Texas Impact Information

Courts & Ports: Faithful Witness on the Texas-Mexico Border

Witness the Crisis First Hand

The Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy/Texas Impact invites you to participate in Courts & Ports: Faithful Witness on the Texas-Mexico Border.

This 2-day immersion experience engages people of faith to witness first-hand the legal and law enforcement processes related to immigration, detention, and deportation occurring in South Texas. Participants observe proceedings in federal criminal court and record their observations for use by immigration attorneys. Participants also meet with faith and policy experts working on the border, and spend time with individuals who have pending asylum cases; engage in contextualizing discussion with Texas Impact pastoral staff and other faith leaders; plan and participate in worship; and become part of an online “alumni” community.

Register at: texasimpact.org/courts-ports/. To learn more email or call Erica Nelson: erica@texasimpact.org.

Click here for the: Courts & Ports One Pager

Letter to Gov. Abbott on Refugees

From Texas Impact:

Texans of faith were disappointed to learn Friday that Governor Greg Abbott rejected the resettlement of refugees in Texas in 2020, despite many congregations, faith-based refugee resettlement agencies and families investing time and resources preparing for their arrival.

Please join with us in encouraging a new course of action in 2021. We reject the Governor’s notion that Texas congregations and resettlement agencies do not have sufficient resources for this work. We do not believe the Governor should dictate to faith communities which vulnerable people they should serve.

Gov. Abbott: Don’t Slam the Door on Refugees

Please read and sign the letter below and invite your friends and neighbors to join you.

Dear Governor Abbott,

I disagree with your decision to refuse Texas hospitality to refugees. Texas has a well-established culture of welcome. We are home to a vast network of volunteer and professional teams whose very ministry is welcome. These Texans wake up every day with arms open to our siblings from around the globe, who come seeking safety and security from life-threatening circumstances.

I take profound exception to your pronouncement that Texas nonprofits have “the responsibility to dedicate available resources” only to certain types of vulnerable people. I worship a God of abundance, and I believe that there are sufficient resources to meet the needs of all God’s children.

Happily, your decision only applies to the current year. Now is the time to chart a different course for next year. Please commit to opening Texas’ doors to refugees again in 2021. Let Texas faith communities show that Texas has enough resources—and enough love—to welcome all who need us.

Sincerely,

Link to signature page.

A Commitment from the MFSA National Board

posted on August 25

Dismantling the Sin of Racism and White Supremacy: 
A Commitment from the MFSA Board of Directors

Methodist Federation for Social Action is committed to dismantling the sin of racism and white supremacy.  We have vowed to you to hold ourselves accountable when we fail to fully live into this commitment.

White members of the board of directors write to you to publicly repent for the ways we have been complicit in failing to interrupt white supremacy, even within our own organization.  MFSA received feedback from within our own leadership that we have failed to be obedient to our highest ideals.  We are sorry and we will do better.  We commit ourselves to do whatever is necessary to repair the harm we have inflicted and reorganize ourselves and our priorities to do the work of dismantling white supremacy.

Like The United Methodist Church, MFSA is white-dominated and white-centered.  This sin will only end after very intentional changes in behavior institutionally and personally.  We call on all MFSA communities to join us taking the necessary steps to repair the brokenness caused by generations of harm.  It is our collective responsibility and call.  We continue to commit to these values and seek to be transparent in our learnings and growings in ways that help our movement, church, and world to make real change.

We will continue to make mistakes.  However, we believe that the fear of making mistakes should not hold us back from taking a close look at ourselves, our practices, and the ways we show up.  We commit to seeking ways to show our commitment through our actions and welcome feedback and conversation.  Our belief that intersectional justice must do the hard work of hearing all voices remains strong.

All members of the MFSA board of directors continue to affirm and believe in the leadership of Bridget Cabrera as our executive director and we are grateful for her leadership during this difficult season.  We recognize that, as a queer woman of color, she has experienced much of the harm we seek to repair, even as she leads us.  We also acknowledge a similar heaviness and pain experienced by people of color on our board and in our organization, and with our coalition partners.  We board members who identify as white are growing in our awareness of how our whiteness has reinforced this harm and we vow to show up in greater ways to shoulder the weight of our responsibility.

Now is the time to work on putting into action the change we have talked about and hope for.  We call on all MFSA communities and members (regional and congregational), all Justice Seeking United Methodists, and all white-dominated congregations and organizations to join us.  MFSA’s 110-year history is one of responding to society’s challenges and challenging the UMC to live up to God’s call – we must now refine that for a new century.  You will hear more from us as we continue to hold ourselves accountable to people of color-led partners and most impacted communities on all of our justice-seeking efforts.

In full transparency, please read the words of our departing board chairs.  We are grateful for Lydia’s and Amy’s service and we will work to live into the organization they hoped us to be.

Sincerely,

MFSA Board of Directors

Rev. Adrienne Brewington
Rev. Stephen Griffith
Rev. George McClain
Rev. Karen Nelson
Rev. Andy Oliver
Paloma Rodriguez-Rivera
Rev. Luonne Rouse
Rev. Josh Steward
Pat Stewart
Rev. Mary Kay Totty
Cynthia Tuell
Bill Watts

Refugee Services of Texas

Guided by the principles of human compassion and dignity, Refugee Services of Texas welcomes refugees, immigrants, and other displaced peoples and supports them in integrating and thriving in their new communities.

