A border-town church with a heart to serve those in need


MCALLEN—Four years ago, Esperanza Mostafá, a member of Primera Iglesia Bautista McAllen, walked into the Migrant Respite Center in McAllen and asked if she could volunteer. She let the volunteer coordinator at the Catholic Charities center know that she was a Christian and she wanted to help people in need. 

“There was no Christian church helping when I started serving,” Esperanza said. 

She spent three years serving at the center, preparing soup and other meals. Esperanza would take the opportunity to share the Gospel from a small New Testament she carried with her every time she could.  

One day in 2019, Pastor Daniel Caballero saw Esperanza crying at church and he asked her what was wrong. She told him that the Respite Center needed help and she felt burdened for Primera Iglesia to get involved. The number of migrants passing through the Rio Grande Valley had increased significantly, and the center was in need of assistance caring for up to 500 people a day.

Sarah Caballero, the pastor’s wife, started praying with Esperanza and other women in the church about how they could help. After several weeks of praying, Sarah felt like it was time to take action, and the women organized others in the church to cook a meal to serve at the Respite Center. 

The meal of rice, beans and chicken with vegetables was enough to feed 300 people and was provided through donations to the church. Women arrived at the church at 5 a.m. and spent the morning preparing the meal. They then transported it down the street to the Respite Center for distribution. 

The women enjoyed the opportunity to serve and decided to cook a meal once a month. Now, many others in the church are involved. 

“We like to let the community know there is a church that wants to help,” Sarah said. “We know the Lord Jesus and how he spent his time helping people. We want to do the same for others.”

Daniel recalled his own journey into the United States when he was a teenager and first crossed the border in the trunk of a car. 

“I came to the U.S. to find gold, and I found Jesus Christ,” he shared. His personal experience gives him great compassion for the journey of other migrants coming into the country and is a reminder of the deeper spiritual need many have. 

Lupita Mejía is a member of Primera Iglesia and has five daughters. Over the summer, she enjoyed bringing her daughters up to the church to help prepare the meal. 

“Even though it’s tiring to prepare a lot of food, we don’t feel tired because of the joy of serving,” Lupita said.

The church has found other ways to help, such as donating clothes to the center. While they may have limited resources, their desire to give and serve has inspired them to press on. 

“We want to do more and are doing so little-by-little,” Sarah said. “We serve with joy … pray for God to help us and that he would give us the knowledge to continue serving Him.”

If your church is interested in helping meet needs along the border, contact Texas Baptists River Ministry for ideas on how to serve. Visit txb.org/riverministry for more information. 

Read more articles in: news, border