Helping With All My Heart
Written by Megan Carson
On a hot Arizona afternoon, a small team of us from Their Story is Our Story, pulled down a long, dusty driveway. At the end of the driveway we found a few modest home-like structures spaced apart like a little neighborhood, a sanctuary hidden away from a bustling city nearby. Between the homes were patches of grass and trees that offered a canopy of shade from the day’s heat, and under the trees were recently arrived asylum seekers, resting and relaxing. One family that caught my eye was a father laying on a cot, while a young toddler climbed on and off him. A smile instinctively spread across my face as I could relate to the scene in front of me – a family just like mine.
We approached the large porch of the main home on the property and introduced ourselves to Cristobal and Martha, a married couple who are both pastors and immigrants to the U.S., who had welcomed us to get a glimpse of the work they’re doing to help their community. We learned that every week, sometimes multiple times a week, they receive busloads of 50 asylum seekers at a time, from ICE detention centers.
To welcome these families, they set up multiple long tables the length of their long porch and feed all 50 of them a warm meal, they offer them a shower, help them contact their sponsors to arrange travel, and give them a safe place to rest and recover from the previous days and weeks of their weary journey. Most stay only a few days before they head on their way to new locations, but a few remain and are given long-term accommodations from this generous couple.
It was many years ago when Cristobal and Martha initially crossed paths in Mexicali, where they both were pastors and dedicated to finding ways they could serve those who needed help. They got married and started a life and family together, centered around service. They eventually found their way to Arizona, where they’ve now served their local community for the last 12 years.
Their main reason for coming here was they knew there was a higher need and they were “hoping to help more people. [We were] very glad to support more families.” They just recently acquired a larger location that allows them to serve more people, to which they said, “Now we are very happy in this place, so happy.”
The bulk of their work is made possible with donations and volunteers who offer time and resources.
“The church is helping with, is supporting (asylum seekers) with expenses. We have donations in food, in clothes, in backpacks, but we have a lot of expenses that are not covered. Many families, they don’t have any money at all, and we have five days that we need to help them travel from Arizona to their sponsor.”
When asked how it is that they make ends meet under these kinds of unpredictable circumstances of depending so much on volunteer help, they responded: “Oh, miracles happen. We’re not ashamed to say all that we do. We do yard sales every week. We recycle, we do raffles, we participate in the festival of Tamal every year. We do car washes and we sell tamales as well, to support this.”
Besides helping refugees and asylum seekers, they also help the homeless, recovering drug addicts, and anyone else who comes along who needs a little support and love. There are no limits to the help they’ll offer and we witnessed the lengths they’ll go to get people the help they need. There was the family whose sponsor in Florida backed out from supporting the family at the last minute, who came to Cristobal for help. Without hesitation, Cristobal answered: “No worries, you are going to stay with us.”
The words and actions behind the work that we witnessed from Martha and Cristobal are absolutely reflected in the name of their Church and non-profit organization – Helping With All My Heart.
If you are in Arizona, follow their work on Facebook to know how and when you can help with any volunteer needs.
If you aren't local, but feel inclined to help with a monetary donation, you can go to their website here.
Just as citizens in Europe and the U.K. have heroically supported displaced Ukrainians by opening up their homes or securing other housing, assisting with school enrollments, employment needs, and language learning, Americans now have the opportunity via the Welcome.us Sponsor Circles program to directly help newly arrived Ukrainians. The United States has committed to welcoming 100,000 Ukrainians temporarily for a period of two-years and the ability to apply for employment authorization in the U.S. as long as they have a U.S.-based sponsor to petition for them.
Tucson, and other cities, do so much more when they connect with charities such as Catholic Community Services’ Casa Alitas program. Everywhere you look you can see artwork that brightens the place and further welcomes people. And economically it helps both the city and its citizens.
Refugee work takes patience sometimes. Arizona hung on and had a successful World Refugee Day and looks forward to other changes.