Migration resources

These are books, articles, and websites that I have found helpful in thinking about Christian perspectives on immigration. The list shamelessly includes this blog, as well as articles in The Lutheran about the congregation I serve.

Articles and websites

Bailie, Paul. borderpastor.wordpress.com. This is the blog where I occasionally share thoughts and reflections about ministry at San Lucas and Cristo Rey.

Bailie, Paul. “Where the Church Needs to Be,” Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, ePistle, January 2012. http://www.lstc.edu/voices/stories/bailie.php.

Dworin, Diana. “Christmas Journey: Las Posadas Traditions Prompt Holiday Hospitality,” The Lutheran. December 2012.

http://www.thelutheran.org/article/article.cfm?article_id=11137&r=516. San Lucas is featured in an article about Las Posadas, the Mexican Christmas tradition of reenacting Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging.

EvangelicalLutheranChurch in America. “A Message on Immigration,” 1998. www.elca.org/socialstatements/immigration.

EvangelicalLutheranChurch in America. “Toward Compassionate, Just, and Wise Immigration Reform,” 2009.http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Resolutions/Comprehensive-Immigration-Reform.aspx.

Severson, Lucky. “Eagle Pass Border Wall,” Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, Episode 1136, May 9, 2008. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week1136/feature.html. The video is viewable online, and although made before the wall was built, provides several balanced perspectives about life in Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras.

Sime, Kathryn. “Don’t Just Plan a Mission Trip…Build an Experience,” The Lutheran, June 2012. http://www.thelutheran.org/article/article.cfm?article_id=10749. Members from a mission partner congregation in Iowa are quoted about their relationship with San Lucas.

Tobia, P.J. “Minor Emergency,” Texas Monthly, August 2011. http://www.texasmonthly.com/preview/2011-08-01/letterfromeaglepass. Highlights programs for teen drug offenders in Eagle   Pass, with sobering statistics about the problem.


Bouman, Stephen and Ralston Deffenbaugh. They Are Us: Lutherans and Immigration. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2009.

Chomsky, Aviva.“They Take our Jobs” And 20 Other Myths About Immigration.Boston: Beacon Press, 2007.

Daniel, Ben. Neighbor: Christian Encounters with “Illegal” Immigration. Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.

De La Torre, Miguel. Trail of Hopes and Terror: Testimonies on Immigration. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009.

Myers, Ched and Matthew Colwell. Our God is Undocumented: Biblical Faith and Immigrant Justice. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2012.

Nazario, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with his Mother.New York: Random House, 2007.


Las Posadas

San Lucas once again was mentioned in The Lutheran, the monthly magazine for our denomination. It’s part of an article about Christmas celebrations. I talk about Las Posadas, the Mexican custom of reenacting the journey that Mary and Joseph take looking for lodging in Bethlehem.




You need to be a print subscriber to read the whole article online, but here is my good soundbite:

Las Posadas teaches children valuable lessons about showing hospitality to those whom God gives us the opportunity to greet. “It reminds us of our own journeys in life and how we seek and receive a welcome from others,” Bailie said.


This year at San Lucas, we will celebrate Las Posadas on Thursday, December 20.

Across the River

Whenever I have visitors to Eagle Pass, I love to take them downtown to the shores of the Rio Grande, past the border fence, and near the bridge. You can see the church steeples and the river walk across in Piedras Negras. A giant Mexican flag towers above. Sometimes you can hear soccer games or see cows. Standing by the fence, I often read from Ephesians, thinking of Christ who breaks down our walls.


Last week, a group from our Synod’s Peace not Walls team visited San Lucas and Cristo Rey. Two women on the group have served as ecumenical accompaniers in Israel and Palestine. Officially the ELCA’s Peace not Walls efforts focus on life in the Middle East, but in Southwestern Texas, we find many similarities with the wall we have here.


One of these recent visitors, Pastor Sharon, shared about her experience on her own blog:



Advent at San Lucas

Advent is here at San Lucas—waiting, watching, preparing. After our worship service on Thanksgiving Eve, we lingered around, sipping hot chocolate and noshing on pumpkin pie, decorating the sanctuary with Advent greenery. Our regular Wednesday night Bible study is on hiatus so we can gather for Evening Prayer these December nights. In a few weeks, we’ll celebrate Las Posadas, the beautiful Mexican tradition of reenacting Mary and Joseph’s search for respite and lodging en route to Bethlehem.

In my first months as pastor here, I have felt a sense of welcome and hospitality. As the congregations and I have adapted to one another, we learn. My Spanish is getting better, and I’m gaining sensitivity to nuances of Mexican culture. I’m figuring out the process of bridge-crossing. The food bank continues to feed local families. A new guitar group has been developed to rise up worship music leadership. The Word is proclaimed; sacraments are administered. We journey together.

 Week after week, a vanload of San Lucans heads across into Piedras Negras, Coahuila, to worship at Cristo Rey, our Lutheran mission site about 13 miles away in Mexico. I am one of just a few ELCA pastors who preach in more than one country on any given Sunday. Once a month, nearly fifty Cristo Rey families receive some food assistance. It is getting more difficult to bring food and supplies across the border. We’ve started to buy more food in Mexico instead of risking crossing at the bridge. In October, we were not allowed to bring medicines for the free medical clinic across the border. There seem to be more Mexican soldiers near the bridge.

