The pastor of a Haitian church in Texas is urging Haitian migrants to refrain from making the journey to the United States as he has heard "heartbreaking" stories of "brokenness" related to the abuses migrant families suffer on their journeys to the border.
Jacob Jean Jundy is the pastor of Walk by Faith International Missionary Church in El Paso, Texas, which operates an ad hoc shelter for Haitian migrants.
While his church is more than 400 miles away from the epicenter of the surge of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, the congregation has received hundreds of Haitian migrants since April. While there are only a handful of migrants at the church currently, Jundy expects an influx to come at any time from Del Rio, where thousands have camped out underneath International Bridge.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Jundy explained that while his church provides for the needs of those who come, he doesn't advise fellow Haitians who have or are looking to flee poverty and crime in the Caribbean island nation to make the long journey to the U.S.
He warned of dangers experienced by many Haitian migrants his church has helped as they traveled from South American countries such as Brazil and Chile — where many have resided since the 2010 earthquake — to the U.S.
Describing the stories he has heard from Haitian migrants as "heartbreaking," he explained that some encountered smugglers in Panama, people that, he said, "will be there to rob them, to beat them and to rape them."
"My wife and I, we sat down and prayed … with many women who have been raped, many married women who have been raped in Panama in front of their children and their husbands," he said. "We pray with men who sat and witnessed their wives going through those things. And … they cannot say anything. They cannot do anything. I see the brokenness of these men's hearts."
Jundy said that without the grace of God in his life, he is not sure how he would be able to "cope with hearing those stories."
The pastor indicated that he has repeatedly urged American politicians to discourage Haitians from making the journey.
"When I speak to them, one thing that I emphasize is if we try to help the Haitians or if we try to really help the migration, we need to go to Panama and stop it right there," he said.
"They need to go to Panama to stop this human trafficking, smuggling … that's taking place over there … where many have died." He stressed that migrants have died from drownings.
Jundy delivered a message directly to Haitians: "Stop this journey."
"Stop it because … it's a deadly journey," he told CP. "They're taking too many chances trying to come to the United States and going through … this difficult route."
Jundy elaborated on the reasons why Haitian migrants make the journey to the U.S., including unsafe infrastructure and the lack of education and work opportunities.
Additionally, he pointed to the recent assassination of the president as another reason why Haitians are fleeing their homeland.
Jundy told CP that in addition to providing shelter to Haitian migrants at his 25-member church, which can accommodate 60 people, he gives them a "citizenry class."
In this class, migrants receive "an orientation about the law of the United States and the culture of the United States versus the law and the culture of Haiti." The class emphasizes that "you are now in the United States. You are now in a different culture."
"You abide by the law, abide by the rules so that you don't get into trouble," Jundy stated.
Feeding the hungry
As thousands of Haitian migrants have camped out underneath the International Bridge in Del Rio, Pastor Matt Mayberry and volunteers at City Church in Del Rio have provided sandwiches for some of the migrants who have assembled there.
The number of migrants under the bridge reached 15,000 last weekend. Authorities have closed down the bridge as migrants are being processed by federal officials. Many are being bussed to Del Rio International Airport to be flown back to their countries of origin while others are reportedly being released in the U.S. with notices to appear at an immigration office in the next two months.
Mayberry discussed his church's efforts in detail in an interview with CP.
"In early August … there was kind of the first wave of refugees coming … en masse and our missions pastor has done a lot of local work in our community to … assist Border Patrol," he said, adding that was especially true in 2019 when Del Rio experienced "a similar situation."
"In early August, when they had a need to … feed people that had been congregating underneath the point of entry bridge, the … officers and the agents in charge had because of a previous relationship … [known] that when they called City Church … we would answer the call."
Because City Church's missions pastor was out of town, Mayberry received the phone call from the Border Patrol expressing a need to feed about 500 people.
"The Border Patrol … at that time wasn't receiving any funding from the federal government … for a situation like this," he said.
Mayberry said he "received that information on a Saturday night" before he planned to give a sermon the following morning. He said the request from the Border Patrol was a "blessing from the Lord."
"I had planned to teach from Matthew 5:13-16, where Jesus gives his teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, that his followers, his disciples are the light of the world and are the salt of the Earth," he said. "And so our church had this amazing opportunity immediately after hearing this sermon to prove that we were indeed disciples of Christ. … That day, we made 500 sandwiches and delivered them … to the port of entry bridge to the refugees that were there."
Mayberry told CP that City Church's ministry efforts continued for the rest of that week and the following week before the migrant surge hit a "lull." Nearly two weeks ago, when "this most recent wave of refugees came to Del Rio," the Border Patrol reached out to City Church again seeking assistance.
"We jumped in until … last Wednesday when there was just so many people that not only could we not keep up but the federal government, also at that time, stepped in with funding for the local Border Patrol station to be able to purchase food for refugees," he explained.
Mayberry estimated that his church made about 6,000 sandwiches for the migrants. When considering partnerships with churches from across the state and youth camps, about 21,000 sandwiches were provided.
Mayberry said his church's effort to address the migrant surge and its resulting impacts on border officials has gone beyond making sandwiches.
"Our congregation has … made sandwiches, they have purchased water, they have purchased Gatorade not only for refugees but for … Border Patrol that [has] been helping the situation," he added. "Our church, early on in August, … did a luncheon for Border Patrol to say thank you for all of their efforts."
The pastor maintained that "our church isn't on one end of … a political spectrum."
"We have made no claims … and that's been most clear in the way that our church has been ministering to … anyone and everyone that we can in our city," he said. "And so, if that means a refugee, yes, we're ministering to refugees. But we are also ministering … to Border Patrol."
Mayberry praised City Church for recognizing "the need to honor the dignity of every human being made in the image of God and to … love people just because of that regardless of their ethnicity or their nationality."
Characterizing the politics surrounding the migrant surge as a "divisive issue" that has led many Americans to take one side or another, the pastor expressed a desire to clarify the church's motives for helping the migrants.
"Our church has chosen … to take the side of Christ and Matthew 25:35. Jesus says, 'I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a sojourner and you welcomed me,'" Mayberry stated.
"We've seen that here in Del Rio firsthand. We've seen hungry and thirsty people. We've seen sojourners and … we have sought to honor Christ and his teachings that as we have done to the least of these, we have done to Him in His name and for His glory."
In collaboration with other churches, Mayberry started a nongovernmental organization called Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition in 2019. The organization "assists refugees who have been released by Border Patrol," providing them with hygiene kits, meals and showers.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org