To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.
I’ve been working with San Gabriel Presbytery (SGP) for over 17 years as the Mission Advocate for Hunger, Poverty, and Peacemaking Issues, so you might ask why I titled this column New Beginnings. As it turns out, last Monday (1/16) I began a new job for you all. I am now, in addition to being the Mission Advocate, the Immigrant Accompaniment Organizer (IAO) for SGP. I am looking forward to this addition as I see it meshing very nicely with what I am already doing. Immigration and immigrant/refugee ministries have been part of my very broad job description as the Mission Advocate, but now I will have the opportunity to go more in depth in these areas. It also means I will have the opportunity to more closely work alongside and support our churches that are directly supporting immigrants and refugees in various ways.
I want to hear your stories, learn how your church and church members are caring for/advocating for/supporting immigrants and refugees, and work together with you to form a plan of how I can support your church and its unique situation. I want to stress this point. I believe that each of our churches is living out a unique call of how to care for its community, which often includes immigrants and refugees, so I need to hear from you and learn from you. I hope your church will reach out to me to set up a meeting in the coming months or invite me to a mission committee or immigration team meeting. My contact information is below. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll be calling.
The IAO position has several facets. Besides working directly with SGP churches, I will also be collaborating with other presbyteries and community organizations. Some of what we will be doing together is education and capacity building. The SoCal Region Presbyterian Immigrant and Refugee Task Force (IRTF) meetings offer quarterly updates on immigration policies, the immigration situation in our region, and advocacy opportunities. Our Living Waters for the World team is exploring opportunities for water purification system work in the Tijuana area through Via Migrante. Via Migrante is a sister organization to Via International, which hosted our virtual border trips in 2021. I also continue to support the Baldwin Park Administrative Commission as it works with San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity to build affordable and immigrant housing on the Baldwin Park church property.
I’ve already met with my colleagues in Pacific Presbytery, Heidi Worthen Gamble and Anita Chombeng, and there is a lot of excitement about what we can accomplish together. We plan to offer at least one study trip to the U.S./Mexico border this year. We are also talking to Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) about the possibility of opening an immigrant/refugee welcome center in Los Angeles. This would be done utilizing a broad coalition of faith groups and immigrant support organizations.
If immigrant accompaniment and immigration justice are ministry areas that you want to learn more about or are already passionate about, I recommend you to get yourself on the email list for updates from the IRTF by emailing Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org and telling her you’d like to get the IRTF emails. Also, look for updates periodically in the SGP Monday Morning Update. And please reach out to me directly.
Cell phone: 626-376-6912
There is a lot of exciting, faith-led immigration justice work going on in our Presbytery and throughout Southern California. I hope you will join me in some of our future efforts and I look forward to serving alongside you in this new role!