Johnnie Musquiz serves as Pastor of Iglesia Bautista Houston. Below is a first-hand account of his experience taking a volunteer group from his church to serve Central American family units in McAllen.
Three weeks ago I toured the Catholic Charities in McAllen. I came back and showed pictures to my church about the need and also the opportunity. My son (Timothy) came and shared with me that he wanted to organize a group and go help with the effort at the Catholic Charities. The dates (Aug 15-16) were scheduled and a group of nine volunteers were enlisted. We took brand new clothes that were donated, 200 plastic water bottles, and 600 backpacks.
On Friday the 15th, our group went to Catholic Charities, where we are trained on the procedures, if and when the people should enter. Outside of that, our group separated clothes and placed the clothes according to the sizes whether child (boy or girl), youth (boy or girl) or adult (man or woman). There was also a section for different sizes in shoes where boys or girls, men or women were sectioned off.
Another group from our church also went to the food bank where the majority of the clothes and other articles are being stored. There they separate the clothes and other articles that have been donated.
Around noon, Catholic Charities received word that 30 individuals were coming. With much anticipation, we waited for the group to come through the doors. As soon as they came through the doors, we started clapping and telling them welcome.
They entered and applause went out and shouts of welcome (in Spanish) were heard throughout the building. Then they were guided to some chairs where they were processed with some information that Catholic Charities needed for their own records. The people (mothers and children) come in looking hazard, frail, and worn out from their long trip, some as much as 30 days on the road and exhausted from their stay at the U.S. detention center. Many have come from as far as Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and a few from other countries.
We were assigned into groups (usually 2 per group, one English and the other Spanish speaker) then we took the refugees to the back of the room where hot soup and water was offered to each individual (experience has proven they will throw up if given solid foods). As they are eating, the assigned group of 2 goes and gets a change of clothes for each individual; my refugee group consisted of a mother and three children. As soon as they finished their meal, they were taken to the back of the building where there are individual showers (6) in all. There they took a shower and put on their new clothes, the old clothes were thrown in the trash.
After they shower, they were escorted to the front of the building, given a bag pack with 2 sets of clothes and a handbag with sandwiches, snacks, drinks for the road. There is someone who will take them to the bus station for their final destination. Many on the way out say, “thanks, we never expected this type of treatment when we arrived here." After many hugs, they departed and went to the bus station.
At five, I was going to take our group back to the Baptist encampment where we were staying. Ten minutes to five, word came that another 30 were coming. I told the group that we would stay until the last one was on the bus. That day, we worked until 7:30 p.m. when the last one was on the bus. All the group was exhausted, for we started around 9 a.m. The only words that came streaming to my head are those of Jesus when he said, “If you do it to one of the least of these my brother, you are doing it to me."
Our group experienced something that will always be cherished for a lifetime. The greatest needs now are volunteers who are willing to give of their time. The material articles of clothes, money, shoes and other essentials will always be needed but the greatest gift that one can give is of themselves.