The Miami pastor whose megachurch is hosting President Donald Trump this week told undocumented parishioners at a Sunday service that he guaranteed they would not risk deportation if they decided to attend the president’s event on Friday.
“You don’t have to be a citizen. And I will give you an affirmation as your spiritual father and your pastor. First, someone said, ‘But how can you bring Trump to church if there’s people who don’t have papers?’ ” Pastor Guillermo Maldonado told his audience of hundreds, referencing Trump’s hard-line anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.
“I ask you: Do you think I would do something where I would endanger my people? I’m not that dumb.”
Maldonado, a Honduran evangelical pastor who goes by the term of “apostle,” said the King Jesus International Ministry church had been chosen by the president to host about 70 Christian pastors to “talk” and “influence” the president, during a first-ever Evangelicals for Trump rally.
The megachurch, located at the end of a long and narrow path in West Kendall, draws one of its largest crowds during the Sunday service in Spanish, attracting hundreds of Hispanic families. Maldonado said Trump’s event on January 3rd was not being organized or financed by his church, and that anyone seeking to attend the campaign rally had to pre-register at DonaldJTrump.com. To prepare for the event, Maldonado explained, Secret Service agents were doing bag checks before the Sunday services. Every other church service during the week, except for a New Year’s Eve mass on Tuesday, would be canceled.
During Sunday’s three-hour service, parishioners heard dozens of testimonies from people who said their commitment and donations to the church have yielded riches, cleared debts, cured cancer and made “migration miracles.”
Among the 2019 “migration miracles” cited were a woman who had finally become a U.S. citizen after years of waiting, a man who had been previously denied a visa through a family sponsor and received his green card, and a woman who said a change in her son’s immigration status that had put him at risk of deportation was resolved through divine intervention.
But despite his promise, Maldonado also made an appeal to some of his parishioners who feel apprehensive about attending Trump’s visit to their church because of his increased immigration raids.
“I don’t think the president would do such a thing,” Maldonado said. “Don’t put your race or your nationality over being a Christian. Be mature ... If you want to come, do it for your pastor. That’s a way of supporting me.”
Maldonado also asked churchgoers from Venezuela and Cuba to raise their hands, and touted his own position against communist dictatorships, something Trump has also done at public rallies in South Florida as an appeal to Hispanic voters.
“One time, I was in Cuba preaching. Fidel Castro was still there. And I said, ‘Let’s pray for Fidel Castro.’ And here in Miami I was vetoed by all Cubans; they said I was a communist. I said, ‘No, communism is the spirit of the anti-Christ.’ I agree that communism is anti Christ, it’s anti God,” Maldonado said. “But the Bible tells me to pray for them whether I agree or not.”
The event with evangelicals comes on the heels of an editorial in the Christian magazine Christianity Today that backed articles of impeachment passed last week by House Democrats and called for the U.S. Senate to remove Trump from office.
-- Bianca Padró Ocasio