Randy Mayer (‘94)
And Jesus asked: “Which of these was a neighbor?”: A Conversation with Randy Mayer, Pastor, Good Shepherd United Church of Christ, Sahuarita, AZ
Randy Mayer is pastor for Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, AZ. For eighteen years he has been in this community, which is located 35 miles from the US/Mexico border. During his time in this Sahuarita, he has developed an intimate awareness of his surroundings.
Randy estimates that 6,000 people have died while attempting to cross the desert. When faced with this reality, he began asking his congregation how they should respond.
Together they decided that their Gospel values compelled them to respond with love. Given the life-and-death circumstances, this love needed to be a tangible recognition of the tragic circumstances they were witnessing.
“We first started putting water out on the migrant trails,” Randy explains. “In the process of delivering water we started finding people in desperate conditions. That’s how we formed our group called ‘Samaritans,’ where – just like the road to Jericho – we would go out on the road to offer food, water, and medical care.”
The Samaritans have been growing since they formed in 2005. There are currently over 300 volunteers. The ministry owns four trucks and these are used to drive water and supplies into the deep desert. They now find themselves at the forefront of immigration issues.
“This kind of work is humanitarian,” Randy says. “Our goal is to save lives.”
He was born in Montana, and eventually decided to go to seminary to become a camp and conference director. He graduated from Andover Newton Theological School in 1994. While he was a student, he had the opportunity to study in Costa Rica for eight months. During that time, he developed a strong connection to Latin American culture and theology.
Eventually Randy began to recognize a developing mission field – one where the people required less evangelism and more solidarity. He recognized great need, and began to discern the ways this need might be met.
After graduation, Randy became an associate pastor for a local congregation in Rhode Island. He then accepted the call to Good Shepherd a short time later. When he arrived in Arizona, he believed that it was where God had always wanted him. His call to ministry was a call to respond to this need.
As a result of his faith and this ministry, Randy has become an ally and an advocate. “Because I am so active on the ground along the border, I have a critical voice when it comes to advocating for border communities and trying to stop the needless deaths and suffering of migrants in the desert. I have a role in public policy in Washington, DC, too. I’ve made twenty or so trips over the last few years to lobby and talk about immigration and border issues.”
When it comes to the foundation for his work, Randy gives credit to Andover Newton. “The main value a theological education gives is some grounding in scripture, ethics and theology,” and students can then, “go out and apply that knowledge in our different contexts. By having that strong foundation we fall in line and we are tethered to the great line of people who have walked before us… We are reminded to do our part to build the movement. As a Christian, I fall in line with the mandate of love: To love your neighbor.”
May it be so.