Founded in 1978, Refugee Services of Texas (RST) is a social-service agency dedicated to providing assistance to refugees and other displaced persons fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group – as well as to the communities that welcome them. RST provides services to hundreds of refugees, asylees, survivors of human trafficking, and related vulnerable populations from over 30 different countries of origin each year. Originating in Dallas, RST now has service centers in Amarillo, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Rio Grande Valley. https://www.rstx.org/

See the August RST Austin newsletter for ways to help: https://mailchi.mp/2b7cd496bd87/ways-to-welcome-your-neighbor?e=dbcdc3a962

iACT Hope Awards May 1

Bullock Texas State History Museum

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

We are excited to announce

the 2018 Hope Awards Honorees:

Luci Baines Johnson

Imam Mohamed Umer Esmail

A great evening is planned including a conversation with Overheard‘s Evan Smith and Luci Baines Johnson. More event details, including how you can purchase tickets and sponsorships, can be found here.

MFSA Delegation Visits The Rio Grande Valley

On January 18 – 20, a group of 9 people from the Methodist Federation for Social Action in Austin went to the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) on an immigration education tour. Steve Hamlett, Kenneth Henry and Deana Henry are from Trinity Church Austin.  Anne Mund, Rowland Curry, Al Lindsay, Pat Stewart, Patsy Hickey, and Lyn Loeffler are members of Saint John’s UMC Austin.  Our guide for the tour was Susan Hellums, Border Area Mission Coordinator for the El Valle District from First UMC McAllen.

A more detailed description of our visit will soon be available on our website.

On Thursday, we attended a presentation in San Juan on the RGV Equal Voice Network, which has several components addressing the following issues:  health care, education, wages and jobs, housing, and transportation.  The housing initiative, Proyecto Azteca, was founded in 1991 by Cesar Chavez, is similar to “sweat equity” programs like Habitat for Humanity, and has 4,000 families on its waiting list.

Friday, we traveled to the Hidalgo County Park to view the Rio Grande River, Mexico, and portions of the border wall.  We then went to First UMC McAllen to hear a presentation on the Tamar’s Tapestry program by Tracy Hughes.  We were joined by Robert Lopez, Superintendent of the El Valle District.  Tamar’s Tapestry provides intervention, education, and restoration for victims of human trafficking in the RGV.  Data is horrifying; there are an estimated 79,000 persons in Texas that are victims of commercial sex trafficking.

After this presentation and lunch, we drove to San Benito to visit La Posada Providencia, a short-term shelter for immigrants and asylum seekers.  While it is a Catholic charity, La Posada receives help from the UMC in many ways.  Deaconess Cindy Johnson was our guide at La Posada as we visited with the Sisters and others.  We were introduced to a group of about a dozen immigrants from Central America, Cuba, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

Saturday morning, we toured the Humanitarian Respite Center, sponsored by the Catholic Charities RGV, where refugees in transit are provided with information, food, clothing, hygiene products, and other assistance before boarding a bus to join family, friends, or sponsors in other parts of the country.  Our group then volunteered to do a short service project, sorting donated clothing for the refugees.

Before heading back to Austin, we drove through a Colonia near Edinburgh to observe the conditions that we had heard about in several presentations.

This MFSA road trip was extremely enlightening and educational, and we hope it will guide us in pursuing further mission opportunities related to immigration.  Our plan is to present an in-depth report on this trip at a future meeting, most likely in April.

Support Syrian Refugees with the Music Peace Project

Music Peace Project is a nonprofit organization, based in Austin that brings together national and international musicians in order to assist in humanitarian relief around the world. They do this by engaging in local, national and international communities through the art and gift of music (www.musicpeaceproject.org).

In collaboration with Austin’s Wesley UMC Choir, Music Peace Project recorded its first album, Austin for Peace. The album, released on April 1, is comprised of arrangements of song selections that are known and loved worldwide. These songs all have a message of peace. 100% of the net profits will be donated to the International Rescue Committee to aid Syrian refugees. Founded at Albert Einstein’s request, the IRC (www.rescue.org) offers lifesaving aid and solutions to today’s most challenging human crises. The IRC is rated with the highest grades given to a nonprofit organization based on their performance and expenses. Their goal is to sell 2,000 albums and raise $25,000.

According to Esteban Alvarez, President and Co-founder of Music Peace Project, “Perhaps the largest human catastrophe on earth today is the Syrian conflict. Over 12 million people have been either killed or displaced over the past five years.”

Austin for Peace is an album that involves international renowned artists (such as John Patitucci, Ignacio Berroa, Esteban Alvarez, Tamela Hedstrôm, Red Young, to mention a few) as well as local artists (Rabbi Blumofe, James Sheeran, Russell Shores, and some key members of Wesley United Methodist Church) and its mission is to assist the Syrian refugees with shelter, food and medical care. You will find the United Methodist symbol on the album cover.

Please support this very innovative and interesting project that is taking place here in Austin. This is a way you can offer support for Syrian refugees while enjoying good music. Click on these links to listen to songs and watch a short video about the project

Here are two of the songs on the album, My Sweet Lord, and Imagine:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/tcsx41xbdkdwm3q/MySweetLord2_03.mp3?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/s/55c77sjauzjjw1j/Imagine3_09.mp3?dl=0

Link to Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Esteban_Alvarez_Austin_for_Peace?id=B4r47pp4tv3agi5h65eochpi4be

A short video on MPP and its mission:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmYdrV2FbXE

Contact Velvet Hammerschmidt at velveth@v-hdesign.com or Esteban Alvarez at eacmusicjazz@gmail.com if you would like to help support their efforts for humanitarian assistance.

For more information contact MFSA representative Janice Curry at jlcurry@austin.rr.com.