Making Partners and Building Bridges at UMC Merced
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The United Methodist Church of Merced is connecting with a movement in the Central Valley called 1 Pueblo 1 Lucha (1 people 1 fight). After building relationships with leadership to make change in their valley, they are partnering with several Central Valley organizations that have been doing work for years: Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CIVIIC); Faith in Merced, an associate of PICO; Faith in the Valley, a larger umbrella associate of PICO; Immigrant Legal Resource Center; and the immigration Task Force of the California-Nevada Annual Conference.
On June 2nd and 3rd this partnership bore fruit for the community with a two-day event that had three stated goals; to have the voices of the migrant community be heard, to have the whole community be more filled with hope after the event, and to better connect churches to the communities in which they reside. The first day resources for undocumented immigrants in the community were offered. With nearly forty volunteers from multiple agencies on campus (CIVIIC, Faith in the Valley, the local college and University, and UMC Merced), they were able to see results with three people renewing their DACA paperwork (deferred action for childhood arrivals), five people applying for citizenship, 12 people attended a know your rights family preparedness course, and 13 families got pro bono consultations with an immigration attorney. Twenty-seven children left with notarized affidavits of guardianship that allow the family to have the means to respond to a deportation event with a clear plan on how to care for the children that are often of mixed status.
On Saturday the 3rd, churches from all over the conference and across denominations were invited to hear the encouragement to build bridges of connection within their own communities. Crisantema Gallardo shared about her passion for community organizing and how she grew up in the community as the daughter of an immigrant farm worker, a family of five living on $16,000 per year. Ana Maria Fabian shared how she is leading her children to live as good citizens in a place where her own citizenship is currently not welcome. Arlette Flores spoke about learning to be unapologetically immigrant in the face of hostile ideologies. Gloria Sandoval told those gathered about the call to action that can be heard from local organizations like Journey for Justice, and Sharon Williams enlightened the group on the legalities of all the options. Finally, the Rev. George Edd-Bennett shared the importance of connecting with the passionate and powerful leaders that are creating change for communities. Forty people representing 12 churches were present to hear these passionate words.