After the busy and full Holy Week that we celebrate each year, we take the week after Easter off to allow our volunteers to rest and have a break. We close our two main centers in Juarez, Mexico, including food distribution, having doubled up the previous week on the groceries we give out. That leaves our kitchens and refrigerators cleaned out and empty.
This year, when the ministries resumed and our volunteer cooks returned to the kitchen at our Las Alitas center in east Juarez, they found no food to prepare that day. The people responsible for buying groceries had been thrown off by the break in routine and had not restocked supplies yet. Usually on Saturdays we prepare a meal for all the children who attend catechism classes, plus all the adult volunteers who help out. This day the cooks only found one leftover loaf of bread – no baloney, no beans, no tortillas, no fruit.
Ramona, our coordinator, asked around and discovered one person had a packet of flour tortillas and some corn tortillas had been donated and were in the van, but that was it. The kitchen ladies were very worried, “What are we going to do? When it comes time for the meal, we’ll hardly have anything to serve.”
Esmeralda, one of our volunteers who lives nearby, spoke up: “I have some potatoes left from the groceries I received last time, and yesterday I cooked up a small pot of beans. I can go get those and bring them.” Ramona was hesitant to accept her offer since Esmeralda is poor herself and raising 4 children. But Esmeralda insisted that she wanted to share what she had. She was excited and happy that she could contribute something. Ramona thought then of the young boy in the Gospel story who shares his 5 loaves and 2 small fish (John 6:1-14), and so accepted her generous offer.
We sent someone to go to the corner store (which is tiny) to buy a few packages of chorizo, and Esmeralda ran home to get her small offering of beans and potatoes. With these meager supplies, the cooks went to work preparing burritos and tacos made with the sausage, potatoes and refried beans.
Mealtime came and went. Ramona had not eaten since she knew there wasn’t enough food, but she went to the kitchen to ask how it went. The cooks said, “We served food to everyone! Everyone ate their fill.” There was still food left, so Ramona ate too. That day we fed 123 children plus 58 adults. There is no way the amount of food present could have stretched that far unless God acted. Esmeralda gave what little she had, and the Lord multiplied it and fed everyone. Praise God!