Grace and Peace of Christ be with you all:

As part of Candler’s Advanced Summer Internships program, I have the opportunity to be in McAllen, in south Texas, where I am working with the El Valle District of The United Methodist Church. Doing ministry in the border area is very unique, and I am excited about sharing my experience.

McAllen is an American city that is over 90 percent Hispanic, and in which Spanish is the most dominant language. It is a fast-growing city with multiple opportunities for doing ministry and is 23.7 percent more affordable than any other US cities.  This area is also one of the poorest in the US with a huge gap between the rich and the poor. A huge number of immigrants cross the Mexican border every day, coming from different Latin American countries. It has one of the lowest education rates in US.

My first experiences of ministry in the Valle have been incredible. I have seen God’s love in communities as I witnessed and participated in the United Methodist churches La Trinidad and First McAllen operating their food pantry program where registered families come to church up to twice a month to receive their food packages. The churches partner with the National Food Bank to buy food products at their cheapest and to have it brought to the store to get it ready for distribution. Volunteers come from within the churches and also others from outside to help prepare food packages for the community.

Having the chance to visit a sick church member at her home as Rev. Arturo Perez, the senior pastor of La Trinidad UMC, gave her communion and unction oil and being able to fellowship in prayer along with her family was a moment of spiritual connection, especially when she asked me, personally, to pray for her.

 "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.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[a] you did it to me.’"(Matthew 25:36-40 NRSV)

Participating at the week-long Mission Service Project of the First United Methodist Church McAllen, camping together with youth and teenagers, going along with them to the Hargil community to render the service of home repair was an experience that renewed my mind. It provided me with more of a sense of humility and service to others just as what Jesus has done for us. At the end of that experience, the beneficiary, a single mother with her three kids, thanked the group and the church for such a joyful sacrifice.

"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God."(Hebrews 13:16 NRSV)

Finally, working at the Humanitarian Respite Center (Catholic Charities) along with volunteers from different churches and non-profits, keeping the dining room clean, emptying the trash, serving breakfast and lunch to sometimes more than a thousand people per day was for me a recall of Christ’s teachings to love our neighbors as ourselves and to fulfill the Gospel that calls us to welcome strangers.