It required plenty of pushing for Yolie Lalama to persuade her husband, Pastor Daniel Garrido, to talk about immigration reform from the pulpit at The Crossing Church.
It was too political, he told her at first. But they estimate more than half of the church’s members immigrated illegally, and Lalama won over her husband after sharing research and passages from the Bible. The Crossing became one of many in Colorado to participate in “I Was a Stranger,” a 40-day prayer campaign organized by the Evangelical Immigration Table that concluded in celebration Wednesday at seven churches in the state.
A diverse crowd gathered at The Crossing to sing and pray in Spanish and English in support of legislation that would positively affect the lives of millions who entered the United States illegally.
Lalama and Garrido are immigrants from Ecuador. But unlike some of their fellow church members, they arrived with legal papers. Garrido said he used to think lawbreakers were lawbreakers, but he has had a change of heart.
“I came with documents. Maybe that’s why I didn’t understand the situation.”
Some shared stories of coming to the U.S. while others spoke about a change of heart on illegal immigration.
Morena Pinedo said she had to return to her home country of El Salvador after marrying an American citizen. Their son, born a U.S. citizen, contracted meningitis at a young age and became deaf. He needed special education to learn sign language, but Pinedo and her husband decided it was best for their son to go to El Salvador, too, because Pinedo was the only one who could understand him. Members at The Crossing prayed for Pinedo and her family, and she was able to return to the U.S., where a year later she acquired a resident visa.
“I understand what it is to be separated, and the agony and the pain that one feels when you’re separated from your loved ones,” she said. “Coming here to this country is not easy.”
Bob Turner, a member of New Life Church, said he has viewed immigration differently since his pastor asked the congregation to imagine being parents struggling to feed their children. Would they not walk across the border?
“A lot of people had that profound paradigm shift. They had never had that perspective. If it can happen in a 12,000-person church, it can happen in 600,000 El Paso County.”