Lucio Perez greets friends after arriving back into the First Congregational Church of Amherst, after a stay in Cooley Dickinson Hospital for a medical emergency. Photo by Carol Lollis for the Daily Hampshire Gazette

What happens when an immigrant facing deportation seeks sanctuary in a church, but then needs to leave to get surgery? That happened in western Massachusetts this week.

On Thursday, community leaders, activists and members of the clergy stood outside Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton to support Lucio Perez. He’s a 37-year-old father of four, originally from Guatemala.

Andrea Ayvazian, associate minister of the Alden Baptist Church in Springfield, led the group in prayer.

“We thank you for sanctuary, we thank you fo churches that step out and take  risks, we thank you for community,” Ayvazian said. “And most of all we thank you for Lucio and his witness, his courage, his love.”

Perez had been in the hospital since Monday, when an ambulance took him there for emergency surgery to have his appendix out. He’d been living at the First Church in Amherst, which started providing him sanctuary last October.

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