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First person: Monthly mission trips across the border gives food, toys to poor Ďcoloniaí families

January 2nd, 2008
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Editorís note: Deacon Jerry and Mary Campa of St. Mary Magdalen Church in San Antonio are founders of Feed My Sheep Ministry, who assist the poor living in colonias in Piedras Negras, Mexico, through monthly visits and donations of food and materials. The following is an account of the groupís most recent trip to the border earlier this month on Dec. 1.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Todayís Catholic) - As I look back on this last mission trip, I continue to stand in awe at the great things God has done for and through our mission group. God gave us so many blessings just on this last trip. It was a calm day with overcast skies in the morning and a sunny afternoon with temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s.

We had, through the generosity of so many people, the largest amount of toys and food we have ever taken on a trip. People from so many places brought toys and food. We had a lady who felt moved to give us her Disney toy collection, a young boy who felt moved to give up the new bicycle he had just won in a raffle, the people at St. Leo Parish who took up a collection, parishes who had angel trees, an organization that gave us a huge donation of sporting equipment and toys, and people from other denominations that brought us items.

Countless individuals brought hundreds of pounds of rice, beans and other food items in addition to the food we normally provide.

My first worry as I started to hear about the items that were coming in was how was I going to store this much stuff in my garage and how were we going to get all these items down to the border. As we would start to clear out the items, I would then wonder if we were going to have enough items to fill all the vehicles that were coming.

Needless to say, God took care of everything. God continually sent the right people at the right time to get things done. From the time we started to sort toys, to the loading and unloading of vehicles, we never came close to running out of storage space, items to load, or volunteers to help. When we finished loading the last of the 23 trucks and cars that joined us, we had cleared out every last item with space in half a truck left to spare.

Too much of a good thing?

As we crossed into Mexico, I felt that we were going to have more items than people to give them to, until I saw the crowd at our second stop. It was the largest group of people we have ever served at one time. It took us more than two hours just to handle that large a crowd, but with Godís help everything went very well. At the end of the day we had visited every colonia on our list. We had given food to about 400 families and toys to around 1,000 children. We started the day with 110 bags of toys, 340 bags of food, boxes of food, candy, fruit and drinks.

When we ended, every family or child had received food or toys and all we had left was a couple of small boxes of nutrition bars and three small bags of toys. I am continually humbled by God, who constantly reminds us that he has everything under control if we just do our part and let him do his.

Kudos to the volunteers

Let me share a few stories about the dedication of our volunteers. Margaret Vazquez has been a part of our group for a number of years. She continually sends out e-mails to her family and friends to get donations for our ministry. You canít miss Margaret because most of the time she is using a cane or a walker to help her get around. Margaret was involved in an auto accident a few months ago and only through the grace of God is she still with us. Since the accident she has had even more physical problems and has not had the strength to last through long days when we cross into Mexico. That hasnít stopped her from doing her work. Margaret and her husband Joe still drove down to Eagle Pass to drop off the hundreds of pounds of food, toys, popcorn and other items they had collected. They completed their drop off, but due to Margaretís health they had to immediately return to San Antonio.

At 83 years young, Larry Morris is no different. He had spent Friday driving 800 miles from his home in Pleasanton to Longview and back. On Saturday he showed up to drop off his cargo, and then was so tired he had to head back home.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Son, who humbled himself to be born of Mary in a stable in Bethlehem, who humbled himself to suffer and die so that you and I might have forgiveness for our sins and re-inherit heaven. May each of us always be grateful for the many blessings you give us each day. May we always celebrate Christmas first and foremost as the birth of Jesus in our homes and with our families. May God continue to abundantly bless you during this holy season.

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