TAC Names Immigration Ministry 2011-12 Advance Special

6/28/2011

In his first year as a commissioned missionary for the General Board of Global Ministry Joseph Bradley worked with orphans and children living in the streets of Cambodia, while also teaching English at a private Methodist school in Phnom Penh. Bradley, who is from the Texas Annual Conference, returns stateside for the second year of his ministry placement to serve as a volunteer and communications coordinator with Justice for Our Neighbors, bringing his skills in advocacy honed abroad home to serve immigrant communities in South Michigan.

 

Justice for Our Neighbors was designated as the 2011-2012 Advance Special for the Texas Annual Conference. A Conference Advance special is an opportunity given to us by our Discipline paragraph 655 to make a special gift to a project which extends the mission of the church. What is Justice for Our Neighbors? The program operates legal clinics, which also provide an opportunity for local congregations to “open their doors” and hospitably welcome newcomers in their midst. JFON provides a place for community gathering and table fellowship, where parishioners and immigrants may come together to seek peace and transformation in a troubled world. “The very heart of UMCOR’s first incarnation in 1940 was refugee ministry.

 

From that day to the present, the faith and compassion of local United Methodist churches  as made possible an ongoing ministry to refugees — a warm welcome to the people of each era who were forced to flee their homelands,” said Rev. Noel Denison, chair of TAC Sending Ministries, at the 2011 annual conference. “Today, the heart of UMCOR continues to beat for refugees and immigrants.

 

The purpose of UMCOR’s JFON is to engage and support local congregations in reaching out to and welcoming immigrants in their community by providing free, high-quality immigration legal services.” These clinics assist low income immigrants through the achievement of legal status and educate immigrants and the community of their rights and responsibilities. According to the United Methodist Council of Bishops’ Statement on Refugees and Immigration, “these strangers bear to us the Christ. These are they of whom Jesus spoke when he said, “I was a stranger (sojourner) and you welcomed me” Matthew 25:35.

 

Welcoming sojourners as if receiving Christ is a part of the United Methodist tradition. Doing so becomes a sign of one’s faithfulness. “God comes to us in the form of the vulnerable person who lacks the benefit of status and protection in an alien land,” the Bishops stated. “In the flesh of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, God chose to sojourn in a particular way for the sake of all humankind…and restored the possibility of authentic community in which love and justice reign and peace prevails.”

 

Church Based, Volunteer Led

This UMCOR program connects a national network of church-based, volunteer-led immigration clinics to asylum seekers and immigrants who need help navigating the maze of rules and laws that affect their lives in the United States.

 

JFON represents the response of the United Methodist Church and its local congregations to the needs of immigrants seeking to reunify their families, secure immigration status, and enjoy the right to work. The JFON model embraces the mandate of biblical hospitality.

 

The program relies on United Methodist connectional relationships to bring together resources and commitment from local churches, districts, conferences, and UMCOR.

 

Trained and resourced by UMCOR’s national office, JFON volunteers advocate for just and compassionate immigration laws and public policy, networking with other advocacy groups where possible. Coordinated by a national staff in Silver Spring, Maryland, the network is comprised of 20 clinic sites in nine annual conferences.

 

Evolution of Advocacy

JFON was created in 1999 to facilitate the immigration ministries of local United Methodist congregations. The program initially was a response to the immigration reform act of 1996. Later, it also focused on the stricter laws passed in the aftermath of 9/11. JFON continues the long legacy of UMCOR’s implementation of the United Methodist Church’s resettlement assistance to refugees. The free clinic network extends the support and welcome of the church to marginalized immigrants living in the shadows among us. Advance Special #901285.