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Circles of Care for Immigrants


More than 100,000 Hispanics live in the Philadelphia area. More than half of them are new to the U.S. One United Methodist pastor is building a new congregation by reaching out to those folks who live with little access to mental health care or a support system. Reed Galin reports.

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(Locator: Narberth, Pennsylvania)

The Rev. Lydia Muñóz: "Imagine what it's like to live in the shadows constantly and nobody sees your struggles. You don't have escape valves."

The Rev. Lydia Muñóz: "The threat of being deported is very real. You could be stopped for a busted taillight. You could go into a hospital and because you're asking for help, those things can lead to something else. The fear is very real. It happens."

A trained therapist-turned-pastor, Lydia Muñóz hopes to calm some of those fears. Her Circles of Care program offers mental health support to recent Hispanic immigrants. About 50,000 of whom live in the Philadelphia area.

The Rev. Lydia Muñóz: "Circles of Care is an opportunity for people to receive care on a one-to-one basis and also be surrounded by a group of people who might be going through the same things. They may be immigrants that got their papers that became new residents or citizens and now, they want to embrace new people and say, 'We did it. It takes a while, but you can do it too.' It's an opportunity to provide family."

(Greeting at church dinner) "This is going to be your family, this is going to be your new place."

The program appeals to people like Jessica Tandayamo and her mother, who left their family behind in Ecuador two years ago.

Jessica Tandayamo, from Ecuador: "My brothers and sisters are in my country because I'm under 18-years-old on the green card and all of that is under 21-years-old."

Participants gather at Plumbline Fellowship, a new community within Narberth United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Irving Cotto, Eastern Pennsylvania Conference: "It's important because they're here, they're making their homes here, and sometimes one of the things that immigrants really need is a network of fellowship, love, friendship. "

Jhalile Rivera, from Columbia: "Nobody's looking at your status. Nobody's looking at your color. Lydia makes you feel like family. We eat together, we pray together, we learn together, we laugh together, we cry together."

(Pastor speaks to gathering) "They're going to have to perform surgery on her cerebellum&ellipsis;"

The group prayed for Jessica's mother, who is facing brain surgery.

Mariana Pena, from Ecuador: "My prayer and my hope is that with faith in God that I'll be able to get out of this situation, that I'll be able to hug my two sons in Ecuador and survive this."

The Rev. Irving Cotto: "The word of God, the love of God, is shared and so that speaks to any human soul."

The Rev. Lydia Muñóz: "We're too alone here in this country. I'm not just talking about immigrants, I'm talking about everybody. We're too isolated from each other. The closest we are is probably on Facebook. And people are hungry for relationship."

(Pastor says prayer) "El nombre de Jesus. Amen."

To learn more about The United Methodist Church and Immigration, visit


Since this story was posted, the Narbeth United Methodist Church building was sold in 2014. The Plumbline Fellowship is still an active United Methodist congregation. You can reach Rev. Munoz directly at 215-687-1368. 

Posted: October 12, 2011

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