I was in prison and you came to visit me … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:36, 40
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, nearly one-third of the prison and detention center population in the United States is Hispanic. Behind those bars, every day thousands of people wake up not knowing what’s going to happen to them, what they can do, or even who they can truly rely upon.
The Federal Detention Center in El Paso, Texas houses people for a wide variety of reasons, from criminal detention, to processing after illegal immigration to providing housing for refugees from countries like Cuba. The capacity of the detention center is 1,000 people, but they have at times had more than 1,500 residents.
Ysleta Mission Society brings comfort through the love of God to these frightened and displaced people every day by ministering to them using the Spanish Bible with Small Catechism, which is translated and published by the Lutheran Heritage Foundation (LHF). Christ’s constant and unconditional love provides peace, and the Holy Spirit works through this book in a language they can read and understand.
In his ministry with Ysleta, Rev. Karl Heimer works with “illegal immigrants who…need to be deported, those who have committed crimes, or [people] who are seeking asylum, there’s all different kinds of categories,” he said. “It’s easy to stereotype, but… we deal with them as human beings rather than as a grouping way of people. If we can focus in the Bible, in translating for the language itself, the best way in which we can communicate, that is for practical purposes the most important thing about what LHF does.”
Every Saturday, Rev. Karl Heimer and Rev. Stephen Heimer, who is also from Ysleta Mission Society, go to the El Paso detention center to lead worship and distribute the Bible with Small Catechism.
Though other Spanish Bibles are available to the detainees, Rev. Karl Heimer said that the LHF Bibles with Small Catechisms are always the first to be claimed because of the extra teaching from the catechism.
“This Bible is the highest quality of materials we can provide, and we know they’re going to make good use of that,” explained Rev. Stephen Heimer. “If they have the catechism, they have the substance, and they can share that substance with the others.”
“During the week, the people are all separated from one another in their barracks. They have their own daily Bible studies and devotions, and they use these materials to learn and teach each other,” he continued. “They use the Bible with Small Catechism throughout the week, really utilize them because they have a LOT of time on their hands. This is maybe the first time in their lives that they can just sit and learn.”
LHF’s version of the Bible with Small Catechism consists of the Bible followed by Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, all translated into Spanish, and the Heimers can’t keep up with the demand for more. LHF has sent them thousands of Bibles to share with the detainees, but people are still clamoring for the Word of God.
“We don’t ever have enough; we just try to deal with whatever we can with whatever God gives us,” Rev. Karl Heimer said. “Last Saturday, I had 93 men on Saturday, 5 Bibles left.” With the high rate of turnover at the detention center, Rev. Heimer said they could easily give away a case of Bibles each week. “When they leave the center, they take these Bibles with them. They’re not left behind, and so that shows that the people value them.”
The need is great. Your brothers and sisters in Christ need His saving Word. Will you help? Click here to donate to the Lutheran Heritage Foundation’s fund for Spanish materials.