Sunday, May 26, 2019
The quick pitter-patter of little feet scurry down the tiled hallway. Children’s giggles echo through the concrete walls. These sounds ring in the background as Haitian singer-turned-pastor Jean Elise Durandisse softly says: “the children—they inspire us.”
Inspiration is contagious at Christ Ministry Center, radiating from every individual there—from the passionate staff, to the generous volunteers, to the resilient migrants and their children who have found safe refuge there. The optimism is almost tangible, even as Pastor Durandisse says that San Diego shut down the shelter for being overcrowded and not up to code. Indeed, following the end of ‘Safe Release,’ CBP and Border Patrol left migrants stranded at McDonalds and bus stations around the city. So, Christ Ministry Center welcomed them with open arms. Dozens of refugees ended up living in this modest building, sleeping in areas only meant to fit a few.
But what choice did it have? For years, Christ Ministry Center has been on CBP and Border Patrol’s speed dial as the only immigrant welcome center in southern California. Shutting its doors meant sending hundreds of migrants—many seeking asylum with no family or resources—onto the streets. “Imagine trying to navigate complex immigration proceedings and being homeless at the same time.” Volunteer caseworker Kathryn LaPointe forces us to consider an unimaginably harsh reality.
A testament to their resiliency, Christ Ministry Center created its own solution by forming Safe Harbors Network. This new nonprofit links refugees with other churches and homes to provide temporary shelter while their immigration cases process.
It is not a permanent solution by any stretch of the imagination. It does not combat “the haters”—anti-immigrant protesters that show up at the shelter. It does not alter the Department of Homeland Security’s everchanging immigration policy. It does not modify the confusing asylum process in the United States, nor the changing migration patterns that lead refugees there in the first place. But the work of Christ Ministry Center and Safe Harbors Network does provide something extraordinary: shelter, community, faith, and hope for another day.
-posted by KitJ on behalf of Kim Langona