Mission Ambassadors Sandy McKee and Lynn Sibley report from missions along the U.S. - Mexican border.
With all the controversy regarding immigration and detention, we welcomed an opportunity to travel to McAllen, Texas to learn about Methodist mission work on both sides of the border. Our host was Susan Hellums, Border Area Mission Coordinator, a native of the area. She’s been involved in mission work there since the 1980s. Her knowledge of the challenges facing the area is deep, objective and compassionate.
We attended a Sunday evening Spanish language service at the Methodist Church in the town of Mission TX. It was fun to try to sing familiar hymns in Spanish. We were welcomed with a delicious dinner and time to get to know the pastor and small, but loving, congregation.
On our first full day we traveled to Mexico with a group of Methodists from a church in Birmingham AL. We parked on the US side and walked across the international bridge where we were met by Willie. He’s a missionary with the Board of Global Missions and works in two Mexican towns. In Nuevos Progreso, we visited a new cheerful orphanage for children. It also houses a school. In Rio Bravo, the mission center included housing for volunteers who come to build and repair homes. The mission also has medical, dental, optometry and psychological clinics. While these missions are run by Mexicans, churches from the US have been deeply involved with funding and sending groups. We were told that volunteers were always needed and welcome.
Today we took a road trip to Brownsville and the Good Neighbor Settlement House. It was founded in 1953 by four United Methodist Women. It continues to provide food, housing, showers, clothing and medical services to the city’s homeless, as well as documented immigrants awaiting travel to their sponsors. Respite Director Marianela Ramirez Watson, a UMW member, personified a humble servant of our Lord.
In the afternoon, we visited La Posada Providencia, cottages run by three Sisters of Divine Providence. Legal immigrants are housed there and prepared for US society with language and job skills training. We were surprised to meet immigrants not just from Central America, but also from Russia, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
We ended the day at Proyecto Azteca, an organization devoted to building housing for low income families. Their director provided numerous insights and historical perspectives on immigration and wall building.
On Wednesday we will help serve meals at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen. It’s near the bus station and serves refugees/immigrants/asylum seekers. Many faith-based groups and other charities have cooperated at the Center since its founding in 2015.
The Methodists and other mission workers we had the privilege of spending time with are committed to doing all they can to help the impoverished, frightened, and struggling people they see on a daily basis. Many work seven days a week over years and years to feed and clothe and do all they can do to love their neighbor.
We won’t mind leaving heat indexes of 115 and torrential rains and flooding. We are overwhelmed by the challenges of devastating poverty and the heartbreaking human suffering we learned about and witnessed. But as we prepare for Mission u and teaching about the 150th anniversary of United Methodist Women, we are convinced that we were blessed to spend time with contemporary real life heroes. Their lives are a testament to radical Christianity in our troubled world.
All those served by the missions are in the U.S. legally. To volunteer to serve there, contact Susan Hellums at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contribute financially, send checks to:
El Valle District
c/o Susan Hellums
4200 North McColl
McAllen TX 78504
Memo: immigration relief
Rio Texas Conference
Advance Special #1428