As the debate over conditions at Border Patrol facilities and how best to address the crisis continues, Southern Baptist pastor Jack Graham and his Texas church are ministering to both migrants and patrol agents.
“Many churches are engaged in ministry at the border. We are grateful to be a part of the effort to express hope and healing,” Graham said in a tweet Tuesday, acknowledging a recent media report about his church’s efforts.
On Friday, in a mission Graham billed “Operation Border Blessing,” Prestonwood Baptist Church delivered supplies to support border patrol agents and their families in El Paso.
“Today a team from @PrestonwoodEsp heads to El Paso for Operation Border Blessing where they will show appreciation to all of the incredible federal agents & their families - tents, food, water inflatables, school supply filled backpacks, and more! #Prestonwoodonmission#inaction,” Mike Buster, the church’s executive pastor tweeted.
A report from the church last December said in 2018, the more than 40,000-member Prestonwood Church spent some $64,000 on immigration relief for people from the Rio Grande Valley to El Paso to Virginia. That amount included a $50,000 donation to the church from Ivanka Trump.
“It’s part of our DNA as a church, and we consider it a calling to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to those in need,” Buster said in the report. “We will continue to assist immigrants—whether they’re along the border or in our community.”
Prestonwood's latest outreach comes after Graham had blasted fellow evangelicals for criticizing the Trump administration’s handling of detained migrant children at the border based on “a very inaccurate report” late last month.
“This is a very inaccurate report! I’ve been to the border and seen the great work our Border Agents are doing along with churches like ours which are ministering in Jesus Name. Extremely disappointing @dmoore,” Graham charged in a series of tweets.
He was responding to comments by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who referenced liberal media reports that described conditions under which migrant children were being detained at Border Patrol facilities in Texas as “dirty, neglectful, and dangerous.”
“The reports of the conditions for migrant children at the border should shock all of our consciences," Moore said last month in a tweet, which went viral. "Those created in the image of God should be treated with dignity and compassion, especially those seeking refuge from violence back home. We can do better than this."
As a church leader whose ministry has been working for a long time with the migrant community at the border, however, Graham was certain media reports weren’t giving a balanced view of the crisis.
“.@drrmoore .... why don’t you go with me to the border and we can show you what is actually happening rather than your simply quoting CNN. I’m ready when you are,” Graham said.
“…Reasonable people know we have a humanitarian crisis at/border but to suggest that immigrants are not treated with dignity &respect is wrong & plays to secular press who blame America for the problem. We r all very concerned and many of us are trying to help,” he added. “…Our great Border patrol agents and law enforcement are working day and night to protect our country and alleviate suffering. No one should question that.”
Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, also blasted what he considered “misinformation” being spread by the media. He recently toured the Clint border facility and said that migrant children there were being cared and provided for.
Still, with much aid needed at the border, many faith groups have been stepping in. Don Williams, director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Disaster Relief, told The Oklahoman that a group of Baptist volunteers partnered with the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas' disaster relief team to cook meals for detainees in Brownsville, Texas.
He noted that he was told that the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas had been cooking about 1,700 meals but had to reach out for help from the Oklahoma Baptist volunteers because the American Red Cross, which is also on the ground, said the need for meals jumped to about 9,000 a day.
"Everybody has an opinion. Regardless of the politics, we are going to do what we are trained and equipped to do," he said. "The definition of disaster is not just a tornado or a hurricane. For us, it's anything that exceeds the capacity for someone or a local community to take of themselves. People need to eat. The system is strained so we're going to go help."