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A pastor on the border

January 15, 2013

The mercury often tops 100 degrees in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Poverty and violence and drugs are a very real part of life there, too. One-third of this border town’s residents live below the poverty line.

In the midst of it all is Iglesia Luterana San Lucas, and Davenport native Paul Bailie.

Bailie, who grew up at St. Paul, will be speaking during adult learning Sunday about his experiences as pastor at San Lucas and a mission site, Cristo Rey, in a rural area on the outskirts of Piedras Negras, Mexico. The conversation will be at 10:45 a.m. in the Chapel.

"The Bible is full of people moving from place to place,” he said. "I hope to use some of those stories to talk about migration, to get people thinking about what the Bible says, welcoming strangers and issues of hospitality and justice.

"As children of God, we are loved by God. That crosses all of our human boundaries.”

The 25-year-old Eagle Pass congregation holds Spanish-language service each Sunday at 11 a.m. The service in Mexico is at 4 p.m. Sundays. Fifty families attend on an average Sunday.

Bailie and others from San Lucas cross the U.S. border with Mexico each week in a 15-passenger van for the service at Cristo Rey. They do take precautions: always take that marked church van, always go in a group, always return home before dark.

One of the congregation’s most vital ministries is a food bank that serves approximately 200 families per month, offering much-needed relief from hunger.

Bailie first learned the Spanish he now uses daily at Davenport West High School. He graduated from Augustana College and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Bailie, the son of St. Paul member Norma Bailie, has served San Lucas since March 2011. He said yes to serving at San Lucas and Cristo Rey, even though many said no.

He has learned about immigration and immigration policy, he said, as he pastors "people for whom these are not just political issues, but realities of daily life.” As a church in the midst of these issues, San Lucas is a "ministry of presence. I do more listening than speaking.”

Bailie is eager for good conversation with St. Paul people about how the Bible informs our understanding of immigration and how Lutheran faith can be expressed cross-culturally.

His greatest joy is "Being together in a Christian community, realizing God’s grace even in the midst of poverty, violence and fear.”

A significant challenge is "balancing the idea of helping people directly and changing the systems that cause the poverty.”

See how Iglesia Luterana San Lucas lives Lutheran. Note: Video is in Spanish, but a translation is provided in the notes below the video.



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