At San Lucas, we’re starting an experiment in generosity. These plastic tubs will be in the sanctuary and the food bank office, inviting people to bring donations of non-perishable food items for the food pantry at San Lucas.
Requesting donations like this is a first for us in our pantry that helps over one hundred families each month with emergency hunger assistance. In-kind food donations run counter to the advice given in a widely-circulated social media piece about food banks. It is more economical for a pantry to receive cash donations than actual food. This also eliminates the problem of people cleaning out the nasty expired food from their cupboards by “donating” it. We order food from the South Texas Food Bank, based in Laredo. We don’t actually buy the food, but rather pay a shared maintenance cost that covers some of the shipping and storage. Even with these fees, we still get food for much less than even the best sale at a supermarket. This month, for example, a flat of 24 cans of peaches was $3.64, which is about 16 cents per can—much less than grocery store prices. Boxes of cheesy pasta meals ended up being less than 8 cents each.
Therefore, hunger drives and can campaigns don’t make the most economic sense when donating to non-profits and churches. Cash donations go so much further. However, the physical act of collecting and bringing the food is also worthwhile in that it encourages generosity and teaches giving. At San Lucas, we have a long history of being recipients of the generosity of other congregations. We haven’t always done a good job of teaching stewardship and generosity. We’ve fallen into an unequal colonial model of waiting for the mission partners to be generous. If we’re going to follow a more mutual mission accompaniment model, we need to start modeling it by showing that everyone has something to give and receive. Even though there is poverty here, there is still generosity. Even though there is high unemployment here, there is still love. This collection drive is aimed at local donations from local Eagle Passans. For our mission partners far away, cash offerings are still generally more helpful than in-kind items.
A food drive at San Lucas is a new step. I’m not sure what will happen. We’ll have a tub in the sanctuary and another in the food bank, hoping for donations from both church members and food pantry clients (although there is much overlap between the two groups). It could be a way for clients to return items they don’t want instead of tossing it in a vacant lot near the church or selling it a garage sale. The new food donation tubs will give our volunteers a bit more sorting to do, but they will also help us intentionally think about our own generosity.
Dear Friends and Mission Partners:
Greetings from the US-Mexico border! San Lucas is a congregation of the ELCA near the United State-Mexico border, worship primarily in Spanish. We love to share what we’re up to in ministry. Fall is in full swing; our program year is off and running, with new learning and outreach opportunities.
Inter-generational Christian Formation
We’ve reformatted our usual Wednesday evening Bible study to include children and adults together. We call it Encuentro. When we’ve had activities for children in the past, we’ve discovered that adults like to participate, too. We’ve responded to scripture stories with crayons and clay. We’ve decorated the sanctuary with autumnal gourds and All Saints paper chains with names of beloved saints. We baked bread to prepare for Reformation Sunday, when several young people celebrated their sacramental instruction.
Reaching Our Community
At San Lucas, we recognize that God’s love doesn’t stay at 1725 Eidson Road. In September, as part of the ELCA’s God’s Work Our Hands Sunday, we donned yellow shirts and went to Eagle Pass Nursing and Rehabilitation to interact with the residents and play lotería (a Mexican game very similar to bingo). For Halloween, we set up a table for Trick or Treating in front of the church. 67 young people came by for candy. Special thanks to the Eagle Pass Walmart for the donating the bicycle.
Ecumenical Cooperation at Cristo Rey
San Lucas has a long history of ministry across the Rio Grande with Cristo Rey, a preaching point in the rural outskirts of Piedras Negras. We are in the midst of starting some very exciting ecumenical relationships with an Episcopal/Anglican congregation in Piedras Negras. Padre Miguel Angel Cristerna from Iglesia Anglicana Buen Pastor and I have started alternating preaching responsibilities at Cristo Rey every other week.
Thanksgiving Eve Worship
The last few years, San Lucas has developed a tradition of worshipping on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It’s a time to recognize that all we have is from God. We also have a time of dessert and fellowship after worship.
Welcome, Amy Westphal
In January, San Lucas will once again be welcoming Amy Westpahl for a few weeks of ministry and accompaniment with us. Amy, seminarian at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, was an adult mentor with the Youth in Mission group that was at San Lucas in 2013. She returned in January for an independent study immersion course here. A candidate for diaconal ministry in the ELCA, Amy be back at San Lucas this coming January to fulfill part of her diaconal project, focusing on ministry with the migrant worker community.
San Lucas is an ideal place for learning about cross-cultural ministry and for learning about border justice issues. That Amy will be here for several weeks, as opposed to just a weekend, really helps foster connections and build relationships. In developing our role as a teaching place for the wider Church, we prefer to work with one or two people over a period of several weeks. This situation could be opportune for a student focusing on theology, community development, or Spanish. We would also be open to welcoming a pastor on sabbatical or a retired person ready to experience life at San Lucas.
Remember San Lucas in 2015 Budgets
This is the time of year in which congregations start to plan mission support and benevolence for the following year. It is so humbling to realize that the ministry of San Lucas continues because of the generosity of so many others. I realize that I don’t say “Thank you” enough. Beans and rice are purchased for the food bank, Worship is planned. Families are visited. Toilets are cleaned. The financial gifts of many individuals and congregations supplements our synodical and churchwide grants and the offerings that San Lucas members are able to give week after week. I invite and encourage you to consider including gifts to San Lucas in you budgets for 2015. Thank you for your prayers, for your support, and for being the Church together with us.
