Arizona's Opportunity to Serve Asylum Seekers

Pastors and Church Leaders,

From Chandler to Queen Creek, Mesa to downtown Phoenix, Scottsdale to Peoria, churches have responded to the need to love and serve asylum seekers. We have seen pastors, church members, and entire congregations mobilize to provide hospitality to asylum seekers. In addition, we have had families from our churches walk through the process to be certified to become temporary foster families for unaccompanied minors (although this is currently on hold due to waiting on the Office of Refugee Resettlement).

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has experienced an overwhelming amount of asylum seekers and have been unable to process these families in a timely manner. They have reached out to local churches and nonprofits for help as they attempt to deal with overcrowded detention centers. As churches and nonprofits respond to the need, we have witnessed the conditions that the detention centers are in and are being made more aware of the suffering immigrants are facing as they enter our US detention centers. It is not uncommon to hear stories of days without food, little water, and harsh treatment.

As you minister in your local context, there are often things happening in our city that our church members form opinions on through headlines and political talking points. Since we are mostly pastors and not experts on current events, it can be confusing and challenging to figure out how to be informed and how to encourage your people to grow in love of neighbor. I thought it might be helpful to share a few links to give you an opportunity to be informed while also sharing the needs we continue to have in order for us, as the collective church in Arizona, to provide care to the sojourners in our midst.

Here are some answers and resources to frequently asked questions:

Why are there so many more asylum seekers? Are these claims legitimate? One of the reasons given for the mistreatment of asylum seekers once they arrive on U.S. soil is that the individual or family making the journey should not attempt to come to the United States in the first place. Just as in other parts of the world, when someone flees their land as a refugee, it is most always as a last option. They are weighing the potential harm of staying over and against the risk of making the journey. As violence increases, it makes attempting the dangerous journey a greater option.

A background on the conditions in Central America driving increased numbers of asylum seekers from the Council on Foreign Relations.

A primer on migrants at the border from the National Immigration Forum.

How is the asylum process different than illegal immigration? While it is not uncommon  to hear the asylum seekers referred to as “illegal immigrants” in the media, the reality is these individuals and families are surrendering at the border in attempts to apply for a specific status fully in accordance with US law. Read more about it here.

What about the recent decision to make families wait in Tijuana? Over the Christmas holiday, President Trump made a new decision to keep families seeking asylum in Tijuana.

Something important for us to consider in Arizona is that Tijuana is more of a neighbor-city than Chicago, Boston, or San Francisco. Tijuana shares a beach with San Diego and is within eyesight of some of our favorite vacation spots. Regardless of what is happening on a national political landscape, Tijuana does not have the infrastructure or resources to care for Central American asylum seekers.

There are Mexican sister churches and ministers who are already getting by with very little in Tijuana that will be stepping in to do their best to care for these families. They will be present in the midst of much suffering.

Here are a few trusted organizations if you are interested in supporting migrants stuck at the border in Tijuana/Nogales/Juarez: The Global Immersion Project Borderlands Fund, Border Angels, Kino Border Initiative, Annunciation House.

What can we do?

We have an opportunity for individual families to provide hospitality for 24-36 hours to asylum seekers. Due to the sensitive nature surrounding this topic, we are organizing this carefully. If you have a family in your church who may be interested in providing hospitality, would you have them email and our volunteer Rachel will get them the link to fill out the brief application (in which you will be contacted as a reference). We currently have 40 families serving and need an additional 60. This is more then doable if every church connected to Surge found a family or two to volunteer.

Are Christians who help these people complicit in encouraging illegal activity?

Currently the U.S. government is asking for churches to assist asylum seekers. Christians can in good conscience serve their country and—more importantly—serve their Lord by providing food, shelter, and love to these individuals and families during this time of need.

What kind of opportunities for the gospel does this present?

There are a few  things to consider. First, the gospel of Jesus is one of grace and mercy. I can’t help but think of 2 Corinthians 8:9, in which Paul reminds us that we have been made rich by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who generously gave up his life so we might have life. With the riches of what Christ has given us, we now have the privilege of enriching others through gracious generosity.

Secondly, many of these sojourners are Christians. As we sit with families seeking asylum we have been blessed to hear story after story of God’s faithfulness to these men, women, and children. It has deeply enriched our own faith as we get to witness the faith of brothers and sisters from Central America.

Finally, hospitality to foreigners is something the Scriptures regularly ask God’s people to provide. One of the ways God’s people are asked to live distinct from the culture they are immersed in is by providing hospitality to foreigners. It is a way that we can bear witness to Jesus and his kingdom.

How can I disciple our congregation to grow in sharing God’s heart for the immigrant?

One upcoming opportunity is a great experience Neighborhood Ministries has put together in partnership with Surge and ASU. I encourage you to read more about it and pray about taking a small group of your church through it.

There are also many Surge churches who have intentionally pushed into this who can be a great resource for creating opportunities for your church to grow in neighbor love. Our team would love to pray and process with you as you consider what this might look like in your own congregation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

How can we pray?

