Over the course of the summer many of us have had our hearts broken, over and over again, as we have witnessed the thousands of Central American refugee children crossing the southern border of the United States. This crisis certainly has caught the attention of the faith community and many have asked Church World Service the same question: How can we help? What can we do?
These children are angels. And, no, I am not talking about a supernatural creature with wings. These children are angels in the original sense of the Hebrew word mal’ākh, meaning ‘one who is sent,’ or simply ‘messenger.’ They have brought us an urgent and vitally important message about rising levels of violence, gang activity, drug cartels and life threatening circumstances in Central America. They have brought us a message about child trafficking and humanitarian protection. And they have brought us a message about our broken immigration system and the values we hold as a nation.
CWS has been at the forefront of the response to this crisis in a number of ways. Not only have we been a leader in meeting the immediate material needs of these refugees, we also are a leader in meeting their spiritual needs. Since June we provided religious services, including chaplaincy, age appropriate worship, bible school and religious education for families living at the federal Family Residential Center in Artesia, NM. This is a temporary shelter for women and children awaiting resolution of their asylum claims. The program also is engaging the local ecumenical faith community and is training local volunteers to run the various programs.
Now, we are inviting people of faith across the country to respond to these “angels” by becoming angels. You are invited to become an angel by sending your own message to the women and children at the Artesia shelter. In sending cards of prayer we also are sharing the message that many people here in the United States care deeply about them.
A scripture passage in the book of Hebrews inspired this program. It reads, “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” This bit of scripture reminds us that being an angel is about a mutual exchange. In extending hospitality we might meet an angel; and in treating others as angels, we become angels ourselves.
If you and/or members of your congregation are interested in participating in the Angel-to-Angel program please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in learning more about the shelter in Artesia and how you can help support this work click here.
Joya Colon-Berezin is the Ecumenical Relations Coordinator in CWS's Immigration and Refugee Program.