Partially buried cigarette cartons, Coke cans and the remains of a little girl’s dress augmented the scraps of rubble — all that remained of the Gaza City apartment complex that was home to several Palestinian families less than two months before.

But it was the memorial sprayed on the black paint on the building behind the wreckage that caught my eye. The message written in English proclaimed: “This is the American weapon. This is the Israeli peace.”

It was Sept. 11, 2002, and I was experiencing the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks as someone living inside one of those goofy mirrors in the county fair fun house, as I traveled with a group of young theologians organized by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem to see the work of the church in this coastal city.

Nine children and several adults had lost their lives, and nearly 150 people were injured in the wreckage before us. A one-ton bomb dropped by a U.S.-manufactured F-16 used by the Israeli military leveled the housing unit, which contained several families. Most—if not all—of these people were likely refugees, as the vast majority of Gaza residents arrived there after fleeing their homes in Israel during the Palestinian-Israeli War of 1948. I remembered reading about this particular bombing in an Associated Press article back in the U.S, but it’s easy to feel distanced from such stories when they take place in some strange faraway land.

Suddenly, what had seemed strange and faraway was close at hand, and my sense of reality was transformed. I’ve found that this is true not only when I travel abroad but also when welcoming foreigners at home. In the famous passage about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, Jesus proclaims, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” It’s clear that we not only get to serve Jesus by reaching out to the foreigners in our midst, we benefit personally—experiencing the presence of Jesus as we extend our welcome. In so doing, we receive a deeper glimpse of God’s Kingdom reality.

Personally speaking, getting to know the stranger has helped enlarge my view of God and humanity. My first major intercultural encounter came at the age of 15 when I was involved with building homes in Tijuana on a youth mission trip. My heart was changed as I encountered people who were literally living in a garbage dump, and I developed empathy for those who were looking for better opportunities. Fast forward 10 years, and I was equally transformed while serving as a missioner with the Episcopal Church’s Young Adult Service Corps in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. In this role, I was able to witness the troubling role my government played in the region while being inspired by everyday individuals who were truly acting as “ministers of reconciliation.” Many people served by the Jerusalem diocese were refugees, leading me to develop a passion for refugee work.

My experience in Jerusalem ultimately paved the way for me to serve at the International Rescue Committee in Turlock/Modesto, where I have the opportunity to assist refugees with donation and volunteer support. Ironically, I have found that in serving the stranger—or as we say at the IRC, “leading people from harm to home”—it has helped me also to find a sense of home, spiritually speaking, as I am drawn into the heart of God.   

We all have ample opportunity these days to serve “the stranger” here in the Central Valley. From a legislative standpoint, we can continue to advocate for the U.S. government to uphold its promise of admitting 62,500 refugees this fiscal year or advocate for a path to citizenship for our undocumented neighbors. We can also provide a hand up to folks once they arrive. This could include providing gift cards and household donations for newly arrived families, volunteering for organizations that assist refugees (such as the International Rescue Committee or Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries), and befriending refugee families that are new to your area.

So, come embark on your own pilgrimage in welcoming the stranger. Experience the heart transformation that comes from encountering the Other. When you do so, I guarantee you will find that you receive far more than you are given. You will see with new eyes, and your sense of God’s beautiful life-giving love for you and for this world will forever be enlarged.

Jonathan Partridge is a member of St Francis Episcopal Church in Turlock and is a member of SJRAISE and works for IRC.
Donations needed for International Rescue Committee

For those who have not heard, President Biden increased the historically low Trump-era refugee admissions cap for this fiscal year from 15,000 to 62,500. More information about this announcement, as well as the IRC’s response, can be found at the following link:
We are thrilled to hear of the administration’s decision and are grateful for the ways in which it will impact tens of thousands of survivors of conflict and persecution. While we have yet to learn how many refugees and special immigrants we will see here locally in the next few months, we are anticipating a substantial increase in the number of people we serve. This is fantastic news! It also means that now more than ever we will need support from friends like you to help lead individuals and families from harm to home.
How you can help
As we prepare to serve a larger number of refugees, asylees and other special immigrants in the Central Valley, there are many ways that you can provide support:
  • Donate Household Items: As new families and individuals arrive, they will need household furnishings such as furniture (particularly couches and dining sets that are in good condition), new bath and bedding items, and kitchen supplies. A list of our general donations needs is attached. Feel free to respond to this email or contact us by phone at 209-272-0751 if you wish to donate any of these items.
  • Provide Gift Cards: We have a huge need right now for gift cards from Target or Walmart. These donations are incredibly empowering because they give people the power to choose what clothing and household items they want to buy, a luxury that was not available to them while living in refugee camps. Gift cards from Target or Walmart can be sent to the following address:

