Aside

November, 2013

Image

Advent Season – As I have done since I began serving immigrants in prison in 2005, I’m leading bible studies focusing on the advent season. Some of the prisoners are expecting to be released on time to spend Christmas Day with their respective families. Some of them already know they will be in jail during that time. This is the hardest period of the year for them. Especially for Latinos, Christmas is the most important date on their calendars. It’s a celebration related to their faith and also their families. I can feel their emotions, and more than any other time of the year, the bible study helps them find comfort and consolation.  The endurance of the New Born Jesus in the beginning of His journey on Earth and also His continuing struggles throughout His ministry help them understand how faith can help them face their own struggles as immigrants in prison. I want to ask you to reinforce your prayers in this season, asking God to continue giving them strength as they spend Christmas in jail.

 Good News for 2014 – A few days ago I had lunch with Daniel Croce, the Chaplain of Plymouth County Correctional Facility. I wanted to discuss with him something that came to my mind. I told him I’d like to be more useful in my ministry in prison. Recently, I have done bible studies only on two immigration units, on Tuesdays mornings. Some time ago it used to be three units, but now, as the number of immigrants on Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody is decreasing, there are only two units with immigrants facing deportation process. I explained to Chaplain Croce my desire to extend the bible studies to immigrants who are in jail for other reasons, beyond only immigration issues. He told me they needed someone to do bible studies in Spanish among Hispanics who are waiting for trial and for those who already have been sentenced and are serving their prison term. Chaplain Croce worked on the prison’s programs schedule to allow me to spend one day a week there, every Thursday starting on January 15th, doing bible studies on mornings with ICE prisoners and, with other inmates during afternoons, which will start on January, 2014. These two new groups will meet at the Chapel of that prison. I believe this is a new door being opened to PIM. We are still serving immigrants, but under slightly different circumstances. With the changes we hope will happen to Immigration Law, this will be a new way for PIM to continue to serve immigrants in prison that can be extended to other prisons too. Once I start these new groups, I will be leading 10 bible studies groups a week in 2014.

 VISIT OUR BLOG: www.presbim.com

 November Attendance

Day

Prison (all units)

Attendance

01

Bristol

23

05

Plymouth

10

06

Boston

32

08

Bristol

19

09

Boston

27

12

Plymouth

09

13

Boston

27

15

Bristol

18

19

Plymouth

12

20

Boston

28

22

Bristol

24

26

Plymouth

10

27

Boston

25

29

Bristol

21

 Donations received:

– Henry Ruppenthal

– Jovelino & Joan Ramos

– Rev. Richard & Mary Swayze

– Bethel Presbyterian Church – Marlboro, MA

– IPI do Brasil

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– Providence Presbyterian Church, Providence, RI

– Calvary Presbyterian Church – Enfield, CT

– First Presbyterian Church – Newport, RI

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT

– Rosemarie Smith

 Please send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

 Bibles – I have delivered many Portuguese and Spanish bibles to the inmates. But two consecutive weeks I was asked to bring French and Ukrainian bibles for two men who are not English readers. The French bible was easy to order from Amazon and was already delivered, but the Ukrainian one was too expensive. So I searched on Google, and found a Ukrainian Catholic church in Jamaica Plain, MA. I talked to Father Yaroslav and he donated the bible and already mailed it to me. I’m waiting for this bible to deliver to the inmate.

 I’m ready to go home – Alex is a young man from Guatemala. He has been under ICE custody for a little more than one year. He stayed so long because he decided to fight his case. Few weeks ago he received the court’s final decision and he will be deported to his country. I asked him about his feelings as he is facing this decision, and he told me: “First I became frustrated because it was not what I was waiting for. But then I started to think about what I have learned from the Bible, and now I’m feeling peace, because I know God is on control of my life. I’m ready to go back to my country”. I’ll miss him because during the time he spent in prison he was who used to encourage others to attend the bible studies. As I heard from others last time I was there, he was the one who used to explain the bible to them during the daily meetings they have. Please, let’s pray for him, so he will find a blessed way to re-entry in his country.

