Church + Mission Integral = Hope
by Alexia Salvatierra
Immigrant churches fueled by reverse missionaries from the Global South are often vital and vibrant. Although they may not have a developed theology around justice, they have a natural affinity for mission integral, or holistic mission. When a trusted leader teaches the call to heal and transform communities, I have consistently seen them respond with energy, joy, and disciplined discipleship.
An example: Most of the members of Peruvian Pastor Cesar Arroyo's ELCA church in the Los Angeles area do not have legal immigration status. After hearing about a Guatemalan family facing deportation because their asylum case had been rejected due to a missed appointment, the church decided to give that family temporary sanctuary while they fought for justice. They then heard that the Minutemen (vigilantes against undocumented immigrants) were going to hold a demonstration outside the church during Sunday services. The pastor told the congregation that they did not have to attend services if they were frightened or traumatized by the presence of the Minutemen. Members of other churches decided to attend instead, along with the Lutheran bishop, to show their support.
To everyone's surprise, almost all of the congregation came to church that day. After services, they led a procession around the church singing hymns, stopped in front of the Minutemen, and prayed for them. (The bishop also joined in the prayer.) The Minutemen did not know how to respond. As the procession wound around and entered back into the church, Pastor Arroyo turned to the Minutemen and said, "God Bless America, brothers!"
The Minutemen, confused and disoriented, responded, "God Bless America!"
A cynical reporter with Univision was floored. He told me, "In all of my years on the immigration beat, I have never seen anything like this. You all are going to make me a Christian."
Rev. Alexia Salvatierra is the coauthor of Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World (Intervarsity Press, 2013) and a Lutheran pastor with over 35 years of experience in community development and legislative advocacy.