International Rescue Committee
3446 N. Golden State Blvd., Ste. A
Turlock, CA 95382
Attn: Jonathan Partridge
You can also purchase Visa gift cards through Amazon:
  • Volunteer: As more people arrive, we will need volunteers to help with virtual English language classes, job placement, and donation transportation. We will also likely need help transporting individuals and families to appointments once it becomes safe to do so. In addition, we will be looking for small groups who are interested in furnishing homes. More information on volunteer and internship opportunities can be found at the following link:


Photojournalist and friend of SJRAISE, Sean Hawkey, is currently working on a documentary series on migration and climate change in Guatemala. This fall SJRAISE, in conjunction with the Anti-Racism Commission and the Creation Care Commission, hope to screen the documentary series and discuss the intersections between migration, climate change and navigating an inherently racist immigration system. More information will be forthcoming. In the meantime, take a look at some of the photos recently sent by Sean ("Migration from Mexico: Going North") and pray for those seeking a better life.
Migrants on bunks at a migrant refuge in Apizaco, Mexico. Most arrive at the refuge after three or four weeks travel from Honduras, much of it on foot and on the dangerous freight rail network known as La Bestia. Most arrive exhausted, many haven't eaten for days, many have suffered violence along the way, often at the hands of Mexican Police and criminal gangs.
© Copyright: Sean Hawkey Photography 2021, all rights reserved.
A group of migrant workers walk along railway tracks as they wait for a train heading north. Everyone in the group has worked in at least one trade, and they are hoping to find work in the US.
© Copyright: Sean Hawkey Photography 2021, all rights reserved.
Missing people posters are found across Tijuana, as thousands of migrants disappear each year. Some die on their journey across Mexico, drowned in rivers, or of dehydration in deserts, or in the many accidents on freight trains but many are killed by organized crime groups when they are kidnapped and ransom money isn't paid. Sex-related murder of women, known as femicides, is also common.
Sean Hawkey
A honduran migrant stands in a space between freight train carriages on a train known as 'La Bestia' or 'El Tren de la Muerte' travelling through Mexico. If he is successful the journey will take him more than a month and the most who take the journey experience one or more of the many dangers on the journey, such as being kidnapped and extorted, robbed and beaten, raped, being victim to accidents on the train network, extreme dehydration and even death in the desert or drowning in the rivers to cross into the US.
Sean Hawkey
COVID-19 Resources for Immigrants
(in Spanish)

Guía para Inmigrantes de California + Listos California Esta guía proporciona consejos sobre los servicios, incluyendo los beneficios públicos, que están disponibles para los inmigrantes californianos, incluidos algunos que están disponibles independientemente de su estatus migratorio. Visite para obtener más información. 

Calls to Action, Training and Resources
Support a Pathway for Dreamers
On June 15, advocates and members of Congress celebrated the ninth anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provided individuals who arrived in the United States as undocumented children with temporary protections that allowed them to work and live in our communities. While the program has changed the lives of its recipients, DACA recipients do not have the ability to remain in the country permanently and access a path to a green card and citizenship. However, efforts to pass a law to provide these protections to DACA recipients and the broader population of “Dreamers” who arrived to the United States in the same way have stalled in Congress.

Wrapped in Love

If you are a quilter and would like to contribute to the Wrapped in Love project, or if you would like to provide financial assistance for mailing and supplies, please contact Pastor Julie at:

To view the video of the blessing of the blankets and hear from Pastor Julie and quilter, Jean Wright, click here

Climate Migration Abroad and At Home
Imagine waking up to water filling up your home. Imagine the panic setting in as your house slowly floats away beneath your feet. Imagine the sea swallowing your country. For people in Small Island Developing States like the Maldives and Marshall Island, this is their new reality. With rising sea levels and increasing floods, the daily decision to stay becomes more of a fight against nature. When these islands disappear, we don’t just lose land. We lose stories of our past, stories of who we are.

