Along the Texas/Mexico border, over 14,000 immigrants have congregated in an encampment under a bridge connecting Del Rio, Texas to Acuña, Mexico. Del Rio, a city of 35,000, has seen a huge surge in immigrants, the majority of whom are from Haiti, in recent weeks. Texas Baptists churches and River Ministry missionaries are on both sides of the border, meeting physical needs and sharing the love of Christ with everyone they meet.
In order to assist their efforts in the face of this influx, Texas Baptists has awarded a $10,000 grant to City Church Del Rio, including a $5,000 contribution from the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Mario Gonzalez, director of River Ministry/Mexico Missions, traveled to Del Rio to deliver the funds and see how Texas Baptists can continue to assist in the face of this ongoing crisis.
“Texas Baptists continue to serve on the frontlines of the immigration crisis by meeting the spiritual and physical needs of both immigrants and law enforcement,” Craig Christina, associate director of Texas Baptists, said. “Thanks to the generosity of our churches who support the Cooperative Program, we are offering practical compassion in Jesus name to all who need assistance.”
Meeting needs in Del Rio
City Church has been engaged with border ministry for a long time, but in early August, Border Patrol approached City Church, asking them to make sandwiches for the growing number of migrants crossing into Del Rio. Since then, the church has also expanded to providing Gatorades and water.
Matthew Mayberry, pastor of City Church, explained that the opportunity to minister to people crossing the border was an opportunity to be a part of a life-changing experience that they would remember forever.
“The nations are coming to us, and the world is at our door. We don’t want to shy away from that. This is an opportunity, and the people we serve will remember this day for the rest of their lives, and they’ll tell their children and their children will tell their children,” Mayberry said. “We can share the gospel through our actions and the way we serve them, and when they get wherever they’re going, they’re going to share the story of how the church treated them when they first entered this country.”
A state-wide effort
As the needs grew astronomically over the last week, culminating in the thousands of people encamped under the bridge, Shon Young, River Ministry missionary and associate pastor of City Church, reached out to other Texas Baptists churches in the surrounding area to help.
Churches responded immediately, with some driving as far as five hours to deliver the sandwiches. FBC Elroy, First Baptist San Angelo, Goldthwaite First Baptist Church, FBC Hondo, Iglesia El Shaddai Round Rock and more delivered sandwiches and sent down volunteers to help with distribution and other needs. In total, 10,000 sandwiches were made by people from City Church and the other churches and passed out to migrants.
The church is also assisting Border Patrol, with one individual arranging housing for officers with local families as there is a hotel shortage in the city.
Young is also the president of the Val Verde Humanitarian Coalition, a group of several churches and community organizations working together to transition refugees from Del Rio to their final destinations. It was started at the request of Border Patrol in 2019, and officers drop off immigrants who have been fully processed at Val Verde. They help immigrants communicate with family members already in the United States, help them purchase tickets to their final destinations and also help meet basic needs, like food, shoelaces and showers. They also distribute backpacks with Bibles and travel necessities. Since early August, Val Verde has served 3,700 people, with over 300 people passing through their doors daily in the last week.
Ministry in Mexico
Across the border in Acuña, River Ministry missionary Dr. Luis Arturo Davila is working alongside Baptist churches and the regional association to feed migrants waiting to cross into the United States or those who have been deported. They prepared and distributed 1,000 hot meals on Sept. 21 and are continuing to prepare more food to feed people in the days to come.
Davila is also distributing as many hygiene kits as possible, though he explained that, due to the surge in people, many of the basic necessities are either sold out or dramatically more expensive. In addition to the hygiene kits, Spanish Bibles and French New Testaments are being handed out to the immigrants.
On both sides of the border, churches and ministries are encouraged by the words Jesus spoke in Matthew 25.
“Jesus told his disciples, ‘I was hungry and you fed me... I was a sojourner and you welcomed me.’ Later on in the passage, Jesus tells his disciples ‘as you have done to the least of these, so also you have done to me,” Young said. “As Christians, we have the responsibility to look upon humanity with dignity, because we’ve been made in the image of God regardless of our nationality or ethnicity, regardless of our immigration status.”
Mayberry asked that, above all, churches would pray for the immigrants and those assisting them.