Entonces María dijo: Mi alma engrandece al Señor, y mi espiritu se rogocija en Dios mi Salvador.
Then Mary said: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit is overjoyed in God my Savior.
~San Lucas/Luke 1:46-47
¡Feliz Navidad, Nosotros Hermanos y Hermanas, Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
This year we are celebrating, like Mary, a wonder that could be a tragedy, or at least a great challenge, but it could also be a miracle. We have had thousands of people seeking legal asylum with situations that are different from those we have encountered before. We saw families separated and we helped with the reunited families and the people waiting to request legal asylum on the refuges and bridges between Matamoros and Brownsville. We have had hundreds of people in our local Los Fresnos neighborhoods facing flooding and home deterioration that threaten health and livelihood. We have worked with our collaborating ministries across the Lower Rio Grande Valley more closely than ever before to help coordinate all the needs we are seeing. With God’s blessing and your faithful support, Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries has fed, clothed, visited, housed, comforted, and loved all God’s children.
We continue to house and care for the families of Astrily and Izila, two mother-led families with three young children, as they seek a way through their asylum and U-VISA cases which have been more difficult to navigate this year. The two younger children began Head Start this year and began to blossom, even as their mothers struggle and continue with counseling, medical needs, and legal meetings. We know that the work we do in supporting them, in nurturing the mothers and young American children, shows them the constant state of God’s love. The beauty of watching the children learn to ride a bike, to play thumb wars, and to pray knowing the consistency of God’s love is ever present in their lives adds to the knowledge that this is a miracle of God’s love in action.
Our ministry this year has been supporting the refuge in Matamoros as they expanded the medical facility to take in over 130 people waiting to request asylum legally at the border. One of these is a couple now awaiting the birth of their child while the husband recovers from brain injuries as a result of being shot for his political affiliation. We have supported those awaiting the opportunity to cross in the heat of the summer with ice and in the cold of this winter with coats and blankets and food. We have rejoiced with over 2,000 reunited families in four bus stations along the Lower Rio Grande Valley and provided many with bus tickets, food money for the trip, clothing from Mike’s Kids and the ALMAcén, or toys for the hundreds of children making two-day trips to meet family they do not know yet. The Jericho Journey small service-learning groups have been such aid in providing supplies and providing the work for three hours, three days, or three weeks. It all helps!
One of these young moms was Sonia, a gracious young woman from El Salvador, only two hours earlier reunited with her five-year-old son. Salvadoran gangs aligned with the police killed her husband. She and her son Jony fled El Salvador and made the dangerous journey through Mexico, only to be separated at the border. He was placed in a facility somewhere across the country, and she did not know where he was. When he was returned to her, they were given showers and taken immediately to the bus station. They were so happy to see each other but they both suffered separation anxiety. She wanted to always have at least one hand touching him even as she talked on our cell phone to a cousin in a place called Tennessee. She had a ticket to this place but where was it and how would she know when to change buses? After a bit, Jony began to play with the little truck we gave him. We arranged food and use of a cell phone at Sonia’s stop in Dallas. So many families were like that and still are in many ways. It is an honor and privilege to be God to them and help their families to safety,health, and wholeness. In so many ways, they are also God to us.
Sometimes the natural disasters are also what wear us down. The day-to-day struggles in one of the poorest counties in the United States where people live in dangerous housing or on the streets are always difficult. But when it rains, it truly does flood. We have helped to feed the elderly and homeless vets in Brownsville, those working on the dump and living in the orphanage in Matamoros, and families who have lost jobs because the floods meant no work for weeks during the summer. We worked to get everyone clothed and clean for school. And, there were wonderful teams of people who helped repair homes and give people a renewed sense of dignity.
One of these houses belonged to Brenda. With sometimes three or four generations living in one house when the times got tougher. The family always has medical needs. Repairs to the house just never got made. When one church came in and replaced windows,patched leaks, built new entrances to the front and back doors, and repaired wiring so they could see at night after a winter in the cold and dark, it was a Godsend for them. Their quality of life so improved in the first three days that several neighbors came asking to be put on the list for help. One of these that needs help is a home that has holes in both the roof and raised floor. During the rainy season, the rain comes from above and the mosquitoes rise from below. The poor housing causes major health problems and loss of work, but it is hard to find ways to improve the situation when finding resources for each meal is so difficult. So many people are faithfully praying for groups to come and help them.
People want to work side-by-side. They want to have the dignity. But they simply don’t have the resources and knowledge to do it alone. It’s easy to think that means someone else. We each have our own part, that is true. But if you are reading this letter, it is because today, during this Advent, during the Feliz Navidad, and in the new year so many people who live or pass through the area served by Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries need YOU — your prayers and your gifts.
Together, with God, we continue to make a difference.
With each new day we seek to follow the example of Mary in finding great joy in our encounters with refugees, all children of God. We try in all our actions to magnify the Lord our God, showing others who our Lord is by our service to others and our joyous heart in serving those most in need. For many, we are the means by which they become familiar with the Lord, our faithfulness and presence with them is what magnifies and makes visible the promise of God that it might be on Earth as it is in Heaven. This is the promise that we magnify and that overjoyed Mary in the promise of the God-child.
May You be Overjoyed in Celebrating God-With-Us,
F. Feliberto Pereira
P.S. Your compassion and community overjoy us in this season of reflection and planning. We hope to see you in the coming year, face-to-face. Until then, much love from all of us here.
P.P.S. Just yesterday we delivered 80 sets of new men’s, women’s, and children’s undergarments. They asked us to express their gratitude to you for restoring their dignity!