Nourishment for the Fredericksburg Community LUCHA's Hunger Relief Ministry

By Caitlyn Furr

I have the privilege of interning with LUCHA ministries this summer through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s (CBF) Student.Go program. After completing CBF’s orientation, I began interning with LUCHA at the beginning of June. I am a graduate student at Emory, seeking a Master’s of Divinity and a Master’s of Public Health. This internship at LUCHA provides me the opportunity to learn about ministry, community development and holistic health all at once. I can’t believe how much I have learned and experienced already!

On Mondays, I participate in LUCHA’s food ministry, which is operated by dedicated volunteers in the community. They arrive at the food bank in Fredericksburg on Monday mornings and spend at least an hour carefully selecting food items to purchase. Once they have selected and paid for the food by pound, they load about 5 shopping carts full of food into their own cars. They drive to Sylvania Heights Baptist Church, which has graciously allowed LUCHA to use its facilities, to sort the food. The volunteers create boxes of food, which include fresh produce, meat, packaged foods, hygiene products, and much more, for families in the community. The volunteers are well-acquainted with the families who will receive the food, so they personalize the boxes to ensure needs are met. For example, if a family has an infant, the volunteers will ensure that family’s box contains diapers. Finally, the volunteers hand deliver boxes to the families in the community. The entire process takes about 4 hours, but many of the same volunteers help every week. I am incredibly impressed with the compassion displayed by LUCHA’s volunteers, and the thoughtfulness they put in to each box they deliver. The program is effective in providing for needs in the community while also encouraging relationship building.

I’ve had the opportunity over the past few weeks to meet various members of the Fredericksburg community who are served by LUCHA. It is clear that they trust and respect LUCHA and its programming. The needs within the community are many, but the community members feel connected to LUCHA and it gives them hope. LUCHA is a place where Latinos in Fredericksburg can turn when they need help, and it works to provide for their needs without judgment. LUCHA is a wonderful example of the love of Christ within the Fredericksburg community. I am grateful to be a part of it this summer, and continue to learn from this ministry.

Each year, the Cinco Panes (Five Loaves) food pantry serves approximately 1,200 persons in need.  Through the years, the ministry has evolved from a more traditional style pantry that provides boxes of groceries  to needy families to a more participatory model where the clients themselves have become the volunteers.  This new model has created a sense of community among many Latino immigrants who otherwise wouldn’t know each other.  The volunteers are Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, and Baptist; Puerto Rican, Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan; young and not-so-young.  The ministry helps non/limited-English-speaking immigrants gain a greater sense of self worth as they work together for the greater good of the Latino community.  And it gives parents and youth the opportunity to work together.  During the past year, over 70 persons have served as volunteer.

Book Review: Jesus Was A Migrant "Throughout the book, the author demonstrates the strong faith of migrants... as she weaves biblical stories of exile, migration and flight."

70Jesus Was a Migrant, by Deirdre Cornell, offers short but poignant glimpses of the suffering and triumphs of the migrant community in the U.S. through her ministry with Spanish-speaking migrants and their families both in and outside the country.

Cornell’s experience comes from her work in upstate New York with migrant workers and as a Maryknoll lay missioner in Mexico. The first chapter of her book, aptly titled “Migrants Matter,” introduces the reader to the global phenomenon of migration and displacement, and the value migrants bring to the nations to which they travel to live and work.

Cornell leads the reader to see that the migrant experience in the U.S. has not only caused much suffering and trials for migrants, but it also is a great source of blessing, especially in the realization that so much of the Bible is written from and about the migrant experience. She weaves biblical stories of exile, migration and flight with contemporary stories of Latino men, women and children struggling to find life and dignity in a strange land. She even includes stories of how her own Irish family generations past struggled to make a new home in America.

Throughout the book, the author demonstrates the strong faith of migrants she has come to know and work with, and the ways God reveals the divine self through the migrant experience. Cornell closes her short book with a chapter called “Pure Grace” that calls on our country to address the issue of immigration and on all of us to open our hearts to the stranger among us.

Jesus Was a Migrant is available online through Amazon. And if you sign up for the “Amazon Smile” program (http://smile.amazon.com) and choose LUCHA as your charitable organization, Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to LUCHA Ministries.