Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry
Begun in August 2011 as a specialized ministry, the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry is an outgrowth of the pastoral ministry of the Rev. Gerson Annunciacao at Christ is Life Presbyterian Church in Fall River, MA. In response to pleas for help from worried family members he began visiting incarcerated fellow Brazilians and then started Bible study groups among them. Through these he has not only ministered to their fears and needs but also helped them to minister to each other. In 2011 he decided to leave the parish ministry and devote himself to this as a full-time ministry.
The mission of the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry is to “to provide pastoral assistance to incarcerated immigrants with increasing involvement of congregations.” It seeks to carry out this mission by:
- Through regular visits to correctional facilities in New England for the purpose of Bible study, prayer, counseling, and building up supportive communities, it will offer incarcerated immigrants both practical advice and spiritual empowerment to deal with the challenges they face.
- It will provide news of incarcerated immigrants to their families, who know little or nothing about what is happening to them, along with appropriate assurance and advice.
- It will share with congregations information about immigration issues, immigrant ministry, and the situation of incarcerated immigrants in the hope of motivating them to appropriate action on the immigrants’ behalf.
This ministry began its work in the Plymouth Country Correctional Facility in Plymouth MA and the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office in Dartmouth, MA. At the end of October 2011 there were 70 participants in its Bible study groups (13% of the immigrant population of those two facilities). About half were Brazilians; the other half came from fifteen other countries. They included residents of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, and Florida. In January 2012 similar groups were started in the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Boston. Nowadays most of the inmates are Spanish speaking people.
TESTIMONIES FROM INCARCERATED IMMIGRANTS
“In these eight months that I’m in prison God has worked a lot in my life. God also allowed me to have read the entire Bible. The Word of God is wonderful and I’m already reading it a second time, and I cannot count the days to attend the Bible study.” G.M.
“It is so good to hear the word you bring every Tuesday. It gladdens the heart of everyone here in this prison. When I came here I was at rock bottom. But I was wrong. I was hungry for God, thirsty for Jesus. It has been 37 days that I am with Jesus.” G.O.
“I came to this country to attain something that I had always dreamed, but I found it impossible. But still, I stand on the Rock that is Jesus, the King of kings. I will be deported soon, but Jesus is also where I am going. I will fight tooth and nail to succeed, because I must start over again. I do not know what plan God has for my life. Yet I will try to follow him until the very end of my life. Keep praying for me.” E.N.