July 2014 – No matter one’s political opinion on the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants pouring over the U.S.-Mexico border, one thing Christians can agree on is the need for the immigrants to hear the Word of God.
Pastors Karl and Stephen Heimer (father and son) and a team from Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care minister to detainees at the El Paso Processing Center in Texas, where they’ve found LHF’s Spanish Bible with Small Catechism to be an essential tool.
The Heimers spend time at the detention center twice each week, Thursdays with the women and Saturdays with the men.
“The detainees are held for two or three months, sometimes up to a year, and are from all over – mostly Latin America, but also England, Belize, Egypt, and so on,” Rev. Karl Heimer explained.
“Some are illegal immigrants, or they’re they’re in our country legally but have committed a crime and need to be deported. Some are seeking political asylum. There are all kinds of categories,” he said. “It’s easy to stereotype, but we try to deal with them as human beings rather than as a group of people.
“In the detention center, there are little flags all around the room,” Rev. Karl continued. “Each of these people is a potential child of God. We’re preaching to the nations, giving the message of God’s Word to them. It’s exciting!”
The Heimers have given away hundreds of Bibles the people take with them when they leave.
“People at our services get Good News magazine, Portals of Prayer, and Bibles,” Rev. Karl said. “We have access to these people for a season, for Christian outreach. It’s an opportunity to share God’s love and witness to them. When they’re get deported back all over the world, they take those materials with them.”
LHF’s Bible with Small Catechism has proven to be helpful in a variety of ways.
“Luther’s Small Catechism gives the people substance,” said Rev. Stephen Heimer. “The detainees have a lot of time on their hands. There was a man, early on when we began our ministry at the El Paso center, who seemed to be a bit of a leader among the other men there. He told me about their routine.
“They look forward to Saturdays with the time of worship, where they can all be together. During the week, they’re separated from one another in their barracks. But they have their daily Bible studies and devotions, and they use the catechism to learn and teach each other. They do that on their own, when we can’t be there,” he explained. ““For many of them, this may be the first time in their lives that they can just sit and learn.”
The El Paso Processing Center can house around 1,000 people, and at times, Rev. Karl said, the center has even exceeded capacity. About 10 percent of the population attends the Heimers’ worship service. There are about 300 women in the center, and 60-70 of them typically attend worship.
The LHF Bibles are in high demand.
“We realize that supplies of the Spanish Bible with Small Catechism are limited, but we could easily give away as many as LHF could ever send us,” said Rev. Karl.
“We need to be human and remember that these are also children of God,” he concluded. “We need to look at individuals and see what they’re having to deal with. Hopefully, we can get them out of the pit and bring hope and forgiveness in Jesus Christ to them.”
Only with your help can this important work continue. Prayerfully consider how you can help support LHF projects.