Migrant Ministry

I’ve been told that in the summer months, worship attendance will go down here at San Lucas. More than a few families from Eagle Pass travel al norte in order to work. People who live in Texas will go to places like Minnesota or Wisconsin to do tough agricultural work like picking sugar beets or working in canning factories. Most leave some time in June, and come back in the Fall. This is one reason, along with scalding heat, that we have Vacation Bible School right away the first week in June. I don’t know numbers for sure, but I’ve heard that a quarter to a third of Eagle Pass residents leave in the summer for work.

I wonder–how can our congregation minister to these people, especially when they are far away? Every Sunday, we’ve been praying for los trabajadores. When I know it is a family’s last Sunday in worship, I have done a special blessing of farewell and godspeed. It’s too late to get something planned for this year, but I’ve been thinking about some sort of special worship service of blessing to send people out with the prayers and support of the community. Maybe this could even be done ecumenically with other local churches.

I’ve thought about sending care packages, but people don’t often know what their address will be until they find a place to live. It would also be ideal to try to connect with other congregations to help our families in diaspora. It’s not like there’s no shortage of Lutherans in the Upper Midwest.

One problem is that people are scattered. It is not the case that people from Eagle Pass all go to the same town; we have people near Moorhead, Rochester, Madison, Green Bay. I’ve asked some of my members who travel if they have been able to connect with Lutheran churches where they go. The common response is that they usually have to work very long hours, even on Sundays, so they don’t get to church easily. Additionally, it is hard to find Spanish-speaking Lutherans, especially in rural areas. One woman told me she went to a Lutheran church in Minnesota that was puro norteamericano. However, one man said that a Lutheran pastor in Wisconsin would bless the cars of the workers before they travel.

When I hear these stories of people traveling for work, I can’t help but think of Biblical narratives, and all the folks that travel in the Bible. Abram and Sarai get up and go to a new place. Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt during a time of famine. In a foreign land, Ruth gleans in the fields of Boaz. Israelites remember Zion by the waters of Babylon. Escaping the tyranny of Herod, the Holy Family finds rest on the way to Egypt. My prayer is that in all of our journeys, Christ might travel with us.