Stay up to date with online trainings and webinars related to immigration issues across the country by subscribing to the


from our partners at
Interfaith Immigration Coalition
includes important yet easy action items for individuals and congregations!

The Immigration Services Directory, which provides a list of nonprofit community organizations that offer a broad range of immigration-related services in the Central Valley can be found here

If you are seeking opportunities to connect to a community of welcomers and advocates, you are cordially invited to join one of EMM’s ministry networks. These are vibrant virtual spaces for conversation, collaboration, and taking action, together. We would love to have you join us:
  • EMM’s Immigrant Detention Ministry Network meets the first Monday of the month, 12:00-1:15pm(EST) Click here to register
  • EMM’s Asylum Ministry Network meets the third Monday of the month, 12:00-1:15pm (EST) Click here to register


Mark Your Calendar:
Borderlands Ministry Summit
October 21-23, 2021

Prayers of the People for use in Ordinary Time
SJRAISE Petitions for Prayers of the People:
Pentecost 2021

2nd Sunday after Pentecost (June 6) thru 9th Sunday after Pentecost (July 25)
Lord God, be with those who seek our nation’s welcome, and with all those living in uncertain circumstances. Sustain them in hope, and challenge our own self-satisfaction in the face of their needs.
10th Sunday after Pentecost (Aug. 1) thru 16th Sunday after Pentecost (Sept. 12)
Lord God, give us hearts and wills to embrace the alien and the stranger in our midst. May our personal and communal lives reflect the welcome you have all people.
17th Sunday after Pentecost (Sept. 19) thru 23rd Sunday after Pentecost (Oct. 31)
Lord God, hear the cry for justice in the lives of immigrants and refugees. Unstop our ears that we may listen to their needs, and soften our hearts to be to them palpable signs of your compassion and righteousness.
All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1)
Lord God, grant the world to know that in you there are no longer strangers nor aliens. In the power of your Sprit reveal all your people as members of your household, and may our lives show forth the welcome and inclusion which is your will.
25th Sunday after Pentecost (Nov. 14)
Lord God, may your kingdom come bringing with it the righteousness that is your promise. Uncover the deceptions that keep our sisters and brothers estranged and in fear. Be with those awaiting trials and all who are detained. Through our efforts for them may they know your comfort.
Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King (Nov. 21)
Lord God, shed abroad among nations and leaders the abiding truth and love you have revealed in Jesus. Make known the sovereign justice that transcends borders and governments, and protect in your gentleness the victims of injustice and the casualties of our own complacency. 

written by Rev. Luis Rodriguez, St Paul's Bakersfield

Prayer in a time of pandemic​
Loving God, throughout the Scriptures you call us to “Fear not!”, but these are troubling times for the hardiest souls. Give us courage to face the challenges of this new threat to your human family. Give us prudence, to do the necessary things to protect ourselves and others. Give us the clarity of vision to learn from this disease the lesson we are too prone to forget, that we are all connected, regardless of race or nationality or political persuasion. We pray for those who are struggling with this disease, that their health may be restored. We pray for medical personnel and first responders caring for those in need, that they remain healthy and unflagging in their life-saving work. And we pray for all those economically impacted, that they may find the resources to maintain themselves and their families.  We ask all this, trusting in your abiding love, a love that even death cannot defeat. Amen.

Written by Deacon Tom Hampson, St John's Lodi

Special Prayers for Immigrants During COVID-19

Oh Lord; in this time of Covid-19 as we take shelter in our homes, we ask you to spread your love and healing over our brothers and sisters held in overcrowded detention centers and refugee camps. 
We ask Lord that you may soften the hearts of those in authority, that them may care for our sisters and brothers in this time of crises.

We ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen

SJRAISE YouTube Channel:

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Undocumented Migration Project

International Rescue Committee

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) has developed a toolkit for supporting immigrants currently in detention.