As a child, Ricardo spent many of his summer vacations working as a migrant worker.
When he was six years old, Ricardo’s family started a summer tradition of driving from their small home in San Antonio, Texas, to upstate Michigan. There, the whole family would work in the fields as seasonal farmworkers, picking strawberries and trying to earn enough money to ensure all 10 kids had what they needed when they returned to school in August.
As they traveled, his father, a widower, would often stop at truck stops to sleep in the car. It wasn’t uncommon for the family to have gas station sandwiches and snacks for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Once they returned to San Antonio for the new school year, Ricardo would watch all his friends gather to swap stories about family vacations and summer escapades. Because he had worked all summer, Ricardo would try to spin his account of the strawberry fields into an “all-you-can-eat” buffet he and his family had visited.
Once Ricardo grew up and joined the Air Force, he made sure to stay involved in ministries for migrant children wherever the military stationed him.
Before joining Send Relief’s volunteer teams, Ricardo drove a bus through the Florida heat to pick up 99 children along a winding route to get them to church on Sunday mornings. When he discovered Camp Rock, Send Relief’s Valdosta Ministry Center, serving families and children working in carrot farms in Georgia, he immediately volunteered as a Spanish translator.
This year’s Camp Rock program had 45 migrant children participate—from kindergarten through eighth grade. The kids swam in the pond, made crafts and acted in Bible skits and they played and acted like children.
“You can tell they haven’t experienced that a lot—getting to be kids and have fun,” Camp Rock Specialist Ryann French shared. “The joy on their faces when they arrived was palpable! They kept asking us if they could come back and if camp could last longer than just the summer.”
Campers receive three hot meals a day and go home with extra meals for their older family members. One family who could not afford clothes for their children received new wardrobes for the whole family. Even more exciting, volunteers witnessed 10 new commitments to faith!
Commenting on the camp’s impact, Specialist French said, “Most families come here for a few months and rotate out with the new crops, so we have a brief window in which we can make a difference. When you look for opportunities to interact, you will find them. The language barriers become obsolete when there’s welcoming, games and joy.”
And the volunteers witness all the laughter and healing. “The church has an opportunity to step up and be an active participant in sharing the gospel no matter where people come from—every nation, tribe and tongue. Jesus was a refugee,” French explained. “He’s the basis for our faith and these experiences are life-changing! These encounters make a world of difference and it’s a reciprocal relationship—it changes our kids’ and volunteers’ lives.”
If you would like to volunteer on projects like these at Send Relief’s ministry center in Valdosta, GA, click here for more information or to sign up for a mission trip today!
In the meantime, pray for the addiction issues and human trafficking exploitation common in migrant camps and for the people impacted by it to find healing. Pray for fellow believers to recognize that the nations have come to us and that we have an extraordinary opportunity to welcome them and make them feel at home. Pray for the Send Relief staff and volunteers, like Ricardo, to continue meeting the specific needs of these children who have already experienced so much trauma.
Published December 1, 2022