COMMITMENT TO SERVE

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S.O.S Ministry Brings Hope to People of Matamoros

In a land not far from ours there lives mothers, fathers, and children who look a lot like our own. They carry the bloodline of our ancestors along with hopes, dreams, and the strife for a better life. But their reality looks radically different than those of us who after the commitment of our forefathers ended up on this side of the border. Not far from the Brownsville bridge, whole families in Matamoros are still digging around in what used to be dumpsites, looking for scraps to feed their children. Thankfully, there is a Valley ministry, Servants of our Savior Ministries, or S.O.S., that continues to remedy the hunger, lack of shelter, education, and medical care that continues not far from our homes.

S.O.S. Ministry was started 18 years ago by Paulino Gonzalez, a pastor living in Brownsville who noticed the impoverished lifestyle of certain neighborhoods, or colonias, in Matamoros. His attention veered to the groups of inhabitants who would claim 500 square feet of land on old dump sites, or basureros, and build makeshift huts for homes. It wasn’t long after that Gonzalez started to supply the people of these colonias with food, visits from doctors, and small, one-room homes through a ministry he created called S.O.S. Ministries.

S.O.S. was started specifically to bring aid and healing to people who otherwise wouldn’t have enough money to purchase daily meals for themselves or their children. The ministry continues to serve individuals in Matamoros and now Oaxaca, México. It is still operated under the leadership of Gonzalez, but now is faithfully co-managed by his adopted daughter, Rosaneli Barreiro, and her husband, Aaron Barreiro. Rosaneli, having been plucked from a life of economic disadvantage herself at 14 years old, feels an urgency to continue to serve the areas where she has a strong family and cultural tie.

“I was living in Matamoros for two years and my family was really poor,” she said. “I got to know a missionary who visited our town, Paulino Gonzalez, and his wife, Tere Gonzalez. They allowed me to live in their home and the treated me like a daughter. They gave me the opportunity to study.”

While going to school, Rosaneli was able to attend missionary trips with the Gonzalez family in Oaxaca, providing wellness supplies and services that included glasses to those who couldn’t afford eye care, trips to the doctor, and meeting people’s basic needs with food every day. This even began building small, one-room houses in neighborhoods, all the while making sure to share the love of Jesus Christ to all who came.

“From that point, I fell in love with serving people for Jesus,” Rosaneli said. “When I saw the need in these colonias I felt in my heart a need to live to serve other people. When we serve others, it actually makes us happier. Sometimes we don’t have much, but we try to do whatever possible.”

S.O.S. continues to supply groceries like milk, cooking oil, and other non-perishable groceries to the colonias the organization’s members visit. Rosaneli recalled an endearing moment in her experience when an elderly woman walked over 2 miles to a ministry campsite and asked for a bag of beans and tortillas because she was hungry and had no other means of obtaining food. Moments like this only solidify the need for the ministry to help the less fortunate with the basic tools they need for survival.

Not only is S.O.S. providing the basic needs, they also extend their programs to cover scholarships for children of all ages to go to school. One hundred percent of the funds given to the ministry is poured into outreach programs. Currently they receive funds from churches in Indiana and Michigan, and from donations from personal givers. Rosaneli and her husband currently work a side job to provide for their own personal needs to make sure that all of the giving goes back to the ministry.

“Paulino will do anything to raise money — he’ll resell items he’s refurbished or sell his own personal items for the ministry,” Aaron said.

Some of the future plans include continuing the current outreaches, like building houses, and supplying groceries, scholarships, and medical treatment, along with also implementing a community center in a building that once used to be a soup kitchen.

The community center will supply kids with supplemental reading programs in addition to receiving a scholarship to go to school. S.O.S. also hopes to implement classes that will offer recipes, English tutorials, introduction to different career options, and technology.

“Our goal is to the let the children know that where they’re at now is not the only option in life, we want to expose them to new things and new opportunities,” Aaron said.

In encouragement of this mission, S.O.S. was pleased to receive 15 drones from a technology company in Edinburg called Nerdvana, whose mission aims to implement drones, virtual reality, robotics, and programming into innovative learning experiences for children in the Valley.

The ministry also hopes to start providing families insulation for their small homes when they build future houses. Currently, there is not enough funding to fill the one-room houses with insulation, and it would greatly benefit the families with small children during the extreme weather during summer and winter.

S.O.S. Ministry offers people of the Valley a chance to reconnect to their roots in a tangible way. As Americans with Mexican roots, many people rarely or never experience the burden of not knowing if they will have food to feed their children tomorrow, or experienced a storm without a roof over their heads. To realize that families have survived impoverished lifestyles in Mexico and have somehow worked their way out of it powerfully reunites a disconnect some people may have accidentally slipped into.

“Our hope is that people right across the border would recognize that immediate needs who even with just a little bit of giving, whether it be time or finances, you could literally change a life so easily,” Aaron said. “And with the impact of more people from the Valley, there’s millions of people who live between Starr County and Cameron County. Those millions of people would mean the impact could potentially be great if we were willing to put in that effort.”

If you would like to help hundreds of children and families in need thrive, please consider giving financially to S.O.S. Ministry. If you’d like to help one-on-one, volunteers are always welcomed. For more information and to find out ways to give, visit the website at www.aaronyrosaneli.weebly.com or email them personally at aaron.rosaneli@gmail.com.