On Tuesday November 16, hundreds of Christ-followers around the nation prayed and fasted in solidarity with immigrants in the United States. Several cities held evening prayer services where undocumented immigrants shared their stories and communities shared in scripture and prayer.
The very next day, 18-year-old Bernard Pastor was involved in a minor traffic accident in Butler County, Ohio. Even though the accident was not his fault, Bernard's undocumented status came to light when he was questioned by an officer at the scene. Within a few short hours, Bernard faced deportation to the land of his birth, Guatemala. What the immigration officials did not know was how Bernard has blessed so many lives in the United States, even at such a young age.
Bernard's classmates from Reading, Ohio have rallied around their friend over the past week. The Bernard they know played soccer on the high school team and sang the national anthem before each home match. The Bernard they know was an honor roll student who finished fifth in his graduating class. The Bernard they know was a youth minister and worship leader who shared the love of Jesus through kindness and humor and friendship each and every day.
On Saturday afternoon, I was part of a caravan that made a three-hour drive to Mt. Gilead, Ohio where Bernard is in a detention center. Around 15 of his classmates came to encourage their friend.
During our visit, I had the incredible privilege to spend a few precious moments with Bernard. Separated by bulletproof glass and talking on a poor quality phone headset, I asked Bernard what message he would have for the Christians in Cincinnati. His very first response was to share the words of the song, God of this City: "Greater things are yet to come."
Dressed in a lime green jumpsuit, Bernard talked about how many have told him he would one day become a pastor. Bernard believes this experience, this season of trial and hardship, is a refining experience for him, where he is learning to lean on God as never before.
Bernard shared a verse with me before we prayed together: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11).
Please pray for Bernard, that he is free to return to his family and friends very soon. And pray for the DREAM Act, so those like Bernard, who came to the United States as minors, will not have to face the trial he has experienced over the past few weeks.
Local students are planning a pilgrimage and prayer vigil for next Saturday, December 4, beginning at 11 a.m., at the Reading High School soccer field. They will finish at the detention center in Butler County where Bernard was first processed for deportation.
At 1 p.m. Eastern Time and at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, we are calling for people around the nation to take five minutes to pray for Bernard, to pray for the thousands of Bernards living in fear and facing deportation, and to pray for the passage of the DREAM Act. We ask that you join us in prayer.
A few weeks ago, we prayed and fasted in solidarity with immigrants. Now it is time to pray and ACT, and call on Congress to support the DREAM. It is time to act -- for Bernard, and the thousands of "Bernards" all over this land.
Troy Jackson is senior pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, and earned his PhD in United States history from the University of Kentucky. He is author of Becoming King: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Making of a National Leader (Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century) and a participant in Sojourners' Windchangers grassroots organizing project in Ohio. To stay connected with Bernard Pastor's situation, visit Pray for Bernard.