An Eastside San Antonio community mobilizes to sacrificially love its unseen neighbors
While the COVID-19 pandemic has distressed the whole world, it has also highlighted and even exacerbated existing injustices. Months into the United States’ economic lockdown, San Antonio’s large population of undocumented families still cannot access government assistance and are left without support.
“Our undocumented neighbors are on the front lines of this crisis, in terms of their work,” Mark Cloherty, Servant Partners staff in San Antonio, Texas, reflected. “But since the crisis began, they have been offered no support at city, state, or national levels. This devalues and disregards the role of these families in our cities and communities. They are hidden away, and in this moment, have been let down badly and unjustly.”
In Eastside San Antonio, the pandemic has economically crippled undocumented and asylum-seeking families. Many parents have lost jobs or are left with reduced hours. This jeopardizes families’ food security, basic needs, and bill payments—and elicits emotional stress and desperation. As their neighborhood struggles, the Cloherty’s church plant La Iglesia Luz en el Barrio has looked to its own members to love their unseen neighbors.
“We are in ministry with people, rather than for people,” Mark said. “And so, our response involves mobilizing people that have also been recipients. Our outreach is completely sustained by our own church community. When a family’s rent goes unpaid, electricity cuts off, or food supply runs out, our own community members have been able to intervene and cover emergency costs. They’ve given time and time again, sacrificially.”
While self-preservation and excessive consumption grips the nation, members of La Luz en el Barrio have chosen to compassionately serve their neighbors. The church itself is made up entirely of locals, and has partnered with local organizations to coordinate consistent food distribution for 100 families. The Clohertys also started a Facebook group with 350 other neighbors to centralize requests for food, health supplies, bill payments, and more. Within days, the group took on a life of its own.
“People want to help, but they don’t always know how to help,” Mark said. “We’ve met new families through the group. As public transportation systems are down, people are offering their cars for accessing food supplies. People are standing in the gap for their neighbors.”
Through the Facebook group, people are supporting more vulnerable neighbors. The Clohertys know 25 different families from Honduras—fairly new immigrants without large social networks and or safety nets. But these families are sacrificially supporting one another with finances, food, toilet paper, and more.
“In a time where it’s easy to look to church leaders and pastors, the community can truly offer meaningful support to one another,” Mark said. “Don’t underestimate resources in your local community. We have to trust that God is already working in the context we’ve entered, in all sorts of ways through the community.”
You can learn more about La Luz en el Barrio at www.facebook.com/laluzenelbarrio/.