mexico.

Banales was born in Durango, in north central Mexico, the eighth of ten children. Her father was a bracero, a seasonal agricultural worker permitted into the United States for temporary work. When Banales was about 5 years old, her family moved to north Mexico to Ciudad Juarez, south of the border and across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. Her father was working in the Dallas area.

Banales was raised with certain Catholic traditions: “Every evening before we went out to play with friends, we were expected to pray the Rosary. Doing so ensured that we could have a merienda [snack] when we came back home: coffee, atole [corn meal mush] and homemade tortillas de harina [flour tortillas]. So we hurried up and prayed!”

Nine years later, the family moved to Dallas to live with her father. It was challenging for Banales to adjust to life in a US school, not knowing the language or culture. “I remember the first day at school, I was totally lost; I didn’t know English. They just sent me to classes. We were not allowed to speak Spanish or any other language than English.”

A direction unfolds

Banales is the only pastor in her family. She was ordained in 2014 through the TEEM (Theological Education for Emerging Ministries) program of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif.

Her introduction to the Lutheran church came as an adult. In 1998, she was married and raising her second child when an acquaintance invited her to attend a Bible study. Banales didn’t know it was a Lutheran Bible study until it was nearly over. She was intrigued. So she visited the church, St. John/San Juan Lutheran, for worship. “I liked the liturgy, the sermon and the way they welcomed me and my children, and the fact that all could be part of the communion and serve during the service.”

Experiencing Lutheran Bible study and worship were the first steps to becoming an ELCA pastor. Working for the synod helped to seal the deal. In March 1999, Pastor Susan Rodriguez at St. John/San Juan suggested that Banales apply for a position as receptionist at the Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod office. She had no idea what a synod or a bishop were, and had many other questions. She was very nervous after she got the job. “I thought they were going to let me go in a week, because my English was terrible.”

She did not lose her job. Instead, a year later, Banales moved from half-time receptionist to full-time assistant to the mission director. In the meantime, she began taking classes. “I wanted to learn as much as I could about God and the Lutheran church.” She remains thankful for the continual encouragement of Tyna Oslie, synod administrator, throughout her educational pursuits.

Five years later, Banales became the synod’s Hispanic coordinator, working in that capacity for another five years. At the same time, she served as volunteer youth director at her home church, took TEEM program courses through both PLTS and LSPS (Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest, in Austin, Texas, a program of Wartburg Theological Seminary [Dubuque, Iowa] and Lutheran School of Theology [Chicago]), and continued raising her two children. She graduated from PLTS in May 2014.

Rev Irma Banales

A Lutheran love story emerges

At some point along the way, “I fell in love with the ELCA,” Banales said. After attending so many classes and serving as synod Hispanic coordinator, people started asking why she was not enrolled in seminary. So she started the candidacy process. “I wanted to grow in my spiritual life, learn more about theology, and be more helpful to the people I was working with and serving.”

Banales loves the ELCA “because of the theology, the diversity, and the inclusiveness. We are traditional, liberal and conservative at the same time: like saints and sinners.”

In January 2013, then-Bishop Kevin Kanouse asked Banales to serve First Sagrada Familia in Garland, Texas, a two-expression congregation, as a SAWL (Synodically Authorized Worship Leader), where she ministered until 2017. Also, in 2017, “God blessed me double,” because, at the suggestion of Bishop Erik Gronberg, she applied for (and got the job as) DEM for her synod, and married her husband, “my angel, David.”

Banales feels blessed to accompany churches and leaders in their joys and sorrows. The journey continues.


by Kris A. Mainellis, Program Director for Communication and Events, Congregational Vitality


Overcoming challenges in El Cenizo

The Rev. Mariana Mendez knows how to make the most of difficult situations. Mendez and ministry partners at Misión Luterana Agua Viva work to share God’s love in spite of, or perhaps because of, the challenges of life in El Cenizo, Texas. Located 20 miles south of Laredo, this small, rural city of a little more than 3,000 people is situated just four blocks from the banks of the Rio Grande River. The river serves as the border between the United States and Mexico.

Incorporated in 1989, El Cenizo’s history is framed by its origin as one of hundreds of south Texas colonias established in the 1950s rural, unincorporated subdivisions lacking basic infrastructure such as potable water, sewer service and electricity. This region continues to be one of the most impoverished areas in the United States.

But Mendez focuses on the positive. She believes that although the community of El Cenizo faces significant challenges, “it also has significant opportunities for life and ministry.” Misión Luterana Agua Viva is a place of refuge, offering help and instilling hope. The church partners with local organizations, agencies and other churches to help the people of El Cenizo survive, find stability and grow through a combination of direct support, education and training.

Agua Viva school supplies program helps families overcome challenges of life in El Cenizo.

Each fall, with help from partner Lutheran churches and individuals, Agua Viva provides backpacks filled with school supplies for 250 children in grades K-12, through its Aprendiendo a Leer Con Jesús (Learning to Read With Jesus) program.

Empowered leaders share God’s grace

Key to its mission is its focus on cultivating leaders. The church identifies leaders and sends them for training with public agencies. Episcopal and Methodist sister churches and nondenominational partners provide further training in health care, education, self-sustainability and entrepreneurship, nutrition and family care. In addition, Agua Viva works closely with a local pastoral counseling and coaching center, which has (so far) certified and graduated 12 leaders who serve as community facilitators from Agua Viva.

Mendez’s late husband, the Rev. Moises Mendez (who recently passed away), set into motion the church’s ongoing practice to develop and multiply church mission workers. One essential element of training: each leader is charged with identifying and developing other leaders. Mariana believes this practice is essential to accompanying the people of El Cenizo in their efforts to survive and thrive in this Third Culture border town. “We are multiplying the priesthood of all believers as we work together as partners inside the church and in the community to become facilitators of the work of God.”

