Bishop's Blog

Bishop Scarfe shares his experiences, reflections, and sermons.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Humanitarian Needs at the Border

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

It seems as if more information is being made public each day about the inhumane conditions that exist in seriously overcrowded ICE detention facilities. We know that children and families who are coming to our country looking for safety and protection are becoming sick and dying while in detention. We know that governmental lawyers are arguing that children do not need to be provided toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, or bedding in order to be called “safe and secure” in a government detention center. And we know that politicians in Washington are currently debating over how to release resources to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the people who are being detained. 

Our Presiding Bishop has joined with a diverse group of faith leaders in a statement to express our collective outrage and pain over the treatment of those seeking asylum at our borders, and urging the Administration “to maintain its commitment to international law and defend human rights by implementing safeguards to ensure the safety and health of all of those seeking protection in our land, especially those children who fall under our care.”

How best can we respond from Iowa, as followers of Jesus who says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of the sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19)?

As I did a year ago, when news broke about families being separated at the border, I commend the list of resources at to you and your congregation as you look for ways to take action. In 2016, a Pew Research Center report indicated that there are 50,000 undocumented immigrants here in Iowa (accounting for about 2.2% of our workforce). On IowaShare you will find resources to help your church to welcome, support, engage, and serve those families in your midst. Included in this email are other resources to assist you and your congregation in advocating for people currently in detention. 

The photo of the young father and his daughter from El Salvador who drowned arm in arm at the edge of the Rio Grande heartbreakingly illustrates the desperation of families seeking asylum in the United States and the danger they face. As hard as it is to look at that photograph, we must, reminding ourselves of Jesus' words, that what we do to the least among us, we do to our Lord.

May God give us the courage to follow the Way of Love, speak out against injustice, and find ways to welcome and serve those seeking to be our neighbors.

In the peace of Christ, 

The Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa

Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence. —1 John 3:18-19 (CEB)

Contact Iowa representatives and senators to thank them for taking up an aid bill and urge them to reach an agreement to provide humanitarian aid for those being detained and immediately address the unsafe conditions at detention facilities.

Learn more about border ministry and advocacy and how The Episcopal Church is responding to humanitarian needs at the border by registering for this webinar.

Become a member of Partners in Welcome: a network and learning community dedicated to welcoming newcomers, empowering advocates, and supporting local ministries.

Donate to funds like Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors or the Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project that assist community members in need of legal bond, representation, or legal counsel. Bonding out our neighbors detained by immigration and connecting them with lawyers gives them the best chance at remaining members of our community and helps keep families together. 
Share with your congregations the wide variety of resources available from the Office of Government Relations.

Use the resources from Episcopal Migration Ministries in adult forums.

Check out the resources for church leaders on

Explore the small group curriculum, Discovering and Living God’s Heart for Immigrants: A Guide to Welcoming the Stranger, available from World Relief.

Share this list of resources for immigrant families in your midst.

Examine the toolkit from Detention Watch Network and the Immigration Detention Transparency and Human Rights Project to help groups organize and advocate for an end to abusive detention practices.
Do you have a resource to share that you or your congregation have found useful? Let us know at