For the past three years immigration reform has taken a prominent role in my mind and heart, especially since the Latino college ministry I direct, InterVarsity Latino Fellowship (LaFe), has student members who are undocumented. I have heard stories from our InterVarsity students who have faced insurmountable financial difficulties in paying for college, the fear of being separated from their family members and deep depression and anxiety over the possibility of their own deportation.
It was three years ago at a national Latino Student Conference that I was first confronted with the great sorrow and pain that many of our Latino Dreamer students were carrying. I had one student who had worked very hard to earn an engineering degree but was completely overwhelmed with the sadness that he would not be able to work in his field because he did not have working papers. This young man, who had been a top leader in one of our InterVarsity chapters, had incredible leadership skills, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and great obedience in serving the needs of other students on his campus. He was a model InterVarsity student if there ever were one.
Yet, the sadness, fear and bitterness he expressed to me overwhelmed my own heart and made me realize I had to do more to help these dedicated and gifted students who were living without hope.
Since then I have been arrested for the cause of immigration reform with other committed clergy in New York City. I have raised my voice loudly within my own ministry to make known the academic and pastoral needs of our own undocumented student members. And now I believe it is time to do deeper spiritual battle through fasting and prayer.
At one point a desperate man whose son was possessed by a violent spirit approached Jesus; the man regularly tried to kill the boy by throwing him in fire or water. The man told Jesus he had already asked his disciples to heal the son but they didn’t have the power to do it. In his love for this father and his possessed son, Jesus healed the boy. Later when his disciples talked to him privately about why they weren’t able to take power over this demon, Jesus told them that this kind of demon could come out only by prayer and fasting.
While I am not claiming that some of our political representatives are demon-possessed, there are situations in high places, spirituals forces of wickedness and, yes, demonic activity that call for prayer and fasting. I believe spiritual forces centered on immigration reform are housed in the fear of the other and particularly in the fear of Latinos and the political potential we hold.
Scripture also tells us that God “has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” So when a close friend of mine, Lisa Sharon Harper, director of mobilizing for Sojourners, called me and invited me to join her in fasting for immigration reform, I did not hesitate because I thought it would be a great opportunity to pray and fast against violence and fear and for wisdom and discernment in our politicians especially as we are so close to bringing a vote for immigration reform to the floor.
Since Nov. 12, faith, immigrant rights, and labor leaders have been fasting to inspire members of congress to re-engage the immigration debate by passing immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The Fasting initiative call “Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship,” is taking place in a tent on the National Mall in front of the Capital Building. While there are several prominent core fasters — Eliseo Medina, a veteran of the farmworkers’ movement, Christian Avila, Dae Joong Yoon and Lisa — others, like me, have joined the fast on a weekly basis. In solidarity with the core fasters, I have committed myself to fast once a week until immigration reform is passed in our country. And while this is just a drop in the bucket for me, my hope is that many more college students throughout the country will join us in this important and spiritual cause, because there are some spirits that don’t come out and just laws that don’t get passed except through prayer and fasting.
If you are interested in joining me, and many others in fasting for immigration reform, please visit fast4families.org to sign up.
Rev. Orlando Crespo is national director of InterVarsity Latino Fellowship and author of Being Latino in Christ.