For me, it began with ‘Beanie Bundles’ for field workers in Imperial Valley. At the gathering of deacons last Fall, we dedicated ourselves to serving the needs of the farm workers. What is it that we can offer that can truly be useful to those tending the land each and every day? Warmth.
For many laborers in the field, the day starts well before the sun comes up–in every season of the year. In the deep cold of winter, hands and feet freeze. In the heat of summer, brows burn, and water is life.
These are our siblings in Christ who go out in the winter at 3:00 AM, when the frost is still on the ground, oftentimes working until late in the evening. They work the fields so that fresh fruits and vegetables can make their way to our tables–nourishing us and our families.
In the late 1800s, as the Industrial Revolution took hold, the poor and recent immigrants worked 12-hour days, extremely unsafe working conditions, and insufficient sanitary facilities or breaks. In some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories, and mines for a fraction of adult wages.
Today, we celebrate Labor Day; we have standard work hours, minimum wages, and a number of laws protecting workers, but a largely poor group of people still suffer difficult working conditions.
Being able to meet these men, see their joy, their smiles, feel their exuberant thank you and an occasional hug–the need was real, and the path forward was clear.
The Deacons of EDSD began a Warm Hands, Warm Feet campaign to collect the needed supplies to put together Beanie Bundles for the workers. These bundles are held in beanies (a hat to warm their heads) that are filled with fresh socks, gloves, candy kisses, oranges, or fresh fruit. These small packages are given freely, in person, by teams of deacons and volunteers from the hills of Fallbrook to the deserts of Yuma, AZ.
Several years ago, a conversation with the Rev. Lilia Mendoza touched my heart. Rev. Lilia was invited to distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday to the workers in the field. These men could not be in church to receive ashes due to their work and lack of transportation. The workers were deeply moved by Rev. Lilia’s care for them. Equally so, Rev. Lilia was deeply moved, and the story deeply moved me. Now it has prompted us to move forward with a ministry that provides real things for people in real need.
When I visit churches throughout the diocese as Archdeacon, I always share my service ministry with the congregation. To me, sharing my experience with farm workers helps to spread the good news of Christ with those that I meet. Like when Rev. Lilia shared her ministry with me, my story invites these congregations to fully participate in Christ-like service–it opens congregations to the needs around them. Being aware of the needs of farm laborers inspires many to act in service and generosity.
With the financial help of so many across the diocese and the generosity of Bishop Susan, we were able to warm the hands, feet, and heads of over 850 field workers in the Imperial Valley.
The question I have been asking since distributing these beanie bundles last Advent is, ‘What can we do to nourish these workers, to build relationships with them, and let them know that last Advent was not just a one-time event, that we really care.’
In talking with Robert Vivar, EDSD Migration Missioner, Rev. Lilia Mendoza, Vicar of Saints Peter and Paul in El Centro, and those working directly with the farm workers, there continues to be a need for these bundles.
Now, a group of deacons is expanding this ministry and is planning for Advent 2023. What a great time of year to be generous!
But what about actually engaging in fellowship, sharing a meal, warming stomachs and hearts with sharing a meal? Loving our siblings in Christ?
This year, we hope to distribute the bundles and provide a breakfast of hot oatmeal, coffee, and hot chocolate–a moment where we can break bread as a community. Joining the workers in the meal and engaging in conversation.
Through the generosity of St. Paul’s in the Desert and Steve Moore, we already have 1000 pairs of Bomba socks for the Beanie Bundles. St James By The Sea has committed to supplying us with 720 beanies (Thank You, Hook and Needles Group, Barbara Alcorn, and The Rev. Mark Hargreaves). Ed Campos, my husband, is donating 3000 Candy Kisses–sometimes chocolate is just what the soul needs. But we could offer so much more with your support.
If you are so moved to help with this outreach, financially or with your time, please contact Archdeacon Cindy Campos at Ccampos@edsd.org. Financial donations may go to the Deacon’s Outreach Fund here.
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