MISSION—The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission hosted an Operation Border Blessing luncheon on Thurs., May 23, in Mission, Texas, for evangelical leaders and several government officials to discuss critical needs and responses to the border crisis.
Held at the Valley Baptist Retreat and Conference Center, the luncheon was co-hosted by Pastor Todd Lamphere, who connects churches and government leaders for ministry, and Dr. Julio Guarneri, lead pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, McAllen.
Several evangelical leaders were in attendance including Dr. James Dobson, Christian author and psychologist; Paula White, of Paula White Ministries; Jay Strack, evangelist; and pastors from Gateway Church, in Southlake; Prestonwood Baptist Church, in Dallas; Church of the Highlands, in Birmingham, Alabama.
Many local Baptist pastors and leaders from the Rio Grande Valley, as well as Steve Vernon, associate executive director of Texas Baptists, and Daniel Rangel, director of Texas Baptists’ River Ministry, were also in attendance.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ministry opportunities for immigrants and their families, Border Patrol agents and their families and ICE agents and their families.
An eye-opening tour of Border Patrol operations
More than 40 individuals participated in a tour of Border Patrol operations on Thursday morning. Vernon noted that the tour was eye-opening and revealed the great crisis occurring along the border.
“At the center, it was heartbreaking to see the overcrowding and lack of resources that face, not only the refugees, but those who care for them,” Vernon said. “But at the same time, I saw the presence of Christ demonstrated on the border through churches that care, through public officials who care, and through law enforcement and border patrol who really care about people.”
Rolando Aguirre, pastor for Spanish Language Ministries and Discipleship Team Leader at Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen and president of the Hispanic Baptist Convention, also witnessed the complexity of the situation faced by Border Patrol agents and law enforcement. Due to overcrowding and limited resources, immigrants faced extended periods of time in holding facilities which were not designed to be used for lodging.
Carla Provost, chief of U.S. Border Patrol, shared with luncheon attendees the two-part crisis Border Patrol faces—both humanitarian and border security. Border Patrol agents are involved in daily apprehensions and at times, rescue efforts. Additionally, the agents are caring for families and children in difficult situations. She thanked the pastors and church leaders for expressing a willingness to help care for both the immigrants in need and the Border Patrol agents and their families.
Approximately 4,200 people cross the U.S. border each day, according to John Sanders, U.S. Customs Border Patrol Commissioner. Of those who cross, around 400 are unaccompanied children. Sanders detailed the tragedy and his personal prayers for the safety of officers, immigrants, and everyone along the border each day.
Lamphere shared three ways for churches to come alongside Border Patrol and Christian agencies ministering along the border. He encouraged the creation of Welcome Zones at churches, to provide a safe place for immigrants to be welcomed into the country. He also suggested organizing volunteers to visit immigrants in the hospital, and a Homeland Security Family Network Appreciation Tour, to care for and encouragement Border Patrol agents and their families.
Seeing compassion and Gospel-opportunities
In a brief address at the end of the luncheon, Dobson expressed how personally moved he was by the day and shared his desire to tell others about the compassion he saw expressed along the border.
“If Jesus were in the southern part of this nation today—in the flesh—he would be at the borders and he would be healing hearts and minds,” Dobson said.
As Aguirre reflected on the important ministry in his hometown and along the border, he shared, “It was good that pastors from all over Texas and even around the country came to see firsthand the reality so that we can share the true message. We don’t have any political agenda. We don’t go to the left or to the right, but to the Lamb’s agenda. When we share the Gospel with immigrants, regardless of where they are coming from, they are no longer strangers or aliens, but fellow citizens in Christ.”