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Mustard Seed Migration Grants Continue 80-Year Tradition of Welcoming the Stranger

Atlanta, Ga. (August 2021) – Maria Chavalan Sut, an indigenous Guatemalan woman living in sanctuary at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia, was recently given a one-year-long stay of removal by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Now, members of the church will be able to help her transition to freedom and help her settle in new housing, thanks to a grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). The grant, one of the “Mustard Seed Migration Grants” awarded to United Methodist churches in the United States, continues the agency’s 80-year tradition of helping refugees, immigrants and migrants seeking to build new lives.

The Mustard Seed Migration Grants, inspired by the well-known parable about growth, are providing 33 congregations in 20 states and 20 annual conferences with up to $2,000 to support one-time, community-based service projects.  These churches will now assist refugees, asylum seekers, undocumented persons and migrants of all types in their own cities and towns.

In 2018, Wesley Memorial UMC (1901 Thomson Road, Charlottesville, VA, 22903) welcomed Maria Chavalan Sut and gave her sanctuary. With her stay of removal, she can safely make a home here for the first time, pursuing both her artisanal passions and advocacy on behalf of all immigrants in the United States.

According to church leaders, the experience taught members a great deal about the immigration system and the federal government. It became an opportunity to educate people about the day-to-day struggles of immigrants, including costs of living, legal barriers to work and rights, language barriers, and lack of access to services.

Now, Wesley Memorial UMC members will be able to continue their relationship with Maria and demonstrate that their love and commitment to her goes beyond the church’s sanctuary ministry. Grant funds will be used to help secure housing where she has the equipment needed to continue her cooking and crafting artisan work.

“It was truly welcome news when we learned that Maria Chavalan Sut was able to begin the next part of her journey toward freedom after sheltering at Wesley Memorial,” said Bishop Sharma Lewis, resident bishop of the Virginia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. “Thanks to the support of UM Global Ministries through UMCOR, the members and friends of this dynamic congregation will be able to expand their relationship with her and echo her important voice on immigration issues.”

“As Jesus described in his parable, small mustard seeds have the potential to grow into something pervasive that spreads throughout a field,” said Roland Fernandes, general secretary of United Methodist Global Ministries and UMCOR. “Our hope is that, by learning more about migrants in local communities and addressing their needs through these Mustard Seed Migration Grants, the ‘seed’ of welcoming strangers will be planted in new ways in congregations around the country.”

“Mustard Seed Migration Grants provide an opportunity for local churches to learn more about and have a greater impact on ministry with refugees, immigrants and migrants,” said the Rev. Jack Amick, director of global migration for UMCOR. “UMCOR, and those who contribute to it every year, are excited to support these churches caring for the most vulnerable in their midst.”  For a full list of Mustard Seed Migration grant recipients, visit https://umcmission.org/migration/mustardseed/.

Media Contacts

Dan Curran for Global Ministries/UMCOR
770-658-9586 DanCurran@CurranPR.com

Mary Lou Greenwood Boice
Director of Communications, Global Ministries
404-788-0624 mboice@umcmission.org