Currently, I am sleeping at Travis Park Church to assist with the migrant shelter we have reopened to care for migrants who have temporary asylum in the United States. For Holy Week 2022, I am seeking to not sleep at home so I can relearn some of the issues facing San Antonio during the night. The first night I stayed outside with my good friend Josh to catch up and relearn the streets of San Antonio. Now, I am at our migrant emergency shelter to learn more.
In 2019 Travis Park opened its doors to help in the similar way and now our church and Corazon San Antonio is doing it again along with IWC, Catholic Charities, and The City of San Antonio. Currently, these families and individuals are waiting for transportation to their host cities. ICE and Border Patrol have granted them temporary asylum but they have no money to get to their host city, court date, or where their families often reside. They are temporarily stuck in San Antonio with little resources or clear direction. I will have more to say on this after Holy Week. However, I want to reflect on how it might relate to my journey in 2012.
The migrants who are seeking asylum are amazing people fleeing violence and seeking a better life. They are noble people who give me much hope and very little fear. You can read what I learned about this in 2018 when I traveled with the migrant caravan and met some amazing people who taught me so much!
Here is my statement about the shelter in 2019 where we help shelter over 22,000 people in about 8 months:
“Getting to shelter, serve and walk alongside our migrant brothers and sisters has not only been a blessing for our church, volunteers, and workers but also a practice of solidarity, love, and hospitality. We had the opportunity to serve and it was worth every long night and day. Our migrant friends and families added so much to our community with their presence, love, and testimonies. They are heroes.https://www.facebook.com/travisparkchurch/posts/3093711730655208
Travis Park Church has been serving the homeless for more than 20 years and has opened its doors to migrants including citizens fleeing internment during WWII. It’s been in our DNA for almost 175 years. It says in our scriptures that we should “defend the cause of the fatherless and the widow” and “love the foreigner residing among us, giving them food and clothing…for we ourselves were once foreigners.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19) We just follow our faith and do as best to treat everyone with dignity and treat everyone like they were “native born.” (Leviticus 19:33)
One night in mid-March we got a call from volunteers at the bus station. They were being overwhelmed by an influx of migrants who needed a place to sleep. So we did what is took to open up our building, put our hurricane cots up and started the temporary shelter.
If the City, nonprofits and churches failed to unite then we would have had thousands of families on the streets of San Antonio over just a few weeks. Our faith calls us to open up and be hospitable and loving to all. There was never was an option not to serve our neighbors.
We could not have opened our doors to more than 22,400 migrants alone. It took working with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, Catholic Charities, the Food Bank, other churches, and especially the City of San Antonio to pull this off each and every night. Not only did we serve migrants but we also kept serving more than 600 homeless neighbors each week.
It took hundreds of people to serve this great need. It was amazing to be a small part of it. We want to thank all of our volunteers, workers and donors who made this all possible. We especially thank Dr. Colleen Bridger, Melody Woosley, Edward Gonzales, Jessica Dovalina, Marc Wonder, Tino Gallegos and everyone at the Department of Human Services and the City for helping support this mission.
In 2012, I reflected on how many who are marginalized or unhoused seek temporary work survive and spent a day at a temp facility in San Antonio. It was eye opening, very hard and frustrating. However, this is also true for many of my migrant siblings. They too are seeking to live free in the USA to find work, provide for their family, and contribute to our society. But the cards are stacked against them. Jesus had a lot to say how we should treat workers. So did his brother James.
In the blog below I also reflect on children who are experiencing homelessness and also reflect on the roll of the church. All which I am experiencing this evening as I type this post.
I have added the 2012 posts from Days 27-30 in a slightly different order to help with flow and theme. Please enjoy this past reflection and the scriptures that relate.
iWork: Posted on
It has been hard trying to live on 10 dollars a day. No movies, no iTunes downloads, no dessert with meals, very little food (unless given to me or paid for by loving people…), no quick purchases in line at a store, and no Starbucks.