  • for our pastors and church leaders throughout Arizona to be filled with vision, strategic relationships, and wisdom on how to respond

  • for the Spirit to move his people (specifically in our congregations) to greater awareness, compassion, and action as we love immigrants entering our city    

  • for Jesus to give his followers eyes to see through deceptive fear and be compelled by love

  • for God’s people in Arizona to be a faithful witness to the various non-profits, government officials, and sojourners we have an opportunity to interact with in the midst of this challenge

  • for opportunities not only to provide relief, but to push against the injustices that we are made aware of and opportunities to be a foretaste of the kingdom of God

  • For peace and justice to reign in Central America

Thank you for all the ways you seek to faithfully shepherd and lead your congregation. There is much to lament and pray about as we encounter the suffering of our neighbors and the polarization of our nation; however, there is also much gratitude that we can give to our Heavenly Father as he has given many of our churches opportunities to serve Jesus together in these ways.


Dennae Pierre
Executive Director
Surge Network

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As Surge celebrates 10 years of fellowship and mission together there is much to thank God for. The Spirit has been kind to bring together leaders from many denominations, traditions, and backgrounds with a shared vision to see Jesus on display in our city. Over the last decade we have shared burdens and joys, seen new churches started, watched church members engage more faithfully in their vocational callings, eaten hundreds of meals together, and tried to be present as our city has had both need and opportunity.

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We are both pastors of local churches. We are both teaching the people we shepherd Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.  And we both have a growing concern that our congregations can easily get swept into the circus of cynicism and the maddening mockery that has been this election season.  Our concern is that cynicism and mockery aren’t markers of God’s salt and light people. Also the vision of the Kingdom we see in the Beatitudes often looks different than the visions of lesser kingdoms the candidates are putting forth.  

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In light of the recent tragedies

Brothers and Sisters,

This past two weeks has been filled with lament and grief. We grieve the tragic deaths that took place before our eyes of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, along with the tragic murders of Dallas and Baton Rouge police officers. We grieve the deep division in our nation that surfaces week after week. We ache as we listen and watch a nation deeply divided spew words of hate and ignorance. And perhaps as church leaders, we are most grieved by the deep division and sin within the body of Christ that times like these reveal and sense the weight of the challenge to be faithful in the midst of such darkness.

Times like these often reveal our powerlessness as leaders. We see brokenness and desperately want to fix it. We want to act and act now. We gather to pray, we are learning to lament, we caution our congregations to be more wise on social media, and we are trying to become better listeners. Yet there seems to be a deep sense growing among many pastors that none of these things can be ends in and of themselves. I believe we are recognizing more and more how easy it is to act and speak in the height of the tragedy as a way to escape our sense that we are powerless and yet I also believe there is a collective sense among many of us that it is time to sit with the weight of what is going on and ask deeper questions.

Many of us have been wrestling with important questions on how to lead our congregations forward in the midst of our divided, fearful, and angry nation. This is not the first time in the last few years that we have walked through racial division with our congregations and we know it will not be the last. We know faithfulness as a church means pressing into the places of pain in our community and offering the radical love of Jesus in a way that challenges both systemic injustice and the individual idolatry that drives hate, racism, and division.

I have heard many leaders in the last week ask important questions, such as:

  • What does it look like to be faithful pastors and leaders in the midst of a rapidly changing cultural climate?
  • How do we move our people to engage in radical love of neighbor in ways that shine the beauty of Jesus into every corner of our city?
  • What does it look like to foster hope, humility, and perseverance in the people we are leading as they engage in overwhelming justice issues?
  • How would Jesus want us to walk alongside those who are spiritually deaf and blind in our congregations?
  • How would Jesus draw near to and minister to those who are injured by the blindness and deafness of their brother and sister in Christ?

These are heavy questions. Questions of which there are no quick and simple answers to. These questions that are often asked in the peak of our grief and lament but can easily be pushed aside until the next challenge our community faces.

As a network of churches, we want to offer a few more formats in the next six months to continue to grow as leaders and keep the conversation going.

We pray and hope the church would be a part of meaningful action that puts Jesus on display in our cities most especially in places experiencing injustice, pain, and division. These are only formats for learning, but we are praying the Spirit would use these times to move us forward in "spurring one another on toward love and good deeds."

Praying for you and your churches,
Dennae Pierre
Executive Director | Surge Network



September 23:
Latasha Morison with Be the Bridge to Racial Unity

8am-12pm (Pastors & Church Leaders) Training and discussion by Latasha Morison for how to equip your congregation to have important conversations around race and unity. RSVP HERE
6pm-9pm (Lay Leaders in your Church) This evening is for key people in your church who are passionate about justice. More info and promotion materials are coming your way, but this will be helpful for giving leaders practical ways to be bridge builders and patiently walk alongside others in your congregation who struggle with conversations around race. RSVP HERE

October 31-November 2: 
Round tables with Stephanie Summers with Center for Public Justice. Politics is not the only way to engage on issues of justice, but the current political narrative and polarization between parties is shaping and influencing the church in deep ways. There will be multiple opportunities to learn from the Center for Public Justice as Stephanie Summers discusses public and political engagement. Keep an eye out for details.

Join a book discussion: We will be convening for a 3 week book discussion on:
Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. To get connected to a small group of pastors to discuss this important topic please email us at

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