Just before Christmas 2016, United Methodist churches in Tucson, Arizona responded to a request from U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) to find housing for migrants coming out of detention centers. The Bible is full of examples of hospitality for strangers and volunteers quickly made "room in the inn." The Inn is now a year-round place of rest and refuge for migrants.
Meghan Spittell, The Inn volunteer: "We say, 'Welcome. This is a church and you're safe here.' We've had people just burst into tears, they're so grateful. You see the relief."
College student Meghan Spittell welcomes newly arrived migrants at The Inn, in Tucson, Arizona.
(Gretchen next to the cots) "When families arrive, we have the cots ready for them."
Gretchen Lopez helps families fill out paperwork and call home.
In 2016, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement asked United Methodists to establish an emergency shelter. At The Inn, travelers can take a shower, receive clean clothes, and eat a hot meal. The Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank says some just sleep for up to 24 hours when they finally feel safe.
The Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank: "Isn't it beautiful that God made our bodies and souls, with a little bit of rest, we start all over as if it's a new day."
The shelter can house 50 people at a time. Volunteers make beds, cook meals, and drive families to the bus station.
Gretchen to volunteer: "So here are the tickets for the two families you are taking."
Maps on the wall help migrants see how far they have traveled, where to change busses and their final destinations.
Gretchen Lopez: "A lot of them I don't think realize how big the United States is until they get here."
Inkeepers say the Bible is full of examples of care for travelers.
The Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank: "In the Old Testament it says often that, 'Do not harm the immigrant among you and treat them as your own because you were once immigrants in Egypt.' We're slamming our doors in their faces. And they're afraid from what they left, and they're afraid of what they encounter in our midst."
Volunteers at this United Methodist ministry say God's love knows no borders.
Meghan Spittell: "I've definitely cried putting people on the bus but I know I've given them a sense of safety and a sense of hope. I was able to be the better part of their journey."
The Inn is a ministry of the Desert Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church. One of the best ways churches can help is by telling others about The Inn and about ways congregations and individuals can help. Donate money and wish list items or register as a volunteer for The Inn.
Watch a longer version of this story.
This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN.
Media contact is Fran Walsh, 615-742-5458.
This video was first posted on January 16, 2019.