By FRANK BUNAG
OXNARD, CALIFORNIA, December 7, 2013 – The local congregation of the Iglesia Ni Cristo in this vibrant southern city of California held an Aid for Humanity project and an Evangelical Mission in Spanish and English. It was the first ever Aid for Humanity event dubbed as Mis Compatriotas, Mis Hermanos (My Countrymen, My Brethren). Oxnard, a city in Ventura County, is home to thousands of migrant Hispanic families.
Sister Jennifer Dayrit, who works for the Ventura County Department of Public Health, stated that her agency provides many services to this huge low income population who mainly work as agricultural or farm workers. She decided to partner with Dr. Joe Mendoza, Director of Migrant Education, and the El Rio School District to invite these migrant families to an Aid for Humanity event sponsored by the Oxnard congregation whose officers and members worked together to provide assistance to low income families.
Prior to the event, the school district helped distribute invitations and flyers to over 200 migrant Hispanic families living within the vicinity of the Oxnard house of worship. Martha Aldana, one of Sister Jennifer’s guest and colleague, stated that, “This event was so timely because many of these families do not have jobs, since agricultural jobs are seasonal, and they are currently experiencing financial crisis and poverty.”
On the morning of the event, it was raining extremely hard due to a storm that arrived just that morning. However, once the activity started, the brethren witnessed a miracle as the rain stopped and the sun shone brightly only within the vicinity of the house of worship. Most of the families walked in order to get into the house of worship because they did not have a means of transportation. However, SCAN members were able provide rides to some of them.
Many of these families cannot afford winter or warm clothing for their children. One of the guests named Irma Gonzalez said, “Thank you for helping us. The kids are having fun.” Irma’s daughter, Maria, age 9, said, “My mom got my 2 younger sisters and 2 younger brothers some clothes that they needed. I got a teddy bear. We have jackets now. Thank you!” Maria’s 7 year old sister also commented, “I love it! My mommy is really happy. She even cried like a baby when she saw some jackets that fit us. I’m going to tell my classmates everything that I experienced today!” Another guest said, “Everyone is so welcoming and friendly. Seeing what you are doing to help others is really inspiring.”
The migrant families were very grateful for the free lunch, relief goods, clothes, blankets, shoes, and other basic necessities given to them. The relief bags included culturally-appropriate food staples commonly used by Hispanic families, such as long grain rice, pinto beans, Mexican pasta, noodles, and other items. Different tents or booths were set up at the compound that included activities for the children, a first aid and blood pressure screening section, and a media room and photo gallery.
The Evangelical Mission in Spanish was held at the main sanctuary and was officiated by Brother Andrew Paragas, Resident Minister of North San Diego congregation. Simultaneously, an Evangelical Mission in English was held in the CWS hall officiated by Brother Dino Bunag, the Resident Minister of Oxnard. Spanish-speaking members from Oxnard also helped in translating and communicating with the Hispanic guests. About 200 Hispanic guests attended the event and many signed up as Bible Students.
Sister Jennifer Dayrit and Bro. Dino Bunag contributed to this article.