However, yesterday, I was having the urge to get a large meal and have some extra cash…so I got a job and made some money.
Many people at the Outdoor Shelter have talked about working for temp agencies around town. One is called “iWorks,” and another is called “Pacesetters.” These agencies provide jobs for homeless citizens (and other people) in need of a temporary job for a day. The jobs can include working at a construction site, a bakery, the AT&T Center, or a local vegetable/fruit processing plant. Many of the homeless have a hard time keeping a full time job, so the temp agency is the best option for employment when the timing is right in his or her life.
I decided to go through iWorks. I worked at the vegetable and fruit processing plant called, Fresh from Texas, in San Antonio. Fresh from Texas provides HEB, Wal-Mart, local schools, and other grocery stores with almost all of their pre-cut and prepared vegetable and fruit products. They produce such items as fruit and vegetable trays, sliced fruit, mixed fruit, cut strawberries, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed bell peppers, shish-k-bobs, fajita ingredients, pico de gallo, chopped onions, diced celery, cut cilantro, and bagged carrots, and the list can go on. They do a lot! Therefore, they need a lot of help to keep the 24/7 factory operating and cranking out packaged foods.
To get a temporary job through iWorks, you must arrive and place your name on a list before the workday begins. They open at 4am…so you need to get there early to get a spot in line on your specific workday. There are 3 shifts. Shift 1: 5:00am to 3:30pm. Shift 2: 7:30am to 5:00pm. Shift 3: 1:30pm-Midnight. Regardless of which shift you are assigned…you still need to get there at 4am in order to sign up for most normal working days.
I was hoping to work the #1 shift so I would not have to wait in the temp office (without pay) until the #2 shift began. So…I arrived at the office at 3:30am. Only 7 people were in line…..I was set to go! When the office opened at 4am, there were already 40 people waiting behind me outside. It reminded me of a Duke Basketball Ticket line…Or…more like those famous photos during the Great Depression where people would line up in cues for employment opportunities. Despite our lacking economy, I was surprised to see so many people in line and eager (even pushy) to stand in line in order to work for minimum wage.
When the doors opened, we all rushed the counter and put our names on the attendance sheet. I was number 8. Someone cut in front of me…but I let it slide. (Getting in a fight is not on my bucket list!) After everyone was signed in, the lady working the counter called the names for Shift #1. There were 20 spots available. I was excited to start! After 20 names were called…I realized I was not one of them! What!? Something went wrong…I was kinda mad along with the other people in the room who got there at 3:30am! Apparently, if you worked the day before, you get your first choice of shift…regardless of where your name is on the list. It kind of made sense…it was like the Duke Basketball seating…the committee gets the best seats!
The lady started calling for shift #2. If your name was called, you had to wait in the office for 2.5 hours before the vans took you to the factory. They had only 15 spots available. I knew I would make it…I was there at 3:30! Name #1 was called, then #2, and 3, and 4, and 5, and 6, ….and 11, and 12, and 13…
#14…..”Gavin Rogers….” Holy cow…I made it! I was praying really hard…. because I really did not want Shift #3 starting a 1:30pm!
After shift #1 left on the vans…all 15 of us waited for our rides at 7am. We just sat there in the cold, empty, and run down office on West Ave. We were assigned our hard helmet and rubber boots. If you don’t bring them back…you don’t get paid.
We were set to make $7.25 an hour. Minimum wage.
7am arrived…and I took the shuttle van over to the Fresh from Texas factory near MacArthur High School. It felt strange to be so close to one of the high schools in town…I know that some of my students attend school there….but it felt so far removed. It seemed like I was in a foreign place…an unknown land for this “Woodlands Boy.”
We arrived at our locker room and put on our other mandatory sanitation uniform. A hair net, mouth cover, plastic gloves, plastic sleeves, and plastic apron. I looked like a surgeon in a bad horror movie….only a lot more tired…I had already been up for 4 hours…but still not started my shift.
