Helping Hungry Travelers

For me, there is a sadness, a frustration, and mixed joy when helping those along the border. Scriptures call us all to service, and people from throughout the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego continue to help those who are simply looking for a safe haven in the United States. 

The process for asylum seekers after their interview with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) often involves several steps. If the asylum seeker passes the initial screening (credible fear interview), they may be allowed to enter the U.S. to pursue their asylum claim. Asylum seekers who are released sometimes travel to another location in the U.S., often where they have family or a support network. 

This is where EDSD’s volunteers have stepped in to help. Over the last year, asylum seekers have spent rough nights at the San Diego airport following their CBP interview. With little or nothing, these people wait patiently for a flight to connect with family in another area of the country, and we all know how expensive things are in an airport. 

EDSD is currently working with a number of volunteers to organize a system of brown bag meal delivery to the airport. Many asylum seekers wait for flights to their new homes at the airport–they literally have nowhere else to go. Sometimes, the wait can be a couple of days. Many arrive at the airport hungry and do not have the funds to purchase food. 

Currently, the need is 100 meals every evening and again most mornings. We can do this for hungry, struggling people. 

I will not tell you that this ministry is easy. You will hear people speak negatively about your efforts toward helping those seeking asylum. Sometimes you will be really sad. Sometimes, your heart will be broken. You will also find new life and joy in service.

My name is Cindy Dodson. I attend St. Mary’s in the Valley Episcopal Church in Ramona. I lead a team of volunteers who help our asylum-seeking friends eat while waiting to fly to different areas of the country. I am a  second-generation U.S. citizen. My grandmother came to the U.S. with her father, an Indigenous man from Mexico. My father spoke no English when he started school. I am sure many of us have stories that are not much different–times when our predecessors were hungry and needed help.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. (Matt. 25:35-36) 

Why is this important to me? I am a follower of Christ. I cannot pretend that people are not hurting, cold, wet, without food or clean water, frightened and confused. Jesus tells us to feed people. Did you know that the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is in all four of our canonical Gospels? 

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. (Matt 14:13–21) (also found in Mark 6:31–44; Luke 9:12–17; John 6:1–14). 

This passage points out just how important it is to feed, and not just feed, but to pray. I’ve had recurring wonderings about gathering enough food or enough volunteers to prepare the food for our asylum-seeking friends. Each time I ask for help, the food arrives, and the volunteers arrive–just like the loaves and fishes.

If you would like to volunteer to help make brown bag meals with your own team or to pick up, deliver, and serve the meals, please contact me at cindysberrypatch@gmail.com or visit www.edsd.org/migration-ministry to learn more.