 Next Newsletter – Because the coming holidays and the time I’ll be out of my duties, from December 21 to January 03, our next newsletter will be issued in the end of January, 2014. I thank all of you who have supported me with your prayers and donations during 2013, and I hope that, as we will enter in a new year, we will continue this partnership to proclaim the Gospel to those immigrants in prison. I wish to all of you Merry Christmas and a very blessed New Year. 

 

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Aside

November, 2013

Image

Advent Season – As I have done since I began serving immigrants in prison in 2005, I’m leading bible studies focusing on the advent season. Some of the prisoners are expecting to be released on time to spend Christmas Day with their respective families. Some of them already know they will be in jail during that time. This is the hardest period of the year for them. Especially for Latinos, Christmas is the most important date on their calendars. It’s a celebration related to their faith and also their families. I can feel their emotions, and more than any other time of the year, the bible study helps them find comfort and consolation.  The endurance of the New Born Jesus in the beginning of His journey on Earth and also His continuing struggles throughout His ministry help them understand how faith can help them face their own struggles as immigrants in prison. I want to ask you to reinforce your prayers in this season, asking God to continue giving them strength as they spend Christmas in jail.

 Good News for 2014 – A few days ago I had lunch with Daniel Croce, the Chaplain of Plymouth County Correctional Facility. I wanted to discuss with him something that came to my mind. I told him I’d like to be more useful in my ministry in prison. Recently, I have done bible studies only on two immigration units, on Tuesdays mornings. Some time ago it used to be three units, but now, as the number of immigrants on Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody is decreasing, there are only two units with immigrants facing deportation process. I explained to Chaplain Croce my desire to extend the bible studies to immigrants who are in jail for other reasons, beyond only immigration issues. He told me they needed someone to do bible studies in Spanish among Hispanics who are waiting for trial and for those who already have been sentenced and are serving their prison term. Chaplain Croce worked on the prison’s programs schedule to allow me to spend one day a week there, every Thursday starting on January 15th, doing bible studies on mornings with ICE prisoners and, with other inmates during afternoons, which will start on January, 2014. These two new groups will meet at the Chapel of that prison. I believe this is a new door being opened to PIM. We are still serving immigrants, but under slightly different circumstances. With the changes we hope will happen to Immigration Law, this will be a new way for PIM to continue to serve immigrants in prison that can be extended to other prisons too. Once I start these new groups, I will be leading 10 bible studies groups a week in 2014.

 VISIT OUR BLOG: www.presbim.com

 November Attendance

Day

Prison (all units)

Attendance

01

Bristol

23

05

Plymouth

10

06

Boston

32

08

Bristol

19

09

Boston

27

12

Plymouth

09

13

Boston

27

15

Bristol

18

19

Plymouth

12

20

Boston

28

22

Bristol

24

26

Plymouth

10

27

Boston

25

29

Bristol

21

 Donations received:

– Henry Ruppenthal

– Jovelino & Joan Ramos

– Rev. Richard & Mary Swayze

– Bethel Presbyterian Church – Marlboro, MA

– IPI do Brasil

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– Providence Presbyterian Church, Providence, RI

– Calvary Presbyterian Church – Enfield, CT

– First Presbyterian Church – Newport, RI

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT

– Rosemarie Smith

 Please send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

 Bibles – I have delivered many Portuguese and Spanish bibles to the inmates. But two consecutive weeks I was asked to bring French and Ukrainian bibles for two men who are not English readers. The French bible was easy to order from Amazon and was already delivered, but the Ukrainian one was too expensive. So I searched on Google, and found a Ukrainian Catholic church in Jamaica Plain, MA. I talked to Father Yaroslav and he donated the bible and already mailed it to me. I’m waiting for this bible to deliver to the inmate.

