Thirteen Lee University students, along with Drs. Murl Dirksen and Arlie Tagayuna, recently visited the border towns of El Paso, Texas, and Douglas, Arizona, in order to gain firsthand understanding of the border situation and serve with local churches.
“Going to the border changed my outlook on the people living there and humanized the struggles of those who are immigrating and what they are going through,” said Taylor Lambert, an anthropology and Spanish major at Lee. “The generosity and kindness we encountered at the local churches and homes is something all Christians should aspire to have.”
The week-long trip served as one of Lee’s individually-arranged cross-cultural Global Perspectives opportunities, which all students must participate in before graduation. The group comprised students from various majors and professors Dirsken and Tagayuna, who planned and coordinated the trip’s activities, service, and lectures.
“The trip was a great opportunity for all of us to realize that the crisis of our southern border is not purely political, economic, or humanitarian,” said Tagayuna. “The border crisis is a crisis of our faith when we, as a community, fail to live the powerful message of the gospel of love, compassion, and hospitality. As we grapple to find solutions for our national safety and uphold our legal codes, I think it is also important for us to look at our own moral codes and find ways to uplift those in need.”
While there, the group served with the El Elyon Church of God in El Paso, building two shower stalls for migrant families who were released at the detention center. They also organized the church’s supply pantry and worked in partnership with the nonprofit Cristo de Frontera, whose main objective is to address the issue of migrant crises as prescribed by biblical principle of hospitality and compassion.
The team travelled to Mexico three times throughout the week to visit the migrant center. They delivered goods across the border for migrants and marginalized communities in Agua Prieta, attended the church there, and networked with politicians and service workers.
“This trip will not be the last,” said Tagayuna. “The real work is on the Mexican side now, about empowering the communities that welcome these migrants and the migrants themselves so that they can better themselves and not trek the dangerous paths crossing the border.”
Since 1972, Dirksen has been teaching anthropology and sociology courses at Lee including Cultural Anthropology, Contemporary Chinese Culture and Society, and Native Americans of the Southwest. He has received both the Excellence in Scholarship Award and the Excellence in Teaching Award.
Tagayuna joined Lee in 2011 and currently serves as an associate professor of sociology. His work focuses on Southeast Asia, Hawaii, and the Pacific and his specialties are community development and criminal justice.
For more information about Global Perspectives, visit https://globalperspectives.leeuniversity.edu/ 
(Source: Lee University/Merritt Jenkins)