By Leah Allen
More than 50 Hispanic ministers and family members gathered in McAllen, Texas, July 26 to pray for those involved in the border crisis, as thousands of undocumented Central American families and unaccompanied minors enter the United States.
The prayer event served as a kickoff for “For His Children,” an initiative of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Convoy of Hope, Buckner International and Somebody Cares International to help meet physical and spiritual needs of the children and families.
Christians from across Texas — including Houston, San Antonio and border cities including McAllen and Edinburg — met at a park on the Rio Grande to sing worship songs and pray. They prayed for the children and their parents, peace in their countries of origin, President Obama and Congress as they make decisions on the issue, and law enforcement and Border Patrol chaplains.
“I think it is so important for us to pray for the God of mercy and the God of comfort,” said Doug Stringer, founder of Somebody Cares International, after reading 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. “We don’t know everybody’s story or the windows of their soul. But we do know that Jesus has an answer, and we the church need to be that healing that is in the midst of all the difficulties of the world.”
Christian groups prayed at three locations — the processing facility for unaccompanied minors, the Border Patrol station and Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where families receive assistance.
Mark Gonzalez, founder of the Hispanic Action Network, has spent seven weeks in the Rio Grande Valley coordinating organizations and groups to visit the border to assess some of the biggest needs, including prayer.
“It’s good for pastors to come down and leaders and people to come down, because it just moves their prayer,” he said. “The human element gets stirred from the human heart, from the compassionate side.”
The day of prayer ended at Iglesia Del Pueblo in Mission, where Pastor Juan de la Garza emphasized the church’s role in response to the immigration crisis.
“The Valley has become a mission field,” he said. “We’ve got a million people [in the county], and more than 90 percent are unchurched. …We don’t have to go to Central America or to Mexico, because we have them coming through here.”
Iglesia Del Pueblo is one of multiple locations being considered to house the processing center, currently operated out of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Iglesia Del Pueblo is willing to accept the responsibility if invited, and it already is in the process of upgrading its kitchen area, the pastor said.
For four hours during the day of prayer, Christians from varied denominations joined hands and prayed together about the present crisis and its future outcome.
“It’s a good thing to see the body come together on this, putting politics aside, putting denominational stuff aside, and saying, ‘We’ve got to respond and be the church.’ It’s the church being the church,” Gonzales said. “A revival of compassion is happening.”