 I’m ready to go home – Alex is a young man from Guatemala. He has been under ICE custody for a little more than one year. He stayed so long because he decided to fight his case. Few weeks ago he received the court’s final decision and he will be deported to his country. I asked him about his feelings as he is facing this decision, and he told me: “First I became frustrated because it was not what I was waiting for. But then I started to think about what I have learned from the Bible, and now I’m feeling peace, because I know God is on control of my life. I’m ready to go back to my country”. I’ll miss him because during the time he spent in prison he was who used to encourage others to attend the bible studies. As I heard from others last time I was there, he was the one who used to explain the bible to them during the daily meetings they have. Please, let’s pray for him, so he will find a blessed way to re-entry in his country.

 Next Newsletter – Because the coming holidays and the time I’ll be out of my duties, from December 21 to January 03, our next newsletter will be issued in the end of January, 2014. I thank all of you who have supported me with your prayers and donations during 2013, and I hope that, as we will enter in a new year, we will continue this partnership to proclaim the Gospel to those immigrants in prison. I wish to all of you Merry Christmas and a very blessed New Year. 

 

Aside

November, 2013

Advent Season – As I have done since I began serving immigrants in prison in 2005, I’m leading bible studies focusing on the advent season. Some of the prisoners are expecting to be released on time to spend Christmas Day with their respective families. Some of them already know they will be in jail during that time. This is the hardest period of the year for them. Especially for Latinos, Christmas is the most important date on their calendars. It’s a celebration related to their faith and also their families. I can feel their emotions, and more than any other time of the year, the bible study helps them find comfort and consolation.  The endurance of the New Born Jesus in the beginning of His journey on Earth and also His continuing struggles throughout His ministry help them understand how faith can help them face their own struggles as immigrants in prison. I want to ask you to reinforce your prayers in this season, asking God to continue giving them strength as they spend Christmas in jail.

Good News for 2014 – A few days ago I had lunch with Daniel Croce, the Chaplain of Plymouth County Correctional Facility. I wanted to discuss with him something that came to my mind. I told him I’d like to be more useful in my ministry in prison. Recently, I have done bible studies only on two immigration units, on Tuesdays mornings. Some time ago it used to be three units, but now, as the number of immigrants on Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody is decreasing, there are only two units with immigrants facing deportation process. I explained to Chaplain Croce my desire to extend the bible studies to immigrants who are in jail for other reasons, beyond only immigration issues. He told me they needed someone to do bible studies in Spanish among Hispanics who are waiting for trial and for those who already have been sentenced and are serving their prison term. Chaplain Croce worked on the prison’s programs schedule to allow me to spend one day a week there, every Thursday starting on January 15th, doing bible studies on mornings with ICE prisoners and, with other inmates during afternoons, which will start on January, 2014. These two new groups will meet at the Chapel of that prison. I believe this is a new door being opened to PIM. We are still serving immigrants, but under slightly different circumstances. With the changes we hope will happen to Immigration Law, this will be a new way for PIM to continue to serve immigrants in prison that can be extended to other prisons too. Once I start these new groups, I will be leading 10 bible studies groups a week in 2014.

VISIT OUR BLOG: www.presbim.com

November Attendance

Day

Prison (all units)

Attendance

01

Bristol

23

05

Plymouth

10

06

Boston

32

08

Bristol

19

09

Boston

27

12

Plymouth

09

13

Boston

27

15

Bristol

18

19

Plymouth

12

20

Boston

28

22

Bristol

24

26

Plymouth

10

27

Boston

25

29

Bristol

21

 Donations received:

– Henry Ruppenthal

– Jovelino & Joan Ramos

– Rev. Richard & Mary Swayze

– Bethel Presbyterian Church – Marlboro, MA

– IPI do Brasil

– Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston

– Providence Presbyterian Church, Providence, RI

– Calvary Presbyterian Church – Enfield, CT

– First Presbyterian Church – Newport, RI

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT

– Rosemarie Smith

 Please send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England – P.O. Box 388, Chester, CT 06412 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

