“People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Mark 10:14

This winter, consider a respite from the blowing snow while at the same time serving children and asylum seekers at our southern border. Invite family and friends to join you on a mission trip to South Texas, Arizona or California where you as a volunteer are needed to bring a word of kindness and welcome to asylum seekers fleeing persecution, human rights violation, armed conflict or violence.

Their journey begins with a hope for a better future but is too often met with danger and fear. Some fall prey to human trafficking. Some asylum seekers are detained as soon as they cross the border.

What is the difference between a refugee, an asylum-seeker and a migrant? A refugee flees serious human rights violations and persecution. An asylum-seeker looks for protection but is not yet legally recognized as a refugee. Seeking asylum is a human right, and everyone seeking asylum should be allowed entrance into the US to quickly have a hearing before an immigration judge. Migrants aren’t fleeing from persecution; nevertheless, they too are entitled to have their human rights respected and protected.

Several opportunities await you this winter:

The Humanitarian Crisis Relief Center, a ministry of Catholic Charities, operates a Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, providing countless men, women, children and infant refugees a place to rest, have a warm meal, a shower, a change into clean clothing and medical care before they continue on their journey. Volunteers are needed to provide a voice of welcome and kindness to the many seeking asylum. (http://www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org/Home.aspx)

Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest seeks volunteers in both their Phoenix and Tucson offices to help in their more than 30-year mission serving some of the most persecuted people. Volunteers are part of LSS-SW’s stepping stone needed so the newly arrived can bring stability to their lives. (http://www.lss-sw.org/refugeeservices)

Border Angels in San Diego, California seeks volunteers for their regular “water drops,” bringing fresh gallon jugs of water to high-traffic migrant paths in the desert. In 1994, the US Government adopted a policy of militarizing urban border areas in order to reroute anticipated human migration into more remote and hazardous border regions as a way of deterring migrant crossings. The policy resulted in more than 11,000 deaths since 1994 caused by dehydration.  (https://www.borderangels.org/desert-water-drops/)

Closer to home, child advocates are needed to spend time with unaccompanied migrant children while they are subject to deportation proceedings. Volunteers working with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights are assigned one child whom they visit weekly, help through options, accompany to court hearings, research the situation in his/her home country and advocate for the best child’s interests. (https://www.theyoungcenter.org/volunteer-at-the-young-center/)

Also nearby, an opportunity to serve is through the “Visitation Network.” The Network operates in 55 immigrant prisons and jails including the McHenry County Jail in Woodstock, Illinois. Visitors meet with and befriend detainees seeking to end the isolation and abuse often experienced by detained immigrants. (https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org/visitation-network)

You can be the organizer of a mission trip. Begin with prayer asking for God’s guidance, then speak with friends and family who also have a heart for serving refugees and asylum seekers. Next, do the research identifying a ministry that needs your time and talent.

Lutheran Church of the Master has a more than ten-year history of supporting youth on mission trips all across the United States. We have listened to inspiring testaments upon their return. Talk to one of the many who have participated in mission trips; they will convince you. If this coming winter is too soon for a mission trip for you, begin making plans for next winter, and remember mission trips don’t have to be limited to our youth.

Someone is in need of your care, your smile, your kindness, your Christian witness.