JFON Supporters Reach Their Goal for 2013
“We did it!” says Rev. Diane McGehee, TAC Center Director for Missional Excellence. Working together, members of the Texas Annual Conference raised over $100,000 toward the opening of Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) clinics in Houston and Tyler. That $100,000 will be matched by a generous grant from the Moody Memorial Permanent Endowment Fund, making the total raised over $200,000. Diane and project coordinator Leah Taylor extend a personal thanks to all of the runners, walkers, prayers, organizers, and those who cheered with their pocketbooks or along the sidelines. Adds Diane, “We could not have done it without each and every one of you. And Leah Taylor devoted many hours in getting us all out running, walking, launching personal websites and finding sponsors.”
Marci Pampe, KIDS HOPE USA Director, knows firsthand about this growing need. “The population around the Gethsemane campus of St. Luke's UMC is very diverse, and we have many neighbors who face challenges with immigration issues,” she shares. “Some of the students in our KIDS HOPE USA program have family members who have been deported. I was happy to do what I could to raise money for the JFON clinics. It's exciting to know that the grant has been matched, and we will have two of these clinics in our conference to serve our community.”
People of all ages found creative and inspirational ways to participate in this initiative. In Tyler, a young, Hispanic woman walked in support of JFON with her two-week old baby. District Superintendent Sandra Smith took up love offerings at her Charge Conferences, while District Superintendent Chuck Huffman issued a walking challenge to promote health awareness and awareness of this growing need for legal counsel for immigrants.
Why Do We Support JFON Clinics?
“When I am asked why the church should be opening legal clinics to help undocumented immigrants, who may or may not have broken the law in coming here, to obtain legal status under avenues available to them under current U.S. law, my answer, and I believe God’s answer, is this: because God modeled this by helping us reclaim our lives -- through Christ.” Diane shares that, in and through the work of Christ, God invited ALL to come to the table of God’s abundant grace – sinners, lawbreakers, the unclean, the unwanted, foreigners, strangers, the rich and the poor, the godly and the ungodly, and in so coming, by the grace of God to reclaim their lives. She explains, “We invite and help undocumented immigrants, because the love of Jesus Christ spread abroad in our hearts compels us to do so. That love invited us. Scripture clearly tell us that while we were enemies of the cross of Christ, breakers of God’s law and unworthy of God’s grace and forgiveness; yes, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And now Christ calls us, God’s church, to love others like Jesus loved us –with unreserved abandon - to not only leave the 99 and go find the one lost lamb, wherever and whoever he or she may be, but to run with undignified abandon, even as the Father runs to welcome the prodigal home, to legal status as sons and daughters of God’s family, despite any wrong we or they may have done.” TAC leaders are working to help in this way, knowing God did not wait until we had cleaned up our own lives and could come to God legally. God came running to us while we were yet sinners, in the form of a tiny, helpless, poor, despised baby, so that we could come home as adopted children of God.
Attorney Pamela Fulbright-Scheyer states, “I worked at Mission Milby Community Center for several years and during that time became acutely aware of the tremendous need for legal services to immigrant families. At Mission Milby, we worked with many youth and it was heartbreaking to see some of these young people graduate from high school and decide not to go to college because they felt it was useless for them. You see they were labeled "illegal" by our government and even if they got an education, they most likely would not be able to find employment after graduation. Most of these youth were brought to the U.S. as infants or as very young children. It was such a blessing when the "Dream Act" was passed and these children were given an opportunity to apply for legal status so they could seek employment. It gave them hope. However, it was complicated to apply so the services of an attorney was necessary, however, cost prohibitive for most families. And all the legal clinics were overwhelmed and had long waiting lists. That is why I support JFON and ran my race to raise money for these clinics.
These new JFON clinics will help undocumented immigrants to comply with U.S. law but more importantly, find their lives redeemed by the grace of God and welcomed into the community of God’s grace, the church, with open arms. Adds Leah, “Thank you Texas Annual Conference for this powerful witness of loving others in need, even as Jesus first loved us.”
· TAC is taking applications for JFON board members. We are looking for people passionate about this work and skilled in board and financial management.
· TAC will be looking for volunteers to help with client relationships at the clinics. Spanish language capability is very helpful.