Welcoming Immigrants

Date posted: Monday 26 November 2018

In 2018, the Saint Paul Area Synod released "Stories of the Synod," a 24-page stewardship booklet detailing the synod's work. The stories inside are just a glimpse of the work that Mission Support makes possible. One of those stories, below, demonstrates how Mission Support allows us to live out the calling to welcome our neighbors.


Welcoming Congregations, Welcoming Immigrants

Alejandro was living in Reno, Nevada when he received a summons to appear at an immigration court in Minnesota. Traveling to an unfamiliar city to appear in court would be a scary prospect for anyone, so Alejandro went to his local Catholic church for help. They put him in contact with an ELCA church in Reno which, through the AMMPARO Welcoming Congregations network, connected him with St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran in St. Paul.


Sandra Iverson, a member at St. Paul-Reformation, stepped up to help. “My husband and I were able to meet Alejandro at the airport and host him for two days while he made his court appearance,” Sandra remembers. “We were able to get legal advice for him through our AMMPARO network in the Saint Paul Area Synod and accompany him to immigration court.”


In the ELCA, AMMPARO stands for “Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities”. In Spanish, the word amparo refers to the protection of a living thing from harm or suffering, and that is exactly the mandate that AMMPARO has taken in its important work. AMMPARO was born out of concern for children forced to flee certain Central American nations. Passed at the 2016 Churchwide Assembly, AMMPARO has already been able to provide help, support, and comfort for many immigrants and migrants through its Welcoming Congregations Network, as well as through advocacy and the Guardian Angels program.


An Immigrant Church

The ELCA is an immigrant church. Lutefisk dinners and other so-called “Lutheran traditions” are small reminders that the churches that form the ELCA were founded by people who came to America as immigrants. Through the years, the ELCA has welcomed Lutherans from Africa, Asia, and Latin America as well, adding to its legacy as an immigrant church. AMMPARO is yet another expression of this legacy, but it is one with a dire focus, as minors fleeing violence and poverty face many dangers on their way to the United States.


AMMPARO also embodies God’s call to care for our neighbor and for the most vulnerable people in society. “There are 92 verses that call us to welcome the stranger. That’s a lot of verses,” says the Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, co-founder of the AMMPARO Guardian Angels program. “We really have to be whole-gospel disciples.”


A Concrete Way to Help

Sandra agrees. They hosted Alejandro again in July when he was back in Minnesota for his second court hearing. With Alejandro, Sandra and the St. Paul-Reformation community were able to “welcome him here, pray with him, and do our best to support him during the difficult immigration process.”


“Being a member of the AMMPARO Network was a concrete way that we were able to connect with Alejandro and respond to God’s call to welcome the stranger, to advocate for justice, and to minister to the immigrant community.”



Stories of the Synod

Churches are encouraged to share the content of these stories in their congregations. Any re-print should include: Saint Paul Area Synod, www.spas-elca.org. To request printed copies of the booklet, please call 651.224.4313. A PDF of the booklet is also available here.