This is what happens when a small-town church embraces an immigrant facing deportation

The Los Angeles Times has a nice feature this week on a United Methodist Church in small-town Colorado embracing an immigrant facing deportation.

Overall, I really enjoyed the piece.

The writer does a terrific job of using simple language and precise details to tell a real-life story.

Let's start at the top:

MANCOS, Colo. — A small piece of paper hangs above a bed in the pastor’s office at the Mancos United Methodist Church.
It’s a sign-up sheet with the names of local residents committed to watching over Rosa Sabido, a Mexican national who has found sanctuary from deportation in the Colorado church. The residents sleep in the church office, while Sabido rests in a separate room normally used as a children’s nursery.
“We are here in case someone should show up at night or just to comfort her,” Joanie Trussel, a local resident whose name was on the list of volunteers, said recently. “We don’t want her to be alone.”
For the last 30 years, Sabido has lived in the U.S. on visitor visas or by receiving stays of deportation, but she was denied a stay in May and became eligible for immediate deportation.

She is the latest in a series of immigrants whom the government suspects of entering the country illegally or overstaying their visas to seek refuge in a church to avoid deportation. Many others have found sanctuary in big cities like Denver, Phoenix and Chicago.

Mancos, a town of about 1,300 in rural southwest Colorado, is an island of diversity in a largely Republican sea with the motto “Where the West Still Lives.” It’s an eclectic place of cattle drives, art galleries, cafes and coffee roasters.

“People think independently here,” said Silvia Fleitz, lay leader of the church. “You think they are one thing and they do something that totally surprises you.”

I'm not a big fan of the "island of diversity in a largely Republican sea" description. Showing readers — as opposed to telling them — that it's an island of diversity would be preferable. Also, if the Republican Party is going to be made a part of the story, a local party official probably deserves an opportunity to speak.

But that political detour aside, I appreciate how the Times quotes a variety of local sources and lets them explain — in their own words — their thinking on joining Sabido's cause.

Later in the story, readers learn this:

After her request was denied, Sabido approached the Mancos United Methodist Church. It had voted a few months earlier to become a sanctuary church; the roughly 60-member congregation was eager to put its faith into action.
Many already knew Sabido. She lived in Cortez but shopped in the local grocery store, worked at the Catholic Church and sold tamales every week at the farmers market.
“Rosa is one of us; she is our sister,” Paschal said.

And later, there's this detail:

The other night, gospel singers performed for Sabido in the church’s Fellowship Hall. She’s taking piano lessons and yoga classes. And people routinely drop by to keep her company.

That's good stuff.

But (you knew a "but" was coming, didn't you?) here's my constructive criticism from a GetReligion perspective: Given that the story is about a church, I wish the Times had developed the religion angle just a little bit more.

The story says that the congregation wanted to put its faith into action. Great, but how exactly does helping Sabido do that? Are there specific doctrines or beliefs that come into play in deciding to become a sanctuary church? Note: I'm not asking for a long sermon on such questions, just a little insight.

Moreover, I'd just love to see a little detail that makes it clear we're talking about a religious body — perhaps a prayer, perhaps a Scripture, perhaps even a lyric or two from the hymns that the gospel singers performed.

As I said at the beginning, I really enjoyed the piece. I just think — with a few tweaks here and there — it could have been even better.

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