If you drive two hours south of Atlanta, you can find a small town called Lumpkin. It's a rural, south Georgia community with few amenities and one giant immigration detention center.
A few months ago, Billy and I drove down with volunteers from our church to visit with men being held in the facility. These detainees had requested visitors through a ministry of hospitality called El Refugio, the refuge.
We had no agenda. Just a simple response to the call to "remember those in prison as if you were there yourself" (Hebrews 13:3). I hope if I asked to be visited, someone would come.
As you might expect, the conversations that transpired ministered as much to our group as I hope we offered the men with whom we spoke. It was a powerful experience.
Since that visit, I've been doing research related to immigration detention for a couple of articles I'm writing. The world of privatized immigration detention (a cash cow for several prison corporations and not included in this week's declaration of soon-to-be-ending contracts) can be an icky place. How do you increase profits when your income is based on other's suffering?
In the midst of pain and injustice, El Refugio stands out in their commitment to care well for detainees and their families. One of their chief ministries is their hospitality house. Down the street from the detention center, it offers a place of rest and refuge for families who have traveled to visit loved ones. Food and accommodations are provided free of charge to these families.
Recently, I received an email that El Refugio has a need to replace mattresses in this house. And they've asked for help. I wanted to share about this ministry here on the blog because I know many of you have a heart for immigrants. This ministry is a tangible way to come alongside families walking the lonely journey of immigration detention. If you'd like to support their work, please click here to give.
I can't wait to share more with you about what I've learned and experienced in the world of immigration detention. May we all continue to pray for justice and reform for our immigrant neighbors.