Vegetable garden beds at Agua Viva, El Cenizo, Texas

Agua Viva church members plant and harvest organically grown vegetables for use at the Pan de Vida (Bread of Life) hunger-relief after-school program (typically serving 125 children ages 1-17). More than 2,500 monthly food portions are prepared by a full-time volunteer staff at the Vida Plena (Plentiful Life) program, which offers warm, freshly made food to more than 120 elderly people daily. Agua Viva’s pantry distributes 60,000 pounds of food per year.

Mission partners make all the difference

Mariana and Moises were initially called to mission development in Laredo in October 2002. The mission moved to El Cenizo in 2007, where Agua Viva took up residence in two double-wide trailers within four residential lots purchased 14 years earlier by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. With additional partnership and support from the ELCA’s Southwestern Texas Synod and the help of seven partner churches, Agua Viva was able to refurbish the trailers, pay off the mortgage on the land, build a sanctuary, and begin ministry and mission in the community. Agua Viva continues to steward its resources carefully, including ongoing ELCA churchwide mission development support. Mendez credits the Holy Spirit for “helping us to grow the Kingdom of God on earth,” and she appreciates the church’s many partners: “Thank you for your prayers, your commitment and solidarity toward those most in need within our border community.”

“As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” — Jesus (John 17:18 )

by Kris A. Mainellis, Program Director for Communication and Events, Congregational Vitality


El poderoso testimonio de Rachel Birkedal a favor de #AMMPARO en #ELCACWA

Por Noticias de la Asamblea General del 2016

Esta declaración fue hecha por Rachel Birkedal, miembro con derecho a voto en la Asamblea General de la ELCA en representación del Sínodo de Carolina del Norte. Rachel compartió este mensaje durante el periodo de conversación en la Asamblea General de la ELCA (#ELCAcwa) antes de la aprobación de la estrategia #AMMPARO de la ELCA.

“Serví como Adulta Joven en la Misión Global – ELCA en México y más tarde como miembro del Cuerpo Luterano de Voluntarios (LVC, por sus siglas en inglés) con un proveedor de servicios legales gratuitos para los solicitantes de asilo en la zona norte del Medio Oeste. En México, mis compañeros de Adultos Jóvenes en la Misión Global (YAGM, por sus siglas en inglés) han prestado sus servicios en refugios para migrantes a lo largo de las rutas de tránsito en México. Hemos sentido miedo mientras mirábamos a los migrantes y a nuestros amigos viajar por México, al acercarse a la frontera y pedir asilo.

Al regresar a los EE.UU., he trabajado principalmente con mujeres y niños que huían de la violencia en el triángulo norte de Centroamérica y con las redes que los apoyan. Mis compañeros de trabajo y yo nos hemos sentado a la mesa y hemos escuchado las historias de los solicitantes de asilo. Hemos escuchado las historias vitales de mujeres que escaparon de la violencia doméstica, de niñas que han sido violadas por pandilleros como castigo para familiares que no pagaban la “renta” impuesta por las pandillas, y de niños que son perseguidos por ser jóvenes y no estar dispuestos a unirse a una de las pandillas que gobiernan en su país. Una y otra vez hemos escuchado historias aterradoras y una y otra vez hemos mirado la resistencia y la lucha que, de alguna manera, les han llevado a nuestro país para pedir seguridad.

Existen innumerables obstáculos que enfrenta esta población vulnerable en sus países de origen, en tránsito y una vez que entran a los EE.UU. Quienes se encuentran en mitad del proceso de migración o que solicitan asilo en nuestro sistema judicial migratorio necesitan que la comunidad y la Iglesia sigan diciéndoles que son humanos; que son valorados; que sus vidas tienen significado, y que no los dejaremos solos en un sistema migratorio por el que es casi imposible navegar sin nuestro apoyo.

El trabajo no es nuevo. Ya se está haciendo. Quienes trabajan con migrantes y solicitantes de asilo han sido tocados por las vidas de aquellos con los que se han encontrado y espero que si no han encontrado ustedes una forma de sentirse conectados, que esta estrategia implementará programas y una incidencia que les permitirá ser afectados por la vida de su prójimo como yo lo he sido, y que el espíritu nos hará avanzar juntos para seguir proporcionando refugio y “amparo” a quienes lo necesitan desesperadamente. Por estas razones y más, yo apoyo la estrategia AMMPARO. Que dios les bendiga. Gracias”.

Aprendan más sobre cómo la ELCA está Acompañando a Menores Migrantes con Protección, Incidencia, Representación y Oportunidades:

La asamblea –la más alta autoridad legislativa de la ELCA– se reunirá en el Centro de Convenciones Ernest N. Morial en Nueva Orleans. Reunidos en torno al tema “Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action” (Liberados y renovados en Cristo: 500 años de la gracia de Dios en acción) entre los asuntos de la asamblea se encuentran los preparativos para celebrar el 500 aniversario de la Reforma en 2017.

Sobre la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en América:La ELCA es una de las mayores denominaciones cristianas en los Estados Unidos, con más de 3.7 millones de miembros en más de 9,300 congregaciones en los 50 estados y la región del Caribe. Conocida como la iglesia de “La obra de Dios. Nuestras manos”, la ELCA enfatiza la gracia salvadora de Dios por medio de la fe en Jesucristo, la unidad entre los cristianos y el servicio en el mundo. Las raíces de la ELCA se encuentran en los escritos del alemán Martín Lutero, reformador de la iglesia.