We were called into the factory. It was 41 degrees inside!
What? Nobody told me that! I only had on a sweatshirt. Others (I came to find out) brought jackets, gloves, and even long johns. I began to get worried I would not make it for the full 9 hour shift! (If you leave early…you don’t get paid.) The large factory had multiple large refrigerated rooms for the assembly lines. The floor was wet and slippery, (which is sprayed with foam every few minutes so the floor is somewhat sanitary). The place seemed kind of unsafe…came to find out..it is very unsafe.
According to Workplace Weekly, Fresh from Texas was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “with eight serious violations for exposing workers to numerous electrical hazards at the company’s facility in San Antonio, as well as two other-than-serious violations for inadequate record keeping. Proposed penalties total $40,500.” (February 2012)
Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in San Antonio said, “Electrical hazards can lead to the loss of a worker’s life by electrocution. OSHA will not tolerate an employer failing to take responsibility for keeping the workplace safe.” I came to find out, there were even some protests by employees.
Places like this, and the management, are not too concerned about their workers. They are more concerned about the work and movement of product. It’s a sad place to work in someways…but people make the best of it.
Read James 5. How are we still like the people James speaks about in the last chapter of his letter?
The Administration has claimed to fix all the safety violations, so I felt real safe. The administration never lies! Right?
Once inside, I was assigned to the bell pepper assembly line. There were tons of bell peppers in boxes. We were to get the bell peppers, soak them in water, place them on the line, cut them into squares, and sort out the scraps into 3 barrels. 1st barrel was for the cut squares, 2 barrel was for the usable scraps, and the 3rd barrel for unusable scraps. We were set to go!
Wait…but come to find out…we had to take the stickers off all the bell peppers before we began. The fun had to wait. For one hour, all 9 of us in line had to peel off those tiny little stickers off of each pepper…you know, like in the grocery store. A friend made the joke, “What is ironic…some fool got paid minimum wage to put the stickers on…and we are now getting paid to take them off!” I started to laugh..and wonder…that was probably a true statement.
My hands started to get numb.
After most of the stickers were removed, we got into 2 groups. One line for green peppers. One line for red peppers. One person to keep removing stickers….I really did not want to be the sticker man…so I headed as quickly as I could to one of the choppers for the peppers on the assembly line.
After a 3 minute tutorial, we started up the assembly line belt. It went fast. It was hard to keep up! I had one hand on the giant (and sharp) chopper and one hand grabbing and splitting peppers. I was truly afraid I would chop a finger off…the thing was really sharp and hard to control. All of us struggled at first….but after about 30 minutes and hundreds of peppers later we were finding our rhythm and fine tuning our pace. We were even bonding as fellow workers. It was kind of fun…despite the conditions.
There was Bruce (next to me) sorting out my cut peppers. He was 45 years old and was released from prison 3 days ago in Houston. He was in prison over 5 years…not including a previous time in jail…in the Texas Penitentiary in Beaumont. He was arrested as part of the “Tommy Hilfiger” gang. The gang would steal designer clothes from malls and department stores and take them to Mexico to sell in the markets. Eventually, they were caught and sent to jail.
There was David cutting peppers across from me. He had a construction job during the week…but used the temp agency during the weekend to get extra money. He had a girlfriend,who he said…”was very expensive.”
There was Mario sorting peppers next to Bruce. He was a 65 year old Mexican man who only spoke Spanish. He really struggled with the speed and was eventually let go by my supervisor after putting wrong scraps in the barrels. It really made me sad….but fortunately, he was able to work in the grape line…where it is much slower and relaxed. Heck, you can even eat the grapes!
After 3 hours of working…my arms were numb…and I had a huge headache. It was 10:30am…time for lunch…and what would be our only break for the day! I went into the work room…ate a cold bean and cheese taco…and slept for 30 mins.
11:15am. Back to work…Until the end of our shift… No breaks.
