Nashville, Spiritual Life

Trevecca to host special event focused on immigration issues

Trevecca Nazarene University will host a series of events to raise awareness of the challenges of undocumented immigration.

A Focus on Immigration will take place October 24-25, and include a Monday night screening of Underwater Dreams followed by a panel discussion. The event will continue on October 25 with a morning chapel, pastors’ luncheon, and community conversation in Quick Lecture Hall later that day.

The concept for the event was the result of a partnership between the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice and the chaplain’s office.

“Chaplain [Shawna Songer] Gaines and I had been talking about doing an immigration focus this semester and with the immigration crisis globally, it’s one of the major social justice issues right now,” said Casler, director of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice. “We thought it would be great to expose our campus to the issue of immigration both globally and domestically.”

Joel Tooley and Tabitha Sookdeo will host the event. Tooley, a Nazarene pastor and missionary, was the head of Refugio, a center established in Florida to help children who had crossed the border unaccompanied.

“Back in 2014, the issue was that there were about 60,000 undocumented children coming across the border and that was a major issue at that time,” said Casler. “The Church of the Nazarene became involved in helping to respond and hosting children.”

Sookdeo, a Trevecca senior, social justice major, and an undocumented immigrant, will be sharing her story and experiences at a panel following the movie screening Monday night and in the community conversation Tuesday afternoon.

“Tabitha had spoken in Florida and different places, but she also spoke at the U.S. Congress and Senate about the issue of undocumented immigration,” said Casler.

Brodrick Thomas, coordinator of student engagement and diversity, sees value in students being exposed to the issue and its importance to the Trevecca community.

“In order to produce graduates that will build bridges between our divisions, Trevecca has to create a diverse environment that will shape our students in a way to make a positive impact in the world,” said Thomas. “That is why our immigrants and diverse students mean so much to this community. It's not only about what we can give to them, but it's about celebrating what they are doing for us.”  

Ultimately, Casler hopes that those in attendance will gain a new understanding of the crisis practically and theologically.

“That’s kind of the theme between all the sessions is to discuss the global issue but also make it very personal,” said Casler. “These are real people with real families and real issues and as a church how can we respond to and journey along with the undocumented immigrant as Christ would do?”

Learn more about the schedule of events and A Focus on Immigration here.

By Rebekah Warren
Media contact: Mandy Crow,, 615-248-1695