SAN ANTONIO - The Immigration Service and Aid Center opened its doors on the Baptist University of the Américas campus Aug. 30 to directly help people with their citizenship issues.
The ISAAC center is Texas Baptists' first effort to directly help immigrants work within the law and navigate the complicated path toward citizenship. In addition to helping people resolve their citizenship status, the center will serve as a training institute for people who desire accreditation to help immigrants.
In recent years, the ISAAC Project, a collaborative ministry of BUA and the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, has focused on training church leaders to minister to immigrants. With the opening of the center, ISAAC leaders also will provide direct help to those who need it.
"This is a vision that became a dream that has become a reality," Texas Baptists' Associate Executive Director Steve Vernon said during a ceremony before the center's official ribbon cutting.
Many immigrants attempt to work through their citizenship issues legally, but there are few reputable, affordable options for them to turn to, said Jesús Romero, who leads ISAAC. This new center provides a trusted ally who can provide trustworthy guidance of a complicated system.
Romero said the center and the ministries it spawns provide churches a wonderful opportunity - people lining up for a Christian ministry. People will come for legal help and will discover Christians who care about them. Those believers will provide assistance as well as point them to Christ.
"For the ISAAC Project, this is evangelism," he said.
BUA President Rene Maciel believes the center will extend the university's mission. The center's work will inspire BUA students and provide an avenue through which they can practice hands-on ministry.
BUA was originally founded to train Mexican church leaders and ministers. Decades later, the school continues training them, Maciel said. Now students can learn about immigration ministry as well.
The center also helps fill a large gap in the area - a place where residents can turn for help with their status. People can come to the campus and learn how Christ loves them.
"It gives us also that opportunity to help [immigrants], care for them, love them," he said.
For more information about ISAAC, visit www.isaacproject.org.