This time…I was put on the sorting line…which seems a lot easier than cutting. However…it was much harder to do. The belt went too fast. I started to put the wrong scraps into the barrels. I was afraid I was going to get the “boot” like Mario. However…I got the pattern down just enough to keep my job. Hours later…the new wore off, and I started to hurt all over. I was freezing cold, my back hurt from standing in the same position, my neck hurt from looking down at the assembly line, and my head hurt from thinking about sorting the correct peppers. 3 more hours of work to go…
I was going crazy.
The next 2 hours, I prayed to make it through my shift. I buckled down and worked faster to keep myself active and warm. Toward the end, we got sloppy. Bruce started to get distracted by the girls chopping cantaloupe near us…and stuff started to fall off the assembly line. We were done. The supervisor called it a day. It was 4pm! We got out early.
Bad news. iWork does not take you back to the office to get paid before the office closes at 6pm. You had to find a ride or take the bus.
I took the bus as far as I could…then a friend took me to the office to get my check. It was 6pm now. If you count the 4 hours before my shift…I spent 6 hours trying to get a job and get paid minimum wage.
Temp agencies are good places to find work, but they are a huge waste of time. They might serve a purpose…and try too.
I got paid 47.50 after taxes and agency fees.
If you count the hours at the Temp Agency and getting back. I made $3.60 an hour.
But it was money!
I bought 2 hot dogs, a chocolate shake, nachos, and drinks that night. I was full…and have much of my money left over.
That night, I attended a mission trip planning meeting. By 9pm…I was spent…Went to bed in the barn.
William was missing. I had to be at church at 7:30am. I did not wait for William to get back.
This man was tired.
Matthew 20:1-16: Posted on
“God’s kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.
“Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went.
“He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, ‘Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?’
“They said, ‘Because no one hired us.’
“He told them to go to work in his vineyard.
When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, ‘Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.’
“Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’
“He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’
“Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.”
Child: Posted on
According to our facts, on any given night there will be roughly 1600 individuals residing in my shelter (both indoors and outdoors). That’s a large community!
Between 3,500 and 4,500 individuals experience homelessness each night in San Antonio. So around 1000-2000 are without assistance.
As a Minister to Youth and their families, (and one of the main reasons I am on this journey)…here is the alarming fact:
Over 25% of the homeless are children and teenagers, half of which are under age 5. To add to the problem….Family homelessness in Texas has increased 15.9% since 2008.
(Each year, 25,000 people in San Antonio experience homelessness in some form or fashion.)
Due to the fact that I have been staying in an adult outdoor shelter or in an abandoned barn, I have not experienced many situations with homeless children.
However, the other night…I experienced children serving homeless adults under the 9th Street/281 bridge near downtown. The ministry is called Taking it to the Streets.
Taking it to the Streets is an ecumenical ministry based out of Boerne, TX and led by a church called “Nineteen:Ten“. Every Friday night, they meet under the 9th Street Bridge in Downtown San Antonio and serve homeless citizens meals, clothes, and a loving community. (Go to their website and you can volunteer your church to serve one week!)
The other night, the good people from nineteen:ten and other volunteers helped serve food and pass out bibles. (Even ran into some youth from my former church, UUMC.)
Here is the crazy thing….young kids from their children’s ministry were the ones walking around, talking with the homeless, and passing out water, bibles, and devotionals.
The adults and teenagers were behind the table serving the food and clothes…and their kids (4-6 years old) were evangelizing. (The parents were following their kids at a distance…but it was crowded.)
I was fascinated.
Why would a parent allow their kids to interact so freely with the homeless? Don’t they know the dangers? These people could present harm to their kids….or produce fear within them.
I don’t know what my church would do? I know there would be a lot of paperwork involved.
Here is the great thing about what I saw….
It was obvious the kids understood that they were serving people in need…and they were excited to serve by the looks on their faces and their eagerness to help. I am sure they understood the ” simple gesture “of passing out water and Bibles. Thought: “Simple Gestures (done in Love) are a vocabulary without words.”