 Bibles – I have delivered many Portuguese and Spanish bibles to the inmates. But two consecutive weeks I was asked to bring French and Ukrainian bibles for two men who are not English readers. The French bible was easy to order from Amazon and was already delivered, but the Ukrainian one was too expensive. So I searched on Google, and found a Ukrainian Catholic church in Jamaica Plain, MA. I talked to Father Yaroslav and he donated the bible and already mailed it to me. I’m waiting for this bible to deliver to the inmate.

 I’m ready to go home – Alex is a young man from Guatemala. He has been under ICE custody for a little more than one year. He stayed so long because he decided to fight his case. Few weeks ago he received the court’s final decision and he will be deported to his country. I asked him about his feelings as he is facing this decision, and he told me: “First I became frustrated because it was not what I was waiting for. But then I started to think about what I have learned from the Bible, and now I’m feeling peace, because I know God is on control of my life. I’m ready to go back to my country”. I’ll miss him because during the time he spent in prison he was who used to encourage others to attend the bible studies. As I heard from others last time I was there, he was the one who used to explain the bible to them during the daily meetings they have. Please, let’s pray for him, so he will find a blessed way to re-entry in his country.

Next Newsletter – Because the coming holidays and the time I’ll be out of my duties, from December 21 to January 03, our next newsletter will be issued in the end of January, 2014. I thank all of you who have supported me with your prayers and donations during 2013, and I hope that, as we will enter in a new year, we will continue this partnership to proclaim the Gospel to those immigrants in prison. I wish to all of you Merry Christmas and a very blessed New Year. 

 

Aside

October, 2013

“God, send someone to replace me” – This was part of Felipe’s prayer   after 21 months in prison. During his time in detention he saw many coming and going. In this environment, leaders arise to guide daily meetings with Christian inmates. He became a Christian inside the prison, and was learning many things from the Bible. Felipe told me that he had already been in prison for several months, when the leaders at that time were released or deported. There suddenly was a leadership vacuum. Then another inmate, named Victor, challenged Felipe to become the leader. I remembered that many times he asked me, after the Friday Bible study to stay a little longer to answer his questions. He was looking for some advices about a biblical text he was preparing to share with the others inmates. With Victor’s support, Felipe became a leader.

But, after almost 21 months in prison, he was anxious to be with his family again.  He was missing his wife and kids. Felipe’s wife was raised as a Methodist, but after they got married, she, influenced by him, left her church. They have been married for more than 20 years and Felipe never wanted to think about God. But, after becoming a Christian in prison, now he knows it’s his duty, as Jesus’ instrument, to bring his wife back to a relationship with God and to lead his children to Jesus. Therefore, besides his desire of being with his family again, he wanted to become their spiritual guide. A sort of conflict brewed on his mind. On one hand he wanted to leave prison, but on other hand, he wanted to be sure somebody else would replace him. With Victor already released, he started to asked God to send somebody to replace him.

God heard his prayer and another man arrived at that prison, a man who was at part of the leadership team of a church. Two weeks after that, Felipe was released, and I visited him at his home, and he shared this story with me. I recorded a video of his testimony and will soon share it once it’s ready.

Felipe is still not completely free from his immigration process. He still bears an electronic ankle bracelet and must report to the immigration judge until the final decision of his case. Please, pray for him, his wife Rosa and their children. Their dream is to be allowed to stay here in the USA, the Country they love and want to live.

