Cambiando Vidas (Changing Lives)

Emmanuel is a child from Tijuana and part of the feeding program “Cambiando Vidas (Changing Lives). This feeding ministry is centered in one of the most marginalized zones of Tijuana; a place recognized for its extreme poverty and home to hundreds of families who fight each day to stay alive. Among issues like family abandonment, lack of employment and violence, “Cambiando Vidas” ministry truly has come to bring change to the lives of the families in this community.

Emmanuel is one kid that found refuge at this feeding program. At just nine years of age he was already in a desperate search to see change in his life. Brother to six others and the son of a alcohol and drug addicted mother, Emmanuel frequently roamed around the streets to find something to eat. Once he realized there would be a feeding program coming to his community, he saw an opportunity. He says, “... well I knew that they would be giving people food so I went to see if they would give me some too. They did, and the food was very good! They even invited me to come back if I was ever hungry again, and to even bring my brothers if I wanted. I was a stunned and asked the lady if they were gonna charge me for it at the end, but she said no, so I came again. She also told me that there was a simple request for me to come and listen to a story, that we would learn about God together. I really didn’t want to, but I was hungry, so I came back.”

 Mrs. Sabina, the main leader at the feeding program smiles each time she speaks about Emmanuel. She joyfully expresses that “even though at first he did’t want to come to the bible story teaching, as the days went on, he started arriving earlier and earlier until he was the first to show and the last to leave.  He even stayed to help clean up.” Sabina also comments that as the weeks went by, the other brothers and even Emmanuel’s mother started coming to the feeding program.

A few months into his journey at the feeding program, Emmanuel heard that they would be having a special activity - “retos” (challenge); a program designed for children and teens to develop discipline in their day to day activities, have healthy living habits and even overcome personal fears or obstacles. Each kid accepted a challenge, in the hopes of having consistency over the period of three months and finally overcoming it. For the enthusiastic Emmanuel, this was no activity, but a true challenge which would prove evidence in his life. He decided to formalize it by vowing that he would eat vegetables every day! Emmanuel explains his choice of challenge by stating that “Mrs. Sabina would tell me that the reason why I had white spots on my face was because I didn’t eat well; that I needed to eat more fruits and vegetables. I liked fruits very much, but not vegetables, so my challenge was to eat vegetables
so that I could be well.”
An amazing hymn to any mother right? ‘My child will voluntarily eat more vegetables’; but in Emmanuel’s context where scarcity is normal, finding vegetables to eat every day was truly a challenge. Emmanuel says, “at the feeding program it was easy to eat vegetables, we had them everyday. But on those days when there was no feeding program, it was hard because I had to work really hard to have vegetables and sometimes I almost didn’t make it.” Even through his obstacles, Emmanuel persevered and faithfully found some type of vegetable to eat each day. However in the closing weekend of the special “challenge” program, Emmanuel faced a true challenge- this time he really had no vegetables within his reach! Mrs. Sabina speaks about how at this point, Emmanuel was facing true challenge, where he had exhausted all the options any nine year old would have: “he had no way of getting money to buy it at the market, his neighbors had nothing to offer him and he was too ashamed to beg on the streets.” But finally, and in hope of overcoming his challenge, Emmanuel went to a near by neighborhood knocking on doors and sharing his need with anyone who would listen. After 22 homes, finally someone offered him a piece of onion. Of course he did not reject the old piece of onion! Instead he was grateful and gladly took it home to cut into two pieces. He says: “I though, there are two days left, I can cut it into two and have one piece today and another piece tomorrow.” Emmanuel was overjoyed when was able to show up on Monday at the feeding program and share with Mrs. Sabina that he had in fact, completed his challenge like a champion- he ate vegetables everyday!
Emmanuel was celebrated and rewarded at the feeding program for his true effort in overcoming this challenge. He speaks about his victory: “it's because I believed what Mrs. Sabina told us that day, ‘with God all things are possible’, and now I see that it is true.” Emmanuel has found a family at “Cambiando Vidas” Ministry. To this day, his siblings and his mother attend faithfully and together listen to the word of God as they share a meal.

Sabina thanks Outside the Bowl for partnering with their ministry in their mission to feed the hungry physically and spiritually. “We honestly don’t know if we would have been able to keep on (feeding) without your contribution. It would have been too high of a cost for us to continue, but we thank God Almighty who opens doors of light in paths of darkness.”

Written by Vianney A. E.