Advent is a time of hopeful anticipation. Here are some things to watch for at San Lucas in the time ahead:

  • Training a few new assisting ministers
  • Introducing an occasional childrens’ sermon
  • Some sort of ecological project—perhaps a community garden or maybe a goat or two
  • More intentional stewardship education
  • Developing a leadership team at Cristo Rey
  • Hosting a Cub Scout pack at San Lucas

Come and see! We sincerely hope that you consider visiting us at San Lucas and Cristo Rey some time in the next year. You can read this blog and check out pictures posted on facebook, but there’s no better way to understand the ministry here than to visit. Because the church property had long ago been an orphanage, San Lucas has dorm space available for visiting groups. Past congregational contingents have done cleaning and construction projects, helped with the food bank, and hosted medical clinics and health fairs. A fun potential project for a first-time mission partner congregation might be to help with a Saturday afternoon children’s event and/or help prepare a community meal. When you come, we can go to see the controversial federal border fence in downtown Eagle Pass so you can get a firsthand glimpse at our human boundaries. There have been concerns about safety and security along the border. We do take precautions. Both church campuses are surrounded by locked gates. If we do cross into Mexico, we go only in the day, taking a church van instead of personal cars.

¡Muchísimas gracias! In a context with much poverty and unemployment, San Lucas and Cristo Rey are both very dependent on the generosity of our mission partners and supportive donors. We are ever so grateful. Due to internet privacy concerns, we won’t list individual donors here. Besides ELCA and Synod support, we have been impacted by the munificent benevolance of so many others. Thank you!

Please remember in prayer:

  • The mission and ministry of San Lucas and Cristo Rey
  • The ELCA
  • The Southwestern Texas Synod
  • Our mission partners and prayerful supporters
  • Those who receive food from our food bank
  • Families traveling north for agricultural work
  • Teenagers tempted by the allure of drugs
  • Victims of violence on both sides of the border
  • People struggling with their legal immigration status


Advent blessings,

Pastor Paul


Adapted from an Advent 2011 newsletter to friends and mission partners of San Lucas.

A mysterious powdery substance

Our church vans get lots of use at San Lucas and Cristo Rey. We pick up a few people for worship, transport donations for our foodbank, run many and various errands, and cross the border into Mexico each week for worship in Piedras Negras. I haven’t had any problems with inspections or danger yet, but I do feel safer using the church van to cross into Mexico, rather than my own personal car.

Last week, in the course of one of our trice-weekly trips to WalMart to pick up food donations, one of the bags of sugar somehow got ripped. When we were loading up the van to drive to Mexico for worship on Sunday, I discovered that the floor and back seat of the van were completely covered with a layer of sugar. I put my guitar case and backpack over some of the powder, trying to cover it up, but there was still sugar everywhere. I knew it was sugar, and anybody with common sense who had ever baked cookies or stirred coffee could tell that it was sugar strewn upon the floor. Nevertheless, I started to worry.

One of the church members going across with me said, “We need to go to the carwash and get that vacuumed right now. The last thing we need to hear on the news is ‘Lutheran pastor arrested for transporting drugs.’” With the sugar vacuumed and with a cleaner van, we crossed there and back across the border with no problem. I am not in jail. Thanks be to God.

Intergenerational multicultural service learning

This past week, we’ve had a group of visitors from two of our mission partner congregations in Iowa. Because the property at San Lucas had been an orphanage many years ago, one of our buildings is perfect for dormitory space.  Several congregations have long histories of partnering with San Lucas, both with financial commitments and with sending groups for mission and service learning trips. I see this as an opportunity for San Lucas to be a teaching congregation for the wider church. It’s a wonderful place to learn about Christian community in this border context.

 It was a good group for my first time having guests. More than half of the group had been to San Lucas before; a few multiple times. We all worshipped together on Sunday, both at San Lucas and across the border at Cristo Rey, a mission community in Piedras Negras. I’m getting my practice driving a fifteen-passanger van on the bumpy dirt roads on the way to Cristo Rey. I crossed over with the group to Piedras Negras on Monday and Tuesday. They did both health and construction projects. At the heath fair, they checked blood pressures and sugars and distributed health kits. The other half of the group partnered with Hands and Feet  to help build a house for a family from a neighboring congregation whose home was recently destroyed in a fire. Later, our Iowa friends spent Wednesday and Thursday at San Lucas, doing a wide variety of helpful property projects and putting on a health fair during the hours our food bank was open.

 As wonderful as it is to see some completed tasks, for me it is a joy to see the relationships built. When members of the congregation bring food and share a meal with the group in the evenings, my prayer has been something like: “Dios todopoderoso: Gracias por este día, esta comida, y esta oportunidad de ser la iglesia juntos…” “Almighty God, thank you for this day, this food, and this opportunity to be Church together…”