 

Donations received:

  • Byeta Hoover-Mulvany
  • Rosemarie Smith
  • Thomas Taylor
  • Igreja Presbiteriana de Boston
  • Greenwood Community Church
  • Bethel Presbyterian Church
  • Barrington Presbyterian Church
  • Henry Ruppenthal
  • IPI do Brasil
  • Providence Presbyterian ChurchPlease send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England 123 Elm Street #200 – Old Saybrook, CT 06475 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry. 
  • October Attendance
  •  
  • Apologies to the Providence Presbyterian Church members, because we didn’t mention their donation on the last few newsletters. They have donated on monthly basis.

Day

Prison (all units)

Attendance

01

Plymouth

24

02

Boston

39

04

Dartmouth

28

08

Plymouth

20

09

Boston

27

11

Dartmouth

XX

15

Plymouth

12

16

Boston

33

18

Dartmouth

21

22

Plymouth

19

23

Boston

29

25

Dartmouth

26

29

Plymouth

15

30

Boston

32

 

 

Baptism – On our previous newsletter I wrote about a Brazilian man named Saulo, who asked me to be baptized. The authorities of the prison authorized me to baptize him but when I went to the Boston prison two weeks ago, I discovered ICE had transferred Saulo to the Plymouth prison. Last week I met him at Plymouth, and he said he knows God is in control of everything in his life. He knows his salvation does not rest on baptism, but on God’s grace. When he finally leaves prison, he will look for a church to join, and be baptized.

 

Wedding – Last Friday night I was home when my cellphone rang. It was Rodrigo, a man who had been released from prison two weeks ago. He never failed to attend any Bible study meetings while in detention. When I arrived at the unit, I used to look for him and he immediately went to his cell to get his bible. On his way to the study he used to invite others to join. This time though, he called me for a special invitation. He had been in a relationship with a woman for several years, but never married her. Once in prison he began to think about his life and how he wanted to change things. It was when he decided that one of the first things he would do is marry his girlfriend. So he called me, to invite me to his wedding that took place the very next day. Unfortunately, I could not attend, due to the short notice. It’s my goal to visit him soon to help him share his testimony.

 

Immigration Law Reform – Many religious groups, including Christians from different political and denominational affiliation, have advocated on behalf of undocumented immigrants. The complexity of this issue goes beyond the simple diversity of point of views among legislators. It touches on the interest of small, but powerful groups that don’t want changes that will affect their lives. A few days ago I watched a video online about what has been called the “bed mandate,” which has outraged many Christians. If you want to know more about the “bed mandate”, please refer to this:

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/controversial-quota-drives-immigration-detention-boom/2013/10/13/09bb689e-214c-11e3-ad1a-1a919f2ed890_story.html

http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/watch/immigrant-detention-and-the-bed-mandate-57194563770

Aside

Newsletter – September, 2013

ImageDonationOur Ministry’s most important tool is the Bible. Thanks to your generous donations, PIM has distributed hundreds of bibles to the inmates, both in Portuguese and Spanish. Many of the inmates are taking the Bible they received in prison with them when released. They keep their Bible as a symbol of how God helped them endure their time in prison. Last month PIM received two boxes with 48 Spanish Bibles donated by Hispanic/Latino/na Congregational Support Office. Almost all of these bibles were already distributed to the inmates and, very soon, we will need more. I thank the Rev. Hector Rodrigues, the Associate for that Office who has been very supportive to PIM’s ministry.

Video – As I informed before, I did a video with the testimony of 4 former inmates. This video was the first presented at the Presbytery of Southern New England on September 14th. I visited those former inmates and recorded about 1 ½ hour of testimonies, editing it to a powerful 9 minutes. My intention is to share this video at congregations and to continue doing a file with other former inmates’ testimonies. I thank Mr. Jeff Bastos, a Brazilian member of Bethel Presbyterian Church, who donated his time and used his equipment to do the editing. The Bethel Presbyterian Church is a Portuguese speaking Congregation in Marlboro, MA that has contributed monthly to the PIM ministry.

