In the US, Deportation Fears Keep Members Away from Church

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Many immigrant members are too afraid and opt to stay at home

In recent months, newly proposed United States immigration policies have caused a wave of fear among many Seventh-day Adventist church members and their families across the Columbia Union Conference, or church region. Many are so afraid that they have decided to skip church.

“During those first few weeks after [the US] election, I noticed a large decline in attendance among my members,” said a pastor of a Spanish-speaking congregation in the Washington D.C. area. “They stayed home out of fear.”

Peter Simpson, Hispanic Ministries coordinator in Ohio, said he has seen a decline in attendance in churches across the territory. “We have seen many members living in fear, even opting to stay home in fear of getting arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement on their way to or from church,” he said. “Attendance has declined significantly.”

Simpson shared that two families from a small Spanish-speaking church have already packed up and returned to their home country. “[They were a] significant part of that church,” he said. “And there are talks of other families in the conference planning to do the same.”

One principal of a Seventh-day Adventist school in Virginia reports that undocumented parents approached her, asking if the school would hold a notarized note saying who their children should stay with if they were deported.

Creating Peace and Hope

Rubén Ramos, vice president for Multilingual Ministries at the Columbia Union Conference, reported that there are more than 40,000 members in multilingual churches in the union. “They’re providing an essential contribution to Christ´s mission in our territory,” he said. “A real sense of uncertainty and fear has filled the immigrant communities around us.” Ramos said that this is a great opportunity for the church to bring assurance and faith, transforming Adventist congregations into centers of hope.

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