Migrant Ministry

Mid-City Church of the Nazarene on University Avenue. Photo Courtesy of the Mid-City Church of the Nazarene Facebook page.

By: Milla Kuiper

Mid-City Church of the Nazarene, in partnership with the City of San Diego, hosts around 70 migrant men in its sanctuary every night of the week. For these men, Mid-City is the last stop before they fly off to join their sponsors and host families, as thousands of immigrants pass through San Diego, according to the Associated Press.

Many of the men who pass through Mid-City come from West Africa, the Middle East, South America and China, though many are from other places as well. 

“Most of the time, they’re going to the East Coast,” said Alyssa Hamon, an associate pastor at Mid-City and a recent Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) communication studies graduate (‘23). 

The men stay at a day shelter before coming to the church. 

“It serves as an in-between place,” Hamon said.  

On Friday evening, five students joined Rebecca Laird, interim dean and professor of theology at PLNU, and Lou Ann Martin, the wife of Interim Senior Pastor at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene Russ Martin, to help Hamon prepare and serve a meal to the migrants spending that night at Mid-City.

The students hitched a ride from First Church, on PLNU’s campus, to Mid-City in San Diego, to serve the migrants, many of whom would be getting on flights the next morning. 

“One thing that I really thought about [was that], those faces, those people, I will probably see 99% of them just once,” said second-year Christian studies and communication double major Ruthmanie Jacques. “I don’t remember any of their names, but I was able to ask, ‘What’s your name?’”

Word of this ministry spread through Martin, who invited students who attended First Church to join her, including Jacques, who then invited friends to join her.

“The group of girls that I was with really made my night. We talked about everything and nothing. It was really great. I’m glad that I could be the hands and feet of Jesus,” said Jacques. “I’m hoping that we get to experience that again together.” 

On top of serving food, she was also able to converse with some of the men, many of whom do not speak English. 

Jacques is fluent in Haitian Creole and French, and is “more than halfway there for Spanish.” 

“[I didn’t have any] meaningful conversations per se, but I really enjoyed that I was able to help some of the conversations with the staff from Mid-City and some of the migrants,” said Jacques.  “I was expecting to see some people I could talk Haitian Creole to … but I did not.”

Despite this, she was still able to put her skills to work. A few men needed help figuring out their flight information and when to go to the airport, and Jacques was able to help. 

“I was really honored to be able to use my French and my Spanish skills to help those conversations go through,” said Jacques.

Isabelle Lawton, a second-year accounting student and a friend of Jacques’, also speaks a bit of French. 

“I got to hear people speaking French, and that was cool,” said Lawton. “[I was able to] respond to their requests, like they were asking for water and … where the bathroom is.”

Laird found her passion for this kind of ministry during her time as a student at PLNU that she spent volunteering at urban churches in LA and San Francisco. “Seeing churches that brought the social services and gospel living together, that was certainly what opened my eyes, and I said ‘more of that,’” she said. “Human beings are hungry, let’s not let that happen.”

Laird said that in her experience, the best way that students can contribute is by finding a ministry that they enjoy and feel called to that they can be a part of consistently.