Ministering to Border Patrol Agents
Assemblies of God U.S. missionary W. Michael McGee initially planned to focus on ministering to immigrant children during his recent 11-day follow-up journey to an earlier trek along the four states of the U.S.-Mexico border.
However, the 68-year-old McGee discovered early on in his trip from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean that he had no opportunities to minister to children, who typically are swiftly loaded onto buses for processing in holding units elsewhere.
McGee, who serves with Chaplaincy Ministries, says the Lord pointed out another group in need of hope: U.S. Border Patrol agents.
Although the actual border is 1,950 miles, McGee traveled slightly more than twice that far, following the navigable roads from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego in his journey, which ended in May. He made 39 stops, planting symbolic red stakes into the ground either on the banks of the Rio Grande Border or as close to the border fence as possible.
“The Lord said, By My stripes you are healed,” says McGee, who lives in Georgetown, Texas, just north of Austin. “This was part of the divine interruption to bring healing to the corruption and lawlessness along the border.”
Along the route, McGee met with 28 AG pastors from Hispanic and geographic districts in what McGee calls divine appointments. He distributed a dozen editions of the FireBible to Border Patrol agents. He also is dispersing copies of the FireBible to pastors he’s encouraging in meetings along the border.
The Border Patrol is part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security.
Agents are under unprecedented strain, with surging numbers of migrant encounters this year. Authorities intercepted 180,034 people at the border in May, the highest monthly total since 2000. In June, even more migrants — 188,829 — sought to cross the border. Lately, a larger volume of migrants are coming from outside Central America — from South America, the Caribbean, and Africa.
One reason for the increase is the loosening of restrictions since President Biden took office in January. For example, in May, the administration started permitting humanitarian exemptions for migrants who claimed they faced danger for being gay in their home countries.
In addition to their customary duties of stopping illegal drug smugglers and undocumented aliens, the officers are increasingly faced with terrorist extremists, sex traffickers, and narcotics cartel kingpins trying to gain access into the country.
Also, more and more desperate parents are depositing their children — some as young as 18 months old — at the border, much of which is located in hot desert areas. Consequently, agents are engaged in philanthropic work, such as dispensing food, not part of their job description to ensure national security.
McGee says multiple agents confessed to him feelings of despondency as well as confusion over their roles.
Dale W. Cozart is a retired chief U.S. Border Patrol agent living in Eastland, Texas. He served the Border Patrol for 29 years, and worked as chief patrol agent for three of the nine sectors on the border.
“We have never been in such a crisis mode on the southern border of our country as we are now,” says Cozart, 81. “The men and women of the United States Border Patrol are not allowed to enforce the statutory laws on the books. When agents feel like they are not able to enforce the laws they are authorized by the federal government to enforce, it can be incredibly stressful.”
For the past 24 years, Rick Reyes has been lead pastor of Templo Bethel in Pharr, Texas — a mere 10 minutes from the Mexican border. He appreciates McGee’s efforts.
“These agents are serving our country, but many times they are misunderstood and unappreciated,” says Reyes, who also is assistant superintendent of the Texas Gulf Hispanic District. “They don’t know if they’re really being effective.”
Reyes, 61, says the handful of Border Patrol agents in his congregation sometime ask for prayer because of the trauma involved in their jobs, especially lately.
“They see a lot of hardship in the cases they deal with,” Reyes says. “On a humanitarian side they’d like to help, but they are limited by the legal side. These men and women need someone to reach out to them and offer spiritual help, and that is what ‘soldier Mike’ is doing.”
After the trip, McGee says the Lord impressed upon him the need to donate copies of the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bible to all 20,000 Border Patrol agents. He has raised enough money to distribute 1,300 such Bibles so far. The Bibles will be part of an “appreciation box” handed out at the daily muster of agents in different units along the border. A medallion as well as a recorded message of gratitude from AG National Treasurer Choco De Jesús will be part of the care package.
Harvest Christian Center in El Paso, Texas, will serve as distribution center for the Bibles. Eddie Lee, who planted the West Texas District church in 1992, prayed with McGee at the border. Lee, 78, believes what McGee is doing is important.
“We need to let people in the Border Patrol know that we in the Church appreciate what they are doing,” says Lee, who has half a dozen agents in his congregation. “They are working hard to keep us safe.”
Harvest Christian Center is less than 5 miles from the Mexican border, with the violent Ciudad Juárez on the other side. The city has the second highest homicide rate in the world.
Cozart, who met McGee at a Promise Keepers meeting in June, believes putting Scriptures into the hands of agents is crucial.
“It is God’s timing for Mike’s ministry,” Cozart says. “God has appointed him to minister to men and women who need the Bible.”
McGee and his wife, Becky, spent 35 years as Assemblies of God world missionaries in Mexico. Their daughter Kristy M. Wendler is a Beaumont, Texas-based attorney specializing in immigration law.