Around fifteen years ago, LUCHA Ministries began providing food assistance to Eusebio, an immigrant from Mexico who had been hit by a car. His lower leg was severely damaged and required multiple surgeries to avoid amputation. He lost his job, his income, his independence — and his dignity.
Eusebio had just about given up hope of recovery when members of his Bible study group (who were also part of LUCHA) came to his aid. He wanted to work and to earn his keep, but he saw himself as “a cripple.” When we discovered that Eusebio could cook, we suggested that he talk with his housemates (all single guys) about exchanging his culinary skills for rent. To his surprise, they agreed!
That year, Eusebio received a turkey and all the fixings for a full Thanksgiving meal for eight. He hobbled around the kitchen on his crutches, resting and elevating his damaged leg as needed, and prepared a wonderful Thanksgiving feast for his housemates.
Eusebio continued to cook in exchange for a roof over his head for the next year or so, until his leg was healed enough to return to Mexico. LUCHA suggested a creative plan that allowed Eusebio to gain back much of his self-esteem and dignity.
It wasn’t just a box of food. It was a restoration of Eusebio’s dignity.
Ten years ago, after a day of food deliveries, I had one box left in my car. Somehow, we had miscalculated the number of food recipients. I mentally compiled a list of anyone I knew who lived nearby and made an impromptu stop at the home of Gisela.
Gisela was a single mom with three kids, who had recently separated from an abusive spouse. Her middle child had cerebral palsy, and she often struggled with a consistent work schedule that revolved around his needs and complicated childcare issues.
I knocked and asked if she needed a box of food. “How did you know?” Gisela asked. “Come, look in my kitchen.” There were a few stray condiments in the refrigerator, and nearly bare cupboards. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she said through tears. But God knew. God had directed me to Gisela that day.
It wasn’t just a box of food. It was proof that God hadn’t abandoned Gisela.
Not only was God with Gisela that day, but God also gave her a heart for helping others. This week, the Cinco Panes volunteer team prepared 20 boxes of food to be distributed in the community, and Gisela is one of those volunteers.
Over 120 persons were the recipients of those food boxes, many of whom are among the most vulnerable immigrants in our community. Today’s list included persons with medical conditions (diabetes, renal failure, and cancer), a hospice patient, an amputee, and two families with children with disabilities. It included persons whose spouse had been deported, and victims of domestic violence.
Some boxes were picked up, some were delivered by the volunteers or by friends and neighbors, clients themselves who offered to take a box to someone else. The 8 client volunteers would also benefit, and one of those volunteers was Gisela. “I volunteer with LUCHA, because you’ve always helped us, the Latino community, whenever we needed you. I want to do that, too, for others.”
These weren’t just 20 boxes of food. They were boxes of hope, and encouragement, and healing, and reminders of God’s love.