 IF YOU WANT TO HAVE THIS VIDEO PRESENTED AT YOUR CONGREGATION, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME ATrev.gerson@verizon.net

Donations received:

– Henry Ruppenthal

– Richard Price

– Igreja Presbiteriana – Boston, MA                

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT 

– IPI do Brasil

 

Please send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England 123 Elm Street #200 – Old Saybrook, CT 06475 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Day

Prison (all units)

Attendance

03

Plymouth

14

04

Boston

40

06

Dartmouth

19

10

Plymouth

22

11

Boston

43

13

Dartmouth

20

17

Plymouth

17

18

Boston

41

20

Dartmouth

17

24

Plymouth

21

25

Boston

51

27

Dartmouth

32

 

Kátia’s Repost – We completed the bible study on the book of James. Each of them received a certificate in recognition of her participation in the Bible study. The day that I gave them their certificates was a day of joy. Praise the Lord because He is good! We are now starting Luke. Because of the size of the book, and also because of the inconsistent timeframe in jail, I am planning to give them a certificate after every tenth lesson.The ladies are meeting every day on their own for a bible study. At the beginning they met once a week, but for the last three weeks they have been doing it every day. They also started a reading group. It is being held in one of the corners of their floor, in the free time they have. They are reading Corinthians, and everyone is welcome. It has been an invitation for those who don’t know about the bible study.

For the last couple of weeks I have noticed a decrease in the number of immigrants in the group. Most of the group that is attending the bible study now are sentenced inmates.

Some of them are just now coming to the Christian faith, and have many theological questions. Because of the limited time we have together, it is harder to delve deeper. So, I am thinking that theological books, with easy reading, would be a good thing to give them. 

Baptism at the Prison – At our previous newsletter you could read some of the letter that PIM received from an inmate. He became a Christian at the prison where he had his first experience of preaching to other inmates. He wrote that he was looking ahead, when he will leave the prison to find a church to be baptized. Now, as he is not sure how long he will be detained, he asked me to be baptized at the prison. He already took the initiative to ask the prison’s staff to allow me to perform his baptism. Please, keep this subject on your prayers.

 

1001 New Worshiping Communities (1001 NWC) is a new initiative in the PC(USA) to inspire and equip the wider church to participate in the creation of 1,001 new worshiping communities in the next 10 years. God is raising up leaders in churches and presbyteries who are creating or partnering with new worshiping communities in their communities.  Primarily they are seeking to make and form new disciples of Jesus Christ, to change and transform the world. They are taking on new and varied forms of church for our changing culture.  New worshiping communities self-identify and can register on the 1001 NWC web site. You can see where and who they are and learn more about the 1001 New Worshiping Communities at: http://www.onethousandone.org/

 

PIM’s Bible study groups form new worshiping communities where the Word of God is being proclaimed, where discipleship happens, where people are getting together for mutual comfort and spiritual care. Although PIM initially self-identified as Mission, through learning about the 1001 New Worshiping Community definition PIM recognized that the Bible study groups are becoming new worshiping communities. PIM applied to 1001 NWC and received first a seed grant and just recently an Investment grant. These partnership grants include funds from General Assembly, the Synod of the Northeast, and the Presbytery of Southern New England, which provide partial funding for this year’s and next year’s budget. PIM is thankful for the 1001 NWC initiative, which encourages and inspires PIM’s further work with immigrants in detention who make up these new worshiping communities.

NEWSLETTER – August, 2013

PIM 2nd anniversary – The month of August has an important meaning for my ministry to immigrants in prison. On August 1st, 2005, I was authorized, after going through some training, to start Bible studies in Portuguese among immigrants at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility.  At that time I was still the pastor of Christ is Life Presbyterian Church, and my visits to the prison were part of my ministry in that Congregation. With increased demand for new Bible Studies groups at that and other prisons, PIM (Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry) was created in August 2011 and, after being released from my duties as pastor of Christ is Life, I began to serve it full time. Therefore, this year PIM is celebrating its second anniversary.