Observing them…I could tell they had very little (or no) prejudice or stereotyped opinions about the homeless. They were treating them like everyone else! During the whole night, they treated everyone equally ..and with the same amount of love and joy.
Adults and teenagers have trouble with this concept. (It takes a lot of effort to drop our strerotypes.) Sure, adults were serving…but too often, adults can exude a self-righteous attitude when they serve the poor. I know I can. Regardless of our good intentions….that old weakness can sneak up on us and shine through the cracks in our surface!
It’s us and them.
The rich helping the poor.
The “blessed”and the “not so blessed.” The better and the worse.
The givers and the takers.
The volunteers and the homeless.
Adults create divisions…even in how we speak and serve.
These children didn’t grapple with this problem.
They served as equals.
Maybe this is why Jesus called us in Mark 9&10 “to have the faith of a child.” A faith eager to serve, live equally, experience wonder, and trust when many people say its foolish to trust…especially when we perceive possible danger.
It is foolish…but God desires that type of faith. 1 Cor. 1:27
If we minister in a fearless Faith…we can participate in the Kingdom of God…and experience the true Love of God in all that we do… Regardless of who’s got the money.
The Lord calls us to practice it! Church is all about practicing God’s love. It’s a consent pursuit until God returns.
Just the other night, I saw the children from Boerne experiencing a taste of God’s Kingdom under the 9th street bridge….Calling each of us to practice living out Love in our own lives.
It was a beautiful picture of Christ.
In the form of a small Child.
Mark 9:36-37; Mark 10:13-16: Posted on
Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf[h] welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them
Church: Posted on
I attend and minister at a really nice church. We have a gorgeous sanctuary, an education building, a children’s center, a creative life center, a community center, a coffee shop, a women’s shelter, and YMCA…
We are beyond blessed.
Sometimes we forget how blessed we are.
Recently when our youth group was in St. Louis, we drove past a part of town that was totally abandoned. Blocks upon blocks were empty, houses were destroyed and abandoned, and businesses and churches shut down. The area looked like a town after the Second World War. It was an astonishing site to see.
Somewhere on Salisbury Street, we drove past a large beautiful cathedral…About the same size as our church. It was massive. However, when we took a closer look at the church, we realized it was shut down and destroyed.
Honestly, it seemed as if it was bombed in a war.There were holes in the roof, the stained glass windows were shatterd and broken, and the walls were crumbling. How could this be? This place was once a thriving place of worship. No, it’s nothing but ruins in a dead part of the city? Were we in St. Louis or Rome?
What is church?
A few weeks ago, I blogged about how a terrible storm went through South Texas and the San Antonio Region. I wrote about the experience in the blog called “Storm.” As I mentioned in the blog, a tornado touched down in Divine, TX and destroyed many houses and buildings (including one of our custodial workers sister’s home.) The tornado also destroyed a local church. The church is called Faith Tabernacle Full Gospel Church.
Here is a picture of them worshiping this past Sunday morning…standing on the foundation after the debris was cleared away.
They have no building to go to…but they are still worshiping the God they Love!
Similar to my friends at Church Under The Bridge in Waco, Texas….they have no building…but that does not stop them from worshiping the Lord under a bridge. Only difference….My friends in Waco don’t even desire a building!
Here are four churches I have observed during lent…
One has a huge facility for thousands …and has only hundreds attend.
One has a beautiful cathedral that has been abandoned…no one to worship.
One has no building…but has plenty of people to attend.
One has no desire for a building and meets under a bridge with many…..Worshipers.
What is church?
How do we balance our material desires over and above the importance of authentic worship?
Just a thought.
Isaiah 61:10: Posted on
Rules vs. Red Tape: Posted on
Since my experience has started…I have realized that to receive aid as a homeless person (from a government run shelter), you have to go through a lot of red tape.
