Lynn Morstead and her husband Kip Krause volunteer at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas to help immigrants who have been released to stay in the United States. Please enjoy Lynn’s recount of “miracles” that occurred during two of their most recent visits to McAllen.
The first time this happened, it felt like a scripted movie scene – the too-perfect resolution of a crisis in the storyline. As we were winding down our day, we realized we had a problem: No food for a wave of unexpected guests. The young VISTA volunteer-organizer, Cesar, reached for his 20-something go-to solution for quick and easy food needs. You guessed it, take-out pizza. Phone in hand, order taker on the line and just about to call out the credit card number, there’s a knock on the door. I open the tired parish hall door to a stranger asking me if we could use the hot meals they had in their van from a cancelled reception. I shout to Cesar to hang up on the pizza call – we have a better option.
My response? Hopping around in disbelief, joy and amazement as if I’ve just witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. I’d never witnessed anything like this.
Cesar’s response? It’s a genuine expression of gratitude and thanks to the local ladies who knew enough to drive here with their abundance. Cesar took this more in stride, almost routine. He’s seen this before.
We were working at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. The center is housed in a parish hall a block from the Greyhound bus station in downtown McAllen. Legal asylum seekers come for rest, refreshments and restorative love between their ICE release at the bus station and their departure to sponsors at all points across the country. Most of the travelers arrive and leave between sun-up and sun-down, so our volunteer efforts usually wind down by supper time.
On this evening however, many of our travelers had next-day departure times, so they would be staying overnight. We had run out of the healthy soup the Salvation Army delivers every day and hadn’t foreseen this need. Fast food is not a good option for the delicate stomachs of the asylum seekers still recovering from their journey to the border. We didn’t want to order pizza but didn’t see any other practical option.
Then an angel showed up with a van full of meals.
The second time it happened, the plot line was similar. We had taken a group of overnighters to an overflow auditorium at the campus of the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle a few miles away. When I returned the next afternoon to bring them back to the bus station for their onward journey I learned that they had not received any food yet that day. It appeared there was a breakdown in communications with the volunteer team at the overflow location. I called in to the Respite Center coordinator, Alma, back in McAllen – alas they will have to wait til the supper delivery.
Now we just wait a couple of hours. Since it was our first time to the Basilica, we step outside to check out the facilities. In the breezeway we noticed a woman clacking her way toward us from the parking lot in the highest of heels. She was wearing a crisp cotton pinstriped dress and designer aviator sunglasses, holding a stack of polystyrene prepared meal boxes. Behind her we could see a BMW SUV’s hatch back propped open. Obviously, a volunteer, but looked like she was on her way to a fancy party. Wow, Alma got on that faster than expected – we had just hung up with her.
We hurried to meet our rescuer and help carry in the food. As we greet her remarking on how quickly Alma had connected with her, she explains that she doesn’t know anything about Alma, or the Humanitarian Respite Center.
So where did she come from? Why was she here? Why right now?
We learn that the past few months she has been coming to the Basilica to pray for her younger brother’s recovery from an extended coma brought on by an inexplicable seizure. He had recovered “gracias a Dios” but was now left with a very large medical bill. That day she had hosted a luncheon fundraiser to defray his medical costs. There were many leftover meals, which she wanted to donate. As she was driving around trying to figure out what to do with these meals, she felt called to come back to the Basilica, where she had prayed for her brother’s healing. She drove around the parking lot until she found a security guard patrolling in his electric golf cart. He didn’t have any suggestions other than to try the auditorium in the social services area of the campus – that’s where she found us.
Another food miracle? Another angel showed up, as if on cue. God’s hand is clearly at work in this mission of love and care for our fellow man. I could stack up adjectives to fill the page, but it wouldn’t describe the wonder and the awe that these experiences. It’s a privilege to be a witness.