UMTV: Hispanic Clergy Migrant Ministry
America's 2.5 million farm laborers work long days and follow seasonal crops. Life on the move makes it hard for farm hands to have much quality of life. In 2010, Reed Galin showed us how a California couple was making sure migrant workers get some support from the outside world.
(Locator: Porterville, California)
Farm workers in California's Central Valley produce 8% of the crops in the U.S. They put food on tables, but often can't afford meals for themselves.
Marcelo Escarzaga delivers meals, water, and prayers of encouragement.
(Marcelo praying for the men) "I want to ask you Lord for these men&ellipsis;"
Here, men and women labor six days a week in the blazing sun following the crops in season.
Marcelo and his wife Corazon are both pastors who have built their ministry around understanding the challenges of this nomadic lifestyle.
Marcelo Escarzaga: "When I got my feet dirty in the fields and when I was harvesting grapes alongside the men, it was a big impact on them. They said 'the pastor is one of us.'"
Corazon Escarzaga: "I can learn more about their reality by visiting the women in their homes and kitchens, going with them to their English classes."
Corazon has four children of her own, so she knows how long work hours strain families. Domestic violence is common, and children often don't have a relationship with their fathers.
Corazon Escarzaga: "We are trying to inspire the people we serve through our example. So they can see a family who takes care of the children and teaches them family values."
Marcelo mentors children through soccer and talks to them about healthy living.
Marcelo Escarzaga: "It's very important to do exercises: walk, run, play soccer."
Unlike their parents, these children are getting an education. They hope to find better jobs. Junior is a teenager who sometimes works in the fields to help his mother cover rent and buy clothes for his brothers.
Junior, Farm Worker: "I used to tell my mom, 'That's an easy job.' But she brought me here and it wasn't."
The Escarzagas serve three United Methodist churches, offering spiritual support to laborers far from home. They also give practical support like clothes and food.
Church member: "Do you have more family who needs any?"
Corazon and Marcelo came from urban Mexico. Their rural mission field in the U.S. provides opportunities they never dreamed of.
Corazon Escarzaga: "My life can touch in the morning someone from Nicaragua. In the afternoon, I can find a person from Mexico. At night, I can finish it up with a person from southern Mexico. The outreach is tremendous every day."
For more information on Marcelo and Corazon Escarzaga and their ministry, contact the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church at 916-374-1500.
Posted: Oct. 14, 2010