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Mission, Purpose, and Core Values of El Refugio Ministry
Mission:A ministry of hospitality and visitation serving immigrants detained at the
Stewart Detention Center, their families, and friends.
Purpose: El Refugio opens its doors each weekend to families traveling to visit their
loved ones who are detained at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. The
hospitality house offers free food, lodging, friendship and comfort to visitors. In addition,
El Refugio has a visitation program, which brings hundreds of volunteer visitors every
year to visit with detained immigrants. El Refugio coordinators work not only in
hospitality and visitation, but also to offer education and advocacy programs throughout
the Southeastern United States, with the goal of promoting a more just and humane
Hospitality: El Refugio was founded as a ministry of hospitality, and we continue to
hold the call to welcome as our most central value. Our hospitality is rooted in the
Christian tradition of philoxenia, which combines the word for love of affection for
people who are connected by kinship or faith (philo) and the word for stranger (xenos).
At El Refugio, hospitality always begins as care for the stranger whom we love. For those
of us involved in the ministry, this means welcoming in love the families and friends of
those detained at Stewart Detention Center. It also means engaging lovingly with our
neighbors in Lumpkin, the guards at Stewart, city and county officials, ICE agents, and
any person we encounter as representatives of this ministry.
Presence: Our ministry of visitation, which has developed as a central aspect of our
work, is rooted in an ethic of presence. Working against the radically dehumanizing
system of immigrant detention, we believe that the most important thing for us to do is
simply to be fully present to the people we visit in detention – to recognize their
humanity, to see them face-to face. For this ministry, we believe that offering ourselves
in relationship with detained friends is more important than offering material assistance.
Education and Advocacy: As a ministry, we also are committed to expanding
understanding of current immigration policy in the United States, and to encouraging
those who volunteer with us to advocate for fair and just immigration reform. Although
we are not, fundamentally, an advocacy organization, we put much effort into education
for advocacy and, when appropriate, we support the work of advocacy organizations that
share our fundamental values.