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Invisible Border Wall

Invisible Border Wall: Welcome Gates

This weekend I’m headed to Tucson AZ to help build the border wall. Not THAT wall: an even better one. I call it the “Invisible Border Wall”. And it will be truly beautiful. Unlike the proposed physical wall, this one will welcome refugees, provide shelter and meet basic needs while the refugees work through their legal immigration process.

Rather than a wall to keep refugees out, this one will provide “welcome gates” to welcome strangers as our Lord commanded.

Our GateWAY Loft is one of only nine “welcome gates” (immigrant shelters) in this invisible wall along the U.S. southern border, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) who is convening the meeting. Jean Elise Durandisse and I will attend, working with our counterparts from Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to share “lessons learned” from our unique experiences in helping refugees and immigrants in our region.

With headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland the UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, once in 1954 and again in 1981. With 65.6 million people worldwide forcibly displaced from their homes, it is noteworthy that the UNHCR is working with refugees in 130 countries, including the USA. 28,300 people a day are forced to leave their homes. We are pleased to play a small but significant part in relieving some of these suffering refugees face.

What many who do not live in this region may not know is that we already have 700 miles of border wall. According to a LA Times report, the number of people apprehended by the Border Patrol has dropped by 64 percent from this time last year, the lowest level in at least 17 years. Illegal crossings have diminished to a trickle.

We continue to receive requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for housing detainees, especially pregnant women and women with children. But we are at (and over) capacity right now. Another mother and two small children arrived last night.

I am sad to report that one of our residents passed away this week. She came to us with an advanced stage of cancer. I am so very grateful to Scripps Mercy Hospital for providing care for her in her last days.

The guest speaker at the San Diego Region Interfaith Collaborative gathering at First UMC San Diego last week said of the homeless, “Look them in the eye. They are each human beings.” That resonates with me, for in our surge of Haitian immigrants in 2016, it was easy to look at the masses, and forget the individuals. I vividly recall God saying the same thing to me as I “squeezed between and stepped over” the refugees in our building. “Look them in the eyes. These are individuals, created and loved by God. They are your brothers and sisters!”

The GateWAY Loft and the other welcome shelters in our invisible wall of Care and Concern are dealing with the homeless issue, too. If we did not provide a place for the refugees and immigrants, they would be homeless as well.

Jean Elise and I will take our “Border Welcome Wall” message to the United Methodist Western Jurisdiction Immigration Task Force Training Event in Los Angeles, April 3-5. We have been invited to participate on a panel discussion and lead a workshop on our experiences with the GateWAY Loft, the prototype for the Safe Harbors Network.

Additional opportunities to share this message will come at Francis Parker High, March 21, and again at Sojourners Summit in June at Gallaudet University in Washington, D. C.

There is a fundamental flaw in placing trust in the physical. “…while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Never underestimate the power of the invisible!

Congratulations, Mary Baker!

Mary Baker, MSN, RN, Director Student Healthcare Project at Cal State San Marcos School of Nursing, who leads our Christ Ministry Center Community Clinic, won the 2018 San Diego Business Journal Healthcare Hero award.

Run by licensed medical professionals and nursing undergraduates and graduate students, the clinics serve the working poor, underinsured and uninsured residents of our community in a respectful and compassionate manner.

Mary recently shared 2017 statistics for the four Community Clinics she oversees, including ours. (The other three are in Escondido and two in Ocean Beach.)

The CSU-SM clinics treated 805 different individuals, 93% of whom have limited or no medical insurance. The percentage of patients who would have otherwise gone to the emergency room was 28.9%. Based upon an average ER visit ($1,233.00 - 2013 stats), the Community Clinics saved the local medical community $622,665.00.

Congratulations to Mary and her team. The recognition is well deserved. We are so blessed to be a part of the vital community ministry. “I was sick, and you cared for me.” Matthew 25.

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