Fellowship Southwest supports Ortiz’s immigrant ministry in Nuevo Laredo

The level of dire human need—and opportunity for gospel ministry—has expanded in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, just across the border from Laredo, Texas, reported Jorge Zapata, director of Fellowship Southwest’s Immigrant Relief Ministry.

In fact, the border itself—the bridge over the Rio Grande between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo—has become a focal point of need, explained Zapata, associate coordinator of CBF Texas.

That’s because so many asylum seekers have clustered in Nuevo Laredo, they have overwhelmed the local immigrant shelters, and they’re sleeping on the bridge, he said.

The sister cities are the home turf of FSW ministry partner Lorenzo Ortiz, who lives in Laredo and spends his days and nights among asylum-seeking refugees in Nuevo Laredo.

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Lorenzo was pastor of a small congregation in Laredo last year, when the flood of refugees began amassing along the border. Back then, immigrants who filled out asylum applications stayed on the U.S. side of the border as they awaited assignment of a date to present their case to a U.S. immigration court.

Hundreds of immigrants flooded Laredo with nowhere to go. So, Lorenzo and his congregation began feeding them. Eventually, church members grew weary and commanded him to stop. When he told them God had called him to feed and spiritually nurture the vulnerable immigrants, the church fired him. 

Across the next three months, Lorenzo, his wife, Oralia, and their close family fed 3,000 immigrants out of the kitchen of their home. FSW and Samaritan’s Purse came alongside them, purchasing food and supplies to keep the ministry going.

When the U.S. and Mexican governments changed the immigration policy, they required refugees to cross back into Mexico, where they would await details of their court date. 

So, Lorenzo began opening shelters—in rented buildings and in church facilities—in Nuevo Laredo. The four shelters he operated in August grew to seven by late October. They house 70 to 100 people a day. And still, that isn’t enough, Zapata said, reporting hundreds of refugees are crammed together at the bridge. “They are there because there is not enough shelters and no place to go, and they feel safer at the bridge.”

Safety is a compelling issue in Nuevo Laredo, one of the most dangerous cities in North America. Mexican cartels’ “business model” calls for kidnapping refugees and holding them for ransom until relatives—either in the United States or their homelands—pay to have them released. As Lorenzo drives Nuevo Laredo’s crowded streets, he keeps an eye out for immigrants, especially women with children, imploring them to get in his van, so he can take them to shelter.

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“Lorenzo is feeding immigrants in the seven shelters, and he takes food to the bridge as well,” Zapata reported. “He is feeding close to 5,000 asylum seekers a day.”

The immigrants have come from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, but also Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela. 

Fellowship Southwest continues to support Lorenzo’s ministry, providing money to rent shelters, pay utilities, buy gas for his van and also purchase food and supplies for the refugees.

God has blessed Lorenzo’s ministry and our efforts, and we have money to support him now. But this is a long-term humanitarian crisis. It extends far beyond Nuevo Laredo, to Brownsville/Matamoros on the east and to San Diego/Tijuana on the west. If you would like to contribute to support the ministries of Lorenzo Ortiz and other FSW pastor-partners along the border, click here. And if you are interested in volunteering to minister on the border, click here.

Jay Pritchard