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'House Calls' for the Soul: How These Pastors Are Taking the Gospel into the Shadows

07-06-2017
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Behind America's battle over immigration policy and what to do about illegal immigrants are real people whose very families and lives are at stake.

For Christians, the debate is even more difficult, especially for pastors of undocumented immigrants.

Pastors are finding ways to care for these members of their congregation regardless of the politics.

Prayer by phone isn't new for many ministries, but Pastor Julio Barquero is taking it one step further. He's actually holding services on conference calls for undocumented immigrants who attend his church and he's making more and more "house calls" for the soul – for members of his congregation frightened by tougher immigration laws, including a tough sanctuary city law in Texas in which police can randomly ask people about their immigration status.

"They are afraid of the police. So it's not just a matter of going to church, it's also scary to go shopping at certain times," said Barquero who serves as lay minister with Disciples of Christ.

The Associated Press recently visited the home of illegal immigrants, who asked to conceal their identity to protect them from deportation.

The latest statistics show approximately 11 million people who didn't enter the country legally live in the United States – 1.5 million of them in Texas.
 
Pastors are seeing these members of their congregations no longer attending church or church programs because they fear the new laws.

Pastor Luz Maria Coto-Peña with Living Word Church says her Spanish-speaking church members have built a life in America.

"They have family, jobs, many of them are homeowners, many of them are business owners," she explained.

Coto-Peña says she's not sure fellow Christians at Living Word Church in Houston understand completely how complicated the immigration issue is for these families – or if they are looking at it biblically.

"Here we follow what Jesus says, not what politicians want to do," she said.

Catholic churches are also making those "house calls."

Cardinal Daniel Dinardo with the Houston-Galveston Catholic Diocese says the church is very concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants.

"We have kids in our Catholic schools that are coming in and they're crying during the day, and why is that? They're not sure whether mommy and daddy are gonna be home at night when they get back from school," said DiNardo, who serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says the current laws do not reflect Christian values "to protect all innocent lives."

Pastor Barquero looks to scripture in response.

"Isaiah, chapter 10, verse(s) one and two says, "Woe to those who dictate laws against my people, orphans, needy, widows."

Barquero says he intends to "follow his heart" by helping those living in the shadows of America's struggle with immigration policy.

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