Coming to Faith in an I.C.E. Detention Center

Categories: Americas, Catechism, Immigrant, United States

“’I was in prison, and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you…in prison and visit you?’ and the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:36b-40

Each year, tens of thousands of men, women and children pass through the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. For many, it is a dark time of worry, fear and insecurity. And yet, it can be a time that God works miracles.

Chap. Cameron holding LHF’s Haitian-Creole Small Catechism

Chaplain Dustin Cameron, who works in an ICE detention center in Louisiana, has seen these miracles for himself and knows ICE detention centers to be a mission field where the Holy Spirit can change lives.

Chap. Cameron began working at the facility in 2018, speaking in chapel services, distributing Christian materials, and providing spiritual counsel to the detainees. Religious materials are in high demand but are sometimes difficult to find.

“Here, we rely on donated material,” shared Chap. Cameron. “To be quite honest, it is quite difficult to get Christian material in a lot of languages, and once you look past English and Spanish it can get really hard. I was researching and trying to find books in these guys’ native tongue, and I found LHF online.

“Close to the time when I first got here, there weren’t many Spanish Bibles here, and there was a big, big demand for it,” he continued. “I went down to the sidewalk and I was just giving LHF’s Bibles with Small Catechisms to everyone walking by, the next thing I know I’m out of Bibles, three cases, you know. One day I was passing by the kitchen, and one of the kitchen workers stopped me and said ‘The Bible you gave me a couple weeks ago was the best gift I’ve ever received. It’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received my whole life.’”

While the majority of the detention center is Latino (around 75%), many other nationalities are also represented. At one time, over 50 different nationalities were being held in that single center.

According to Chap. Cameron, LHF is the only place that translates good Christian books into the languages that he’s seeking. His most recent request included Small Catechisms in French, Korean, Russian, Haitian Creole, Tamil, Hindi, Chinese and Georgian.

“I see the Gospel totally changing people’s lives,” said Chap. Cameron. “We’ve even had people come in here and say they believe the Lord sent them here just so they could be saved.”

One complication of Chap. Cameron’s job is that he cannot show any preferential treatment to any religion, since the chapel is (by necessity) a communal worship space. While he can lead a Christian chapel service there, the Islamic men also use it for their own worship.

However, that too can be an opportunity to witness! “There was an Islamic gentleman, and I’d noticed he’d stopped attending the Muslim services,” Chap. Cameron shared. “He stopped me one day and said he’d like to meet with me privately. He wanted to know what the plan of Salvation was – he was turning his back on the whole Islamic religion.

“He said ‘In doing this, I know that my whole family is disowning me, my whole outside touch with the world will be gone. I’ll have no connection outside of this place with anybody.’ I could sense the Holy Spirit, probably as strong as I’ve ever sensed Him,” said Chap. Cameron. “He said, ‘I want to know that Jesus is my Lord,’ so I went through the plan of Salvation…and explained that [he’d] have the free gift of Salvation, and he was weeping. I could sense the Holy Spirit just hovering in such a profound way.”

“The role the Gospel plays in this setting is central to how many cope with the situation that they find themselves in, knowing their only true hope is in Jesus Christ,” said Chap. Cameron. “Having the material to share and use with the resident population is more precious than pure gold, as they get to have something in their own language to read and study!”

Only with your help can this important work continue. Prayerfully consider how you can help support LHF projects.