Dear Sisters and Brothers of El Camino Real District,
This is one of the last letters I will write to you before I leave the district in June this year, and perhaps the most important of all. I ask you to read until the very end!
I pray that you are safe and well amidst the order of shelter-in-place. At the onset of the outbreak, our District team began asking people in the district, “What are the needs? How can we be helpful?” Very soon, it became apparent that the most vulnerable among us are those without a visa who have lost their jobs. They were already vulnerable, but their hardships have been magnified during Covid-19, without an income or governmental support. Most of them had been working in restaurants, construction, agriculture, house-cleaning, and caretaking, but lost their jobs almost immediately after shelter-in-place was ordered. Here are several stories of families who have reached out to us. All names have been changed for privacy.
-Margarita is an 80-year old woman from Mexico. Though she and her husband, who is in a wheelchair and unable to work, have lived in the United States for decades, they have yet to receive their permanent residency. She takes a five o’clock morning bus from downtown San Jose to Milpitas where she cleans houses three days a week for living. Last year, with an invitation of her neighbor, she began attending a local United Methodist Church and eventually became a member. According to her pastor, she happily tithes and volunteers at the church as much as she can. It has been a very difficult two months for Margarita and her husband as she lost her job and is not receiving any financial support.
-Sophia and her brother are a freshman and sophomore in high school. They are both very active in a youth ministry program at their United Methodist Church. Their father returned to Mexico four months ago where he died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Unable to travel to Mexico, Sophia, her brother, and her mother are doing what they can to keep the family together amidst their grief. It was then that her mother was laid off from a fast food restaurant where she had worked for many years, and the family is not able to receive any assistance from governmental programs because of their visa status.
-Martha has worked as a farmworker in the strawberry fields. As a way to improve her life and to care for her three young children, she took part in a program that teaches new skills for work, sponsored by a United Methodist Church. Last month, in addition to losing her job, Martha had to have emergency surgery on both of her breasts to remove potentially cancerous cysts. She does not qualify for medical insurance because of her immigration status. She has to make a payment every time she goes to her doctor appointments. As a single mother, she is trying desperately to provide for her three children during this challenging time.
We have received requests from various churches in the district totaling 121 families that make up 485 people including 253 children. Their stories are each unique and different, but the common theme is that they are all desperately trying to survive with the loss of their main source of income.
In partnership with the conference Office of Disaster Response, the El Camino Real District is starting a fundraising campaign to raise $50,000. As a part of the effort, we are also applying to the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) for up to $20,000, which will be used as a matching grant. When we meet the goal, we will be able to offer the average amount of $400 per family depending on the size of the family. If we receive more, we will give more! The purpose of the fund is to provide the basic support for their groceries, as well as other supply needs and expenses such as their medical fees. We know that $400 per family is not enough. The state of California is currently working to provide a fund to undocumented immigrants, but it is projected that not all undocumented immigrants would receive it. Even if a family were to receive both our fund and the state fund, the combined amount will not come close to meeting all of their needs such as rent and other payments. Our hope is simply to help with their most basic needs.
There are two ways to donate toward this cause. One is to send a check to the conference with a memo: “ECR relief fund”. Another is to click here for online giving. The donations are tax deductible. Pastors, I ask you to pass this message on to as many people as you can in your congregation and beyond!
What I have come to experience in my ministry is that God is not a God of scarcity. Time and again, God has proven to be a God of abundance and God’s abundance is revealed through God’s people. As John Wesley once said, “(Money) is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father for the fatherless; we may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death.”
With my sincere gratitude,
D.S. Shinya Goto
Dear Sisters and Brothers of El Camino Real District,