Kevin Wallace, one of the lead pastors of Redemption to the Nations Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., has confirmed that his church is using one of its buildings to house unaccompanied migrant children from the U.S.-Mexico border. While some have criticized his views, Wallace sees the decision to house the children as showing God’s love “to the least of these.”
“I am surprised a little bit that some people can’t separate the politics from the compassion,” Kevin Wallace told the Times Free Press. “I have experienced the love of God personally, and because of that, I want to demonstrate it to the least of these. And this is, without a question, the least of these. These are the kids who have nowhere to go and no one advocating for them in some situations and circumstances. They’re being exploited in some situations and circumstances.”
Kevin Wallace: This Is Part of Our Vision
“In 2019, Redemption To The Nations Church leased a vacant and unused building to a non-profit, federally funded organization for the purpose of providing compassionate care and family unification services for children displaced from their families,” said Pastor Kevin Wallace in an official statement posted to his social media accounts. According to WTVC News, The Baptiste Group is the organization that is partnering with the church. Wallace continued:
The organization is required to comply with all local, state and federal laws. The services were part of a federal program initiated in 2019. The Church is not affiliated with the organization providing the services. The Church’s decision to allow the organization to use the building for its services is an integral part of our vision to be a loving church that loves the world with the love of Jesus Christ, including children, who through no fault of their own find themselves in desperate and difficult circumstances.
The pastor’s statement follows a report published by The Tennessee Conservative, which claimed that “migrant children from Joe Biden’s border crisis” were being housed at a dormitory in the city. The media outlet published the dormitory’s address, a decision that has made Wallace concerned about safety.
The pastor does not believe that helping displaced children should be a matter of politics, and his views have been criticized by people on both sides of the political aisle. In June 2018, he tweeted to the Department of Homeland Security and former President Donald Trump that his church was willing to offer a dormitory to house migrant children “while this mess gets fixed in Washington.” Around that time, the Trump administration had drawn criticism for its practice of separating migrant children from their parents. The pastor added that his offer was “not a joke.”
In July 2019, Wallace was part of a group of pastors who visited an immigration detention facility in Clint, Texas, shortly after Democratic Congress members toured several facilities in the area, including the one in Clint, reporting horrifying conditions. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said that detainees were being forced to drink out of toilets.
The pastors’ account was different, however. Wallace appeared on Fox News and said that he had observed a clean, orderly facility and no evidence of abuse. Ocasio-Cortez responded to Fox on Twitter, saying, “The right is responding to what’s been exposed at the border by denying it & saying I’m lying.” Wallace later told Fox, “The congresswoman is entitled to her opinion, but her opinion should never shape the truth.”
Pastor Kevin Wallace: We’re Just Trying to Help
There is a real need that Redemption to the Nations Church is meeting. Reuters reports that the number of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border has spiked in recent months. President Biden has yet to fulfill his pledge to raise the annual refugee admission ceiling from the historic low of 15,000 set by President Trump. Biden has promised to set a new annual cap of 125,000.
In the meantime, said Pastor Kevin Wallace, the displaced children “are vulnerable and they have no one to advocate for them, and we’re just trying to help. That is in keeping with our vision as a church. It’s in keeping with the mission of the Gospel, and that’s why we made the decision. And I understand people aren’t always going to recognize why we do what we do.”