Consulate on Wheels
In diverse communities there are many unmet needs. When the Mexican Consulate realized that many people of Mexican descent were unable or unwilling to travel into the city of Houston for help with documentation requirements, they looked to their community partner, Armstrong Elementary School in Missouri City.
Once the decision was made to bring a temporary Consulate office to southwest Houston, the leaders at Armstrong turned to their long time partner, First UMC Missouri City. As the school’s ministry partner, the church quickly agreed to reconfigure several Sunday school rooms as stations for families to get the expertise they needed. “We welcomed hundreds of special guests to renew passports, drivers licenses, absentee ballots, birth certificates and more,” says Rev. Eddie Hilliard.
Ft. Bend is the most diverse county in the greater Houston area. According to Consulate representative Georgina Saldana Diaz, many families of Mexican descent lost important paperwork in the Hurricane Harvey floods, so the Consulate on Wheels outreach program was an ideal solution. “We really appreciate the church’s role in this three-way community partnership,” Georgina says.
Elsa Villarreal, Armstrong Elementary Liaison, knows she can make one call to Pastor Eddie when there is a need because FUMC Missouri City has invested in the young in many ways through their six-year partnership. “Our families are so thankful for this amazing opportunity so conveniently located in our neighborhood, because they are already dealing with other flood related losses as well.”
The congregation’s commitment to the community goes beyond the school partnership, but this two-way relationship has grown through the years. There are teacher appreciation events, prayer partners, and a special mentoring/reading program named after a church member who passed away after years of volunteering. The school leaders occasionally attend worship services to share success stories with the congregation. It is the goal of both organizations to continually find new ways to love their neighbors.
Rev. Hilliard is glad the church could provide friendly hospitality, a confidential environment, and an area for the US Department of Labor to inform attendees on labor rights and documentation requirements. “We believe we are opening our doors to the community in a unique way that is making a difference in the lives of our neighbors,” he adds.