Sandwiched in between an 8 a.m. discussion of human trafficking featuring Marta Fox, wife of former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, and Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Sen. John McCain; a 9 a.m. press conference with Vicente Fox and former Treasury Secretary Rosario Marin; and a 6 to 9 p.m. dinner featuring Marin and Fox, was a pastors luncheon held at Christ’s Church of the Valley.
It was a kaleidoscope of human colors that came together to learn more about how they could blend to create a collaborative exchange of ideas with their counterparts in Mexico and perhaps speed up the process of meaningful immigration reform.
The luncheon brought together more than 200 pastors from around Arizona to hear the former President of Mexico speak about the growing relations between the United States and Mexico. The luncheon, as with all activities throughout the day, was hosted by Peoria Vice Mayor Tony Rivero’s United Peoria Foundation, an organization founded by Rivero.
Local recording artist Candice Chavez opened the luncheon with an inspiring song, “Never Give Up,” originally recorded by Yolanda Adams. Chavez is the daughter of Ervin Cutright, president of Northwest Black History Committee, and part of the pastors luncheon organizing team with UPF.
Rivero said the luncheon made up of a group of very diverse religious leaders was a sign of the recognition of the deep ties the two countries have, and he noted the words of former Gov. Bob Fannin, “God has made us neighbors. Let us be good neighbors.”
Luncheon host and pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley, Don Wilson, echoed Rivero’s observation saying, “CCV is excited to bring people together for this luncheon. Our desire is to reach the Valley for Christ. To achieve this vision, it is imperative that we form strong partnerships with key leaders in the communities across the Valley.”
Speakers included Clarence Carter, director of Arizona Department of Economic Security; former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman; Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery; and Bishop Harvey Young, who oversees 55 Church of God In Christ churches – one each in California and Texas, 53 in Arizona.
Carter noted there are 14,000 children in the CPS home care program, what he called a child welfare crisis in Arizona. He said his department has begun conversations with Hispanic pastors, whose objective is to knit together all of Arizona. He said the focus on servicing the 40 different programs in Arizona is not enough.
“We need help to grow beyond that need to provide a trampoline, not a hammock,” Carter said, adding that Arizona would take the lead because it has the will.
Hallman got the crowd roused with a call to get immigration reform passed in Congress.
Montgomery said his goal was not to prosecute crimes but to “make sure we never see kids in the criminal system.”
He said the goal is to teach them they are endowed with dignity and respect, “they’re to follow Jesus, not Lady Gaga.”
Montgomery ended his brief comments with, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
Young said it was time to “really rise and shine.”
Born in Arkansas, Young looked out over the crowded luncheon gathering and said, “I never thought I would see the day when God has seen fit for us to sit down as brothers and sisters.”