Leadership Toolkit #15

Leadership Toolkit, August 2014 issue
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August Congressional Recess Guide

AugustRecessGuide_300As vulnerable children and families continue to seek refuge in the United States, people of faith across the country continue to voice their concern and compassion. The August Congressional Recess started this week, and because this is an election year, many members of Congress will be spending time at home and in town hall meetings. This month provides a great opportunity to reach out to your fellow congregants, friends and neighbors to set up a meeting with your Representative or staff at his or her local office. In these visits, you can express your desire for your town to be a welcoming community, and urge the Member to support legislation that ensures protection and human rights for children and families seeking refuge.

We have created a new August Congressional Recess Guide to support you in mobilizing your community to let your Representative know that people of faith want our country to continue to be a place of protection and hope for migrants seeking refuge. The August Congressional Recess Guide outlines the theological basis for making these visits, provides a step-by-step guide that covers the entire process, from assembling a team to following up after the visit, and provides specific suggestions about connecting your stories to your message. In addition, the guide includes other ways to advocate at the local level including writing op-eds and attending town hall meetings.

We encourage you to engage your fellow congregants, church leaders, neighbors, friends, and community members who care about this issue and to use the guide in raising your voices in support of children and families seeking refuge. This is a critical time to make sure that Members of Congress hear from you.

 

#ActOfLove

ActOfLove_300On Monday June 2, President Obama officially declared the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. southern border to be a humanitarian crisis. He directed federal agencies, including The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), to provide the estimated 80,000 children with much needed resources. Since that time the crisis has continued to grow and along with it there has been increased political tension and media coverage. 
LIRS is working hard to raise awareness about the crisis and create a network of support that can provide these children with the safety and welcome that they are searching for. As previously reported, on May 27, LIRS hosted a press conference to call on President Obama and Congress to take political action regarding this crisis.

At that press conference, LIRS launched a social media movement known as #ActOfLove and it has never been more important. Through the use of various social media sites LIRS is working to spread awareness about the issue and bring a face to the children crossing the border. Whether taking a picture to show your support, to posting a news article, using the hashtag adds the right message of response to social media world.

In addition to the social media campaign, people who support the issue can take action by signing a petition and calling on Congress to address the growing crisis. LIRS has also produced a series of resources to get church groups, especially youth groups, involved in the movement. A frequently asked questions sheet is now available. With great thanks to Luther College Campus Pastor David Vasquez, there is a bible study available for download. Groups can also order specially designed post cards that can be filled out with encouraging notes and delivered to children who are currently being detained. For more information about the campaign visit www.lirs.org/actoflove or email outreatch@lirs.org.

 

Houses of Welcome

HousesOfWelcome_300Along with the unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern U.S. border, there has recently been an increase in Central American families. It is estimated that 39,000 individuals have made the difficult, yet courageous journey with their families since October of 2013. Similar to the children these families are fleeing complex situations that include gang-related violence and poverty. In response, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced its intentions to return to the practice of holding entire families in immigration detention facilities. DHS will begin this process by expanding capacity with a 700-bed detention facility located on the grounds of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico.

As an organization that opposes immigration detention, LIRS is very much against this recent development. Staff members are currently drafting a proposal to the federal government that will instead promote a program of community support. The ultimate goal of this proposal being that families will be released into the care of communities that are prepared to offer hospitality and support. If this proposal is successful there will be a great need for communities throughout the nation to step up and provide a place of welcome. This initiative has been deemed, “Houses of Welcome.” Your congregation or organization can offer support in various ways, including:

  • Donate and/or lease a vacant parsonage, school, church or dorm to serve as a House of Welcome*.
  • Organize a congregation wide clothing/furniture drive to donate locally to a House of Welcome when such needs are specifically identified.
  • Sponsor a family or multiple families at a local House of Welcome, providing regular transportation, friendship and support.
  • Host regular community or educational opportunities for families living in the community or at a House of Welcome.
  • Provide Spanish interpretation services, case management services, or immigration legal assistance with appropriate expertise.

For additional information visit www.lirs.org/housesofwelcome.

 

Foster Care

FosterCare_300As elected officials struggle toward a solution for the humanitarian crisis taking place along the U.S. border LIRS is taking action. Foster care has long been a mission of LIRS, but recent developments have created an increased need for the program. These developments have also created an increased need for people to open their home and their hearts to these children. In response, LIRS created resources that offer information regarding the foster care process, including where to begin and a series of testimonies from current foster families.

Have you ever thought about being a foster parent? Fostering can be a rewarding experience for both the parents and the child, but it is also a commitment that requires time and patience. Top qualities for foster families include a passion to invest in a child’s future, time to spend with that child, and an openness to learn about the culture and background that the child brings with them. It is important to remember that each child, each family, and each story is unique. Even more important though is to remember that you are never alone. LIRS and our network of nationwide partners have created a support system that will help guide you through the experience of fostering. If foster care is a ministry that has been weighing on your heart and mind, fill out this form to receive additional information.

 

Commitment from Community: Women of the ELCA Triennial Convention

WELCA_300Over 2,400 women gathered July 22-26th as part of the Triennial Convention for the Women of the ELCA. With these children on their hearts and minds, the group decided to take a public stand for welcome. With overwhelming support, the voting members of the gathering passed a resolution requiring them to become more educated in the current crisis, encourage congregations to be places of hospitality, and to care for those fleeing violence in pursuit of safety.

Are you a member of a community that is ready and willing to take such an action? Can you challenge your congregation or people in your area to raise the profile of these children? Then do so! LIRS will be happy to help you with the language, specifics, and messaging but we’ll be counting on you do lead the charge in your own local community.