Red Tape is not surprising in some ways. I assume many of the rules and regulations they have in place are there for good reason…for safety, organization, control, and law enforcement. Rules are good. Moses had the 10 commandments. (And hundreds of other Mosaic Laws in addition too…)
However, there are some pieces of red tape that drive many of my homeless friends crazy, and keep them from entering places that can truly help them. Before you read this…I’m not saying the rules are bad or evil. Just observing the feelings of others here at the shelter.
Here are some rules: (Some rules are obvious…but just listing them….)
1. You cannot bring food into the outdoor homeless shelter.
2. No medicine is allowed to be taken without supervision…even if you are over 18.
3. No unopened drinks or canned drinks allowed.
4. No doors on bathroom stalls.
5. Sleeping Mats are taken up at 6:30am…and passed out at 9pm. (Only at those hours)
6. All bags must be searched before entering.
7. Outdoor Area gate closes at 10pm.
8. No Drugs or Alcohol.
9. Men and Women have separate sleeping areas outside. (Even if you are married.)
10. Can’t be drunk or high….and enter the shelter.
11. Laundry is allowed…must sign up at 4am.
When I returned to the Outdoor Shelter last night, I experienced a different atmosphere than before.
People were mad.
Apparently since I have been with William in his shed…the staff at the outdoor shelter has changed some rules in order to live in the outdoor area.
People here frequently say that the staff changes the rules all the time with no rhyme or reason. I bet that’s not totally true…but it appears that way to the residents. Here is what they are saying….
First change: to get a mat to sleep on at night you must now turn in your ID Card. This seems reasonable to me, but according to my friends, it is a huge disaster in the morning. At 6:30am, you have hundreds of people in line to get IDs back….so now, if you are going to work, you have to get up even earlier to miss the crowd so you are not late to work. It seems simple, but when you are out here living this way…it’s a big “pain in the rear.” (Before …you just had to return the mat back to the storage area…and because there was not a card return…it went super quick and efficiently.) FYI. If you lose (or they lose) your ID card…2 hours of community service is required to get a new one.
Second change: Starting tomorrow, residents cannot leave their belongings covered by tarps in the courtyard. They must store all there things in bins (which are nice and waterproof…I was impressed by the quality). Here is the Bad news. The storage bin area is only unlocked at certain times. If you work at odd hours or miss the timing, your things might get really wet…unless you take everything with you. Who takes everything they have to work? (Before now, you were allowed to cover your bags and belongings in tarps or bags so they would stay dry.)
Now, I don’t know the real reasons behind the changes. They might be good reasons. However, if it’s anything like the government (the outdoor shelter is county run), there is a good possibility that the people making the decisions are so far removed from the reality…and/or from the people they affect..that they have no idea of the difficult challenges they have created for the people effected. Instead, changes have been implemented that fail to be positive…nor do they work smoothly for everyone’s benefit.
Too much Red Tape? Is this why William sleeps in a barn?
I don’t know…but the answer is Not Simple…On both sides of the argument.
Psalm 118:1-4: Posted on
Thank God because he’s good, because his love never quits.
Tell the world, Israel,
“His love never quits.”
And you, clan of Aaron, tell the world,
“His love never quits.”
And you who fear God, join in,
“His love never quits.” (The Message)
HIS LOVE NEVER QUITS!
Month: Posted on
Just thought I would type that.
God has shown me a lot over the past month. It’s funny, now at the shelter I am one of the “tenured” homeless residents there. Many people come and go. Some stay a long time.
I have lost 10 pounds. I now weigh 160.
I guess that’s what happens when you walk everywhere. Hey, maybe this could be a fad diet!!
Friends…that’s the theme of the month. I have made some really good friends.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” CS Lewis
What will come of the next 2 weeks? I have a lot more questions and goals to seek out! I need a bucket list. I will work on that tonight.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or thoughts about my remaining journey, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org