Dallas serves asylum seekers overflowing from El Paso

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Dallas congregations affiliated with Fellowship Southwest and CBF Texas are part of a humanitarian coalition that has begun to serve asylum seekers temporarily relocated in North Texas.

First United Methodist Church, Royal Lane Baptist Church and Wilshire Baptist Church are participating in Dallas Responds, a ministry created to shelter and support asylum seekers transported to the area from El Paso, Texas.

The ministry in Dallas is necessary because El Paso, located on the border with Mexico, is being inundated with asylum seekers who are released by the U.S. government with no support and no place to go.

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Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square, an interfaith coalition of religious leaders, is sponsoring the immigrant ministry. George Mason, pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church, is convener of the organization’s executive committee. Heather Mustain, missions and advocacy minister at Wilshire, is chair of its leadership council’s civic engagement committee. Andy Stoker, pastor of First United Methodist Church and a Fellowship Southwest steering committee member, is a member of the leadership council.

Dallas Responds started serving asylum seekers last weekend, when the first bus arrived from El Paso. The ministry serves parents with children who have been processed by the U.S. government but await a hearing on asylum status. While they wait, they stay with sponsors—usually family or friends from their home countries—who are scattered across the nation. In-between processing and reaching their sponsors, they need myriad kinds of help, which Dallas Responds is providing.

Serving refugees in Dallas is a natural response for Baptists and a visible demonstration of interfaith unity, according to faith leaders helping them.

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“Assisting with the comfort and care of asylum seekers is vital to what it means to be Baptist,” said Mike Gregg, pastor of Royal Lane Baptist Church. For example, the founder of Baptist life in America, Roger Williams, created Providence, R.I., as a safe place for Jews, Quakers and Baptists, all exiled from religious life in the American colonies.

“Williams selected the name because of ‘God’s merciful providence’ for delivering a safe and welcoming home for those afraid and displaced,” Gregg added. “Baptists in Dallas are joining other faith groups by creating a place for asylum seekers, vulnerable travelers who need God’s merciful providence.”

“As people of faith and goodwill, and especially as historical Baptists, we must continue to be a welcoming presence and God’s merciful providence to those seeking safety and sanctuary,” he said.

“The most beautiful experience out of what has felt chaotic and messy are the ecumenical and interfaith relationships that have developed,” Mustain reported. “This is a response fueled by the love and compassion of all faiths, all denominations, all people.

“It’s Jew, Muslim, Christian, agnostic. It’s persecuted Christians providing meals to asylum-seekers. It’s Spanish-speaking and English-speaking. And having just celebrated Pentecost, it feels right.”

Dallas Responds volunteers greet the asylum seekers when their buses arrive, provide care and lodging for them while in the city, and help them obtain transportation to reach their sponsors.

To learn more about Dallas Responds—including how to donate funding and supplies, as well as to volunteer—click here.

Jay Pritchard