To celebrate this anniversary I’m engaged in producing a video with testimonies by some former inmates who were released from prison and allowed to stay in the USA to continue their legalization process. In order to accomplish this goal, I visited four former inmates. Two of them are living in Connecticut and two in Massachusetts. I intend to get the video edited for presentation at our coming Presbytery meeting and at churches as well.

I thank all of you who are keeping PIM in your prayers, as well as those who are providing support with donations.  Please join us in a special prayer of gratitude to God for sending us partners like you. Thank you very much for your support.

Donations received:

– Henry Ruppenthal

– Igreja Presbiteriana – Boston, MA

– First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT

– Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana de Boston, MA

Please send your donations by check or money order made out to: Presbytery of Southern New England 123 Elm Street #200 – Old Saybrook, CT 06475 – Important: write a note designating your offer to the Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry.

Day

Prison (all units)

Attendance

06

Plymouth

15

07

Boston

31

09

Dartmouth

13

13

Plymouth

11

14

Boston

30

16

Dartmouth

15

20

Plymouth

08

21

Boston

21

23

Dartmouth

22

27

Plymouth

locked down

28

Boston

30

30

Dartmouth

19

 Letters Received

From I.S. – “Dear Presbyterian Immigrant Ministry. God bless you for what you are doing for the immigrant people. I rejoice in the Lord because He is faithful and never fails in His promises. God loves us so much that He even sends someone to preach the Gospel in prison, giving hope and salvation to people who never heard His word before. I have seen how the enemy tries to destroy us, to bring us down and put us to shame; but we know that for those who trust in the Lord, all things work together for their good. I’ve been held in custody by ICE for almost 3 months, and these haven’t been the best days of my life. Sadly, these have been the worst times I ever lived. I’m facing deportation right now, but I don’t lose faith and hope that God will do something supernatural in my case. Right now I’m in the middle of the storm, but I know the Lord is going to deliver me from all my troubles. While here I have not only sung praises to the Lord, but I have also preached to the people here. He (the Lord), has put me before of these people here in prison as their leader. The Lord has been good to me, so good that He healed me from asthma in this prison. I had been suffering from asthma since I was a kid. I went to many hospitals but nobody was able to help me. Yet my Lord healed me 2 weeks ago. I am and forever will be thankful to Him. Brethren, I want to ask you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to pray for me. As the leader of the inmates in this unit I face a lot of obstacles, but I know that anything/everything is possible with God. The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Love of God and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

From S. S. – “Hi pastor Gerson. I’m in prison here in Boston and I’m always glad when you come here every Wednesday. Do you remember when I asked if you considered me able to preach the Gospel here in prison? I did it for the first time in my life and I succeeded. I became a Christian here in the prison and I thank God for the opportunity He gave me. I didn’t have the opportunity to be baptized yet, because I met Jesus here in this prison. I’ve been here for 8 months, and as soon I leave this place I’ll find a Church where I’ll seek to be baptized. Forgive me, please, my poor letters, because I studied for only 4 years in my whole life. Thank you.”

Rev. Gerson and Victor
Rev. Gerson and Victor
Left to right, Rev. Gerson, Wilson and Rodrigo
Left to right, Rev. Gerson, Wilson and Rodrigo

Being Obedient

Leviticus 19:33-34 – “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God”.

Matthew 25: 34- 46 – “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

My ministry is changing direction. And not because I want to, but because of God’s strong call to dedicate myself full time to minister among imprisoned immigrants. The path to this ministry had very unassuming beginnings: five years ago I received a call from a mother who lives in Brazil. The woman’s son had lived in the United States for five years, during which time they only communicated by phone. That mother called me asking for help, for her son had been arrested and none of his undocumented friends could visit him. After finding him in a Worcester prison, I went to visit him. The guard took me to a small room where the lawyers usually meet with their clients, and so I waited for the young man. Though I had never met him, he walked through the door of that little room in tears. “Why are you crying?” I asked him. “I’m crying with joy because God is good”, he told me. “I was praying, asking God to send somebody to pray with me and talk to me in Portuguese. When the speakers announced that a pastor was here to visit me. I knew, on that moment, that God had answered my prayer”, he said to me.

