Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries was established in 1985 with the specific purpose of providing assistance to refugees (primarily coming from Central America) seeking asylum in the United States. A refugee is person who is outside his or her own country who is unwilling or unable to return because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group membership or political opinion. The term refugee is often used to include a larger group of individuals who are in need of safe heaven or refuge but who may not technically qualify as refugees under this legal definition. An asylum seeker is a person who is already in the U.S. seeking refugee status. Working closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Church World Service, Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries has helped more than 20,000 refugees begin life anew by sharing the love of Jesus Christ through gifts given ‘to the least of these’ whatever their need may be. Services offered refugees and asylum seekers include housing, food, clothing, legal aid, transportation, family reunification and counseling.Founder Feliberto Pereira said:
“It is often difficult for the average American to imagine the cross a refugee must bear. As a former refugee from Cuba, I can personally relate to the perils of my brothers and sisters in Christ seeking freedom from terrorism, violence and political persecution.
“You might ask, ‘What can I do for these refugees and the ‘poorest of the poor’ in this part of the country?” Well, we cannot look at these less fortunate with the eyes of the world. We must see Christ in their faces and lift our voices to eliminate the many obstacles which prevent these, God’s people, from achieving freedom and liberty.
“My hope is that you will pray for them, and hear again Jesus’ own call to faith, the verse that has become the inspiration for this ministry:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me”. (Matthew 25)
Advocacy efforts continue throughout the country. Several of us participated earlier this year in an interfaith prayer vigil in Brownsville TX at the border with Mexico. A Federal court subsequently ruled the good news that forcing legitimate asylum seekers to wait on the Mexico side of the border is unconstitutional. But the legal system is already delaying implementation of the ruling. We pray that you will find ways to participate, even though crowds are not permitted to gather in these days. As an example, you can access sample advocacy letters for contacting your legislators on the latest refugee issues at Refugee International.