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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Caring for people on the move


Susan Krehbiel of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is a guest on the ‘Between 2 Pulpits’ podcast

June 4, 2024

Photo by Barbara Zandoval via Unsplash

The work of Susan Krehbiel, associate for Migrant Accompaniment Ministries with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, is focused on people on the move.

“I’m responsible for humanitarian responses and for advocating for rights and services for people who are migrating, primarily those who are migrating for humanitarian reasons,” Krehbiel explained during a recent edition of the podcast “Between 2 Pulpits,” which is offered by Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. Listen to Krehbiel’s 27-minute conversation with hosts the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson and Katie Snyder here.

During the season of One Great Hour of Sharing, “Between 2 Pulpits” is speaking with representatives of ministries supported by the giving of generous Presbyterians.

Krehbiel began her work more than 30 years ago and came to the denominational office in 2014. Decades ago, she began at the local level in Texas during a time people affected by civil wars were coming to the United States from Central America. “We were part of what was considered the ‘Overground Railroad,’” she explained. “You could work your way up to Canada and apply for asylum there. I had worked on issues of poverty and homelessness prior to that — this idea of asylum being really kind of a sense of homelessness on a global scale.”

Susan Krehbiel, Associate for Migrant Accompaniment Ministries with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Asked by Wilkinson to define some terms, Krehbiel called migration “people on the move. In international terms, it’s somebody who has crossed a border,” something people do “for lots of reasons, which can include to seek protection” and can also include looking for work, reunifying with family members or seeking educational opportunities.

“There’s an international agreement that if you have to leave your country because you’re fearful either your government will persecute you or is unable to protect you from persecution, other counties will provide that safety and security,” she said. “That right is called the right to seek asylum.”

Krehbiel said we often hear arguments including “people should wait in line” or “why didn’t they come the proper way?” or “why don’t they have papers?” Often the answer is that people have fled their country quickly and “it’s going to be much harder for you to obtain your own documentation,” Krehbiel said. “That’s why there are special rules and exceptions for people who are seeking protection.”

Among its many focuses of ministry, PDA provides educational opportunities to help churches and communities “understand why they care about migrants and people in need of protection,” she said. “We’re also involved in coalitions that do advocacy for people seeking asylum and refugees and to encourage financial support.” In addition, she said, PDA awards grants to presbyteries and, on occasion, directly through nonprofit partners who do this work, including transit centers such as the Interfaith Welcome Coalition in San Antonio, Texas.

Two episodes of the “Between 2 Pulpits” podcast dropped last week.

When she speaks to church groups, Krehbiel often asks, “Can you tell me a time in history when people did not migrate?”

“We can’t find it. In our own communities, most of us have some type of migration experience — maybe just crossing from one state to the next,” she said, adding she hopes people who may have lived in this country for a long time will recognize “many of our hopes and dreams and aspirations are the hopes and dreams and aspirations of the migrants. I think they’re, for the most part, people we would be very proud to call friend and neighbor.”

The most common way Presbyterians involve themselves aiding people on the move is through providing for direct survival needs, Krehbiel said, including volunteering at reception centers and providing food or clothing. The second most common method is sponsorship or accompaniment, “where a congregation makes a strong commitment to provide housing or some financial support for daily survival,” or assists parents to find work or help enroll their children in schools.

“Often this is interfaith work,” Krehbiel said. Part of PDA’s task “is to network people with existing programs so they can connect up with people in need of those services.” PDA recently hosted a conversation among presbyteries assisting people arriving by bus, “helping them network around issues of housing and how we show up as people of faith in those relationships.”

Listen to other “Between 2 Pulpits” podcasts here.

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Susan Krehbiel of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is a guest on the ‘Between 2 Pulpits’ podcast

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Melissa Johnson, Mission co-worker serving in Zambia, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency 
Mikyle Johnson, Administrative Support, Racial Equity and Women’s Intercultural Ministries, Presbyterian Mission Agency 

Let us pray

Holy God, whose Spirit brings unity of purpose to people of faith from widely different backgrounds, bless the work of congregations in equipping us for Christian witness and service. In Christ’s name. Amen.