I visited that young man a couple of times. When he was transferred to the Plymouth County Correctional Facility, we still continued out meetings. It was at that moment I realized that other Brazilians were facing a similar problem, and I started to wonder how I could reach them. I talked to the facility’s chaplain asking him how I could help these Brazilians. He said he needed someone to study the Bible with them because no one of his staff speaks Portuguese. The inmates and I started to do Bible studies twice a month, and eventually weekly. One year later, I started the same program at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. Currently, I lead 4 groups of Bible studies in those facilities. In the beginning, only Brazilians attended, but now I meet with immigrants from a variety of countries, from Latin America, Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

 

1.      The Bible

What I have been doing is not a personal ministry. It is simply a Christian Ministry. In other words, through my life, each of you who is a Christian, is doing what the Bible evidently states is God’s desire. We can see it clearly in several passages, but I chose only two, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. Here is what we learn:

a.       Leviticus teaches us about two kinds of actions: actions that we must perform, and actions from which we must refrain. First, we should not mistreat an alien. And I think all of you agree with me that this is easy to understand, isn’t it? Nobody should be mistreated in any condition. But, mistreatment doesn’t only mean treating others poorly. Indifference also is mistreatment. That’s why Leviticus also teaches us to act positively, treating aliens as if they were your own native-born. As if your house was their house, and your children’s school is their children’s school, as your church was their church, and as if their needs were your own. They should be loved as we love ourselves.

b.      Matthew teaches us a way to please Jesus. I know there are a lot of people trying to please Jesus through good manners, singing worship songs, fasting, etc. But here we find a clear way to please Jesus: doing good things in favor of those who are in need. And Matthew is very specific about who are those in need.  When we compare Jesus’ time with our own, those in need are still here waiting for the servants of Jesus to reach out to them. Where are the servants of Jesus eager to please Him?

c.       There is a common ground between those passages. Leviticus finishes with this statement: I am the LORD your God. Matthew starts his teaching saying: Then the King will say… The words LORD and KING mean that what was written is not a choice we have. It’s not an option for those who declare themselves Children of God or Christians. The words Lord and King mean that these teachings are commandments that must be obeyed.

Brothers and sisters: regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, the economic pressures, or even our personal opinion regarding immigrants, the Bible is crystal clear: care for the needy, the poor, and the oppressed. God has given you and me an opportunity to care for these people in our own prisons. We need not travel far to reach them. Just look at your own backyard. All I challenge you to do is be obedient, in the same way I’m trying to obey.  Won’t you join me in this journey? Be my partner, helping this ministry grow, prosper and reach the nations one inmate at a time.

 

 

Ruth The Immigrant

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Ruth 2:1-10

I think you know the history of Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth was so determined to follow Naomi when she went back from Moab to Bethlehem. Her words to her mother-in-law were fantastic:  “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.”

As both arrived in Bethlehem, they were deeply needy. Ruth decided to go to the field to get some leftover grain. She went to the field that belonged to a man named Boaz, who was very benevolent to her.

Some things I want to focalize in this story:

  1. As an immigrant, Ruth had to survive gathering whatever the workers had left behind. V. 7a
  2. She was a hard worker, allowing herself to have a small time for rest. V. 7b
  3. Boaz supported her because he realized she was a very good person
  4. Boaz supported her because God orders generosity towards immigrants.

What happen next? As the law prescribed, one of Naomi’s relative should marry Ruth. Boaz was Naomi’s relative. Therefore, he married Ruth and they had a child named Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse who was father of David. In other words, an immigrant, perfectly integrated to the God’s people, was part of the God’s everlasting redemption plan.

Does it teach you something?