El Refugio Ministry
Mission, Purpose, and Core Values of El Refugio Ministry
El Refugio is 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 immigration system.
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.