I feel so helpless when I think about families and children being detained in the immigration detention system. Even though I serve very near the Mexican border, we are a long way from a detention center. I long for ways to do something and connect. That’s why I was very enthused to find out about Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s Hope for the Holidays program (http://lirs.org/hopefortheholidays). The goal is to distribute over 1,700 holiday cards to women and children held in immigration detention.
When I mentioned this idea to some San Lucas parishioners, the response wasn’t as energetically positive as I expected. “A Christmas card isn’t going to make that much difference to someone locked up. What we really need to do is to write letters to Congress to change the immigration laws.” I actually agree. This could be a great stepping stone toward a ministry of advocacy. LIRS has tools to help us with that, as well (http://lirs.org/lirs-congressional-advocacy-guide-2014/).
I totally get that writing a Christmas card isn’t going to change the world. What this campaign really does is get us in congregations thinking about what is happening with these families—our neighbors. It’s raising awareness for us. If it does also give someone in detention a word of hope, that’s great, too. I am very glad LIRS is encouraging this. I really want San Lucas to participate because we have so many parishioners with recent firsthand experience as immigrants that there is quite a bit of prayerful wisdom and compassionate greeting in our people. Our native Spanish speakers provide a unique perspective. There is so much to share.
The LIRS website has a few holiday greetings in Spanish. Here is a list of some more sentences and paragraphs that could be helpful. I’m going to print these out for when we make cards during one of our inter-generational learning times. My hope is that this list can be move beyond trite platitudes and theological niceties and provide words of comfort and healing for people in horrible situations:
Usted no conoce a nosotros, pero oramos por usted. Oramos por un espíritu de esperanza y alegría en medio de circunstancias tan graves. Oramos por paz. You don’t know us, but we pray for you. We pray for a spirit of hope and joy in the midst of such grave circumstances. We pray for peace.
No podemos imaginar su experiencia ni su soledad durante este tiempo tan duro, pero oramos. Oramos por su vida, por su familia, y que pueda reunirse otra vez. We can’t imagine your experience nor solitude during this such tough time, but we pray. We pray for your life, for your family, and that you can be reunited once again.
No conocemos a usted, pero su situación está en nuestros corazones. No podemos imaginar lo que significa para estar tan lejos de su familia. Oramos por cambios en este mundo. Oramos por usted y que pueda seguir adelante con esperanza y fe. We don’t know you, but your situation is on our hearts. We can’t imagine what it means to be so far from family. We pray for changes in this world. We pray for you and that you can keep on with hope and faith.
Durante esta estación navideña, recordamos que el niño Jesús en el pesebre es el mismo Señor Jesús que sufre con nosotros en la cruz y quien conoce a nuestro dolor. Oramos que usted pueda reconocer que no está solo en su camino. Dios está con usted y su familia durante todo. During this Christmas season, we remember that the Baby Jesus in the manger is the same Lord Jesus who suffers with us on the cross and who knows our pain. We pray that you can recognize that you are not alone in your journey. God is with you and your family during everything.
En este tiempo navideño, recordamos que Maria y José buscaba posada. Recordamos la bienvenida que solamente Dios da. Oramos que usted pueda encontrar bienvenida y reunirse con su familia de nuevo. In this Christmas time, we remember that Mary and Joseph looked for lodging. We remember the welcome that only God gives. We pray that you may find welcome and be reunited with your family again.
Al celebrar la navidad, recordamos que la Sagrada Familia se huyó de la violencia fea de un rey poderoso. Con la ayuda de Dios, Maria, José, y el Niño Jesús encontraron consuelo y descanso en Egipto. Oramos que usted y su familia pueda encontrar paz y socorro este año. Upon celebrating Christmas, we remember that the Holy Family fled the ugly violence of a powerful king. With the help of God, Mary, Joseph, and the Child Jesus found comfort and rest in Egypt. We pray that you and your family may find peace and help in the new year.
Los santos peregrinos Maria y José buscaban la bienvenida al pedir posada. Oramos que usted y su familia pueda encontrar un espíritu de hospitalidad y esperanza en este año nuevo. The holy pilgrims Mary and Joseph looked for welcome as they asked for lodging. We pray that you and your family may find a spirit of hospitality and hope in this new year.
Queremos saludarle a usted durante este tiempo navideño. Somos de una iglesia luterana en Texas. No podemos imaginar su experiencia en estos momentos duros. Nuestra fe nos recuerda que Dios está presente aun en momentos pesados. Oramos que usted pueda sentir un espíritu de solidaridad con Jesús este año. We want to greet you during this Christmas time. We are from a Lutheran church in Texas. We can’t imagine your experience in these difficult moments. Our faith reminds us that God is present even in weighty moments. We pray that you may feel a sense of solidarity with Jesus this year.
Nunca hemos conocido a usted, pero su circunstancia está pesada en nuestros corazones. Nunca podemos entender su propia experiencia, pero confiamos en Dios, que conoce todo el dolor y todo el sufrimiento del mundo. Oramos que usted y su familia pueda buscar nuevas oportunidades. We have never met you, but your circumstance is heavy on our hearts. We can never understand your own experience, but we trust in God, who knows all the pain and suffering of the world. We pray that you and your family may find new opportunities.
Dios le bendiga,
Iglesia Luterana San Lucas
Eagle Pass, Texas