A look back — and to the future
In September 2008, I saw the needs of refugees arriving in the Houston area. Having lived overseas for several years, I knew how frustrating it is to try to learn a new language and a new culture, so I quit my job in December 2008 and began trying to meet the needs of Bhutanese refugees arriving in the city from the back of my SUV. I had no previous knowledge of their culture, the story of their persecution or why they came to America, but I sought to meet practical needs and love them as God had laid on my heart.
I’d be the first to admit that I made a lot of mistakes that first year, but God blessed me anyway. The friendships I formed and the people I have grown to love will forever be in my heart. A local management company gave us an apartment and set up a donation room so newly arriving refugees could shop for what they needed. Eventually, Kids’ Club began and now has expanded to Saturdays and Sundays.
But in 2014, Bhutanese refugees began leaving Houston and moving to other cities to join families. My heart was broken because I knew I’d miss them and their children I had grown to love for more than five years. I saw them come to the city speaking little or no English, secure jobs and then become U.S. citizens. Some have even purchased homes in the Houston area.
As I prayed, ‘Lord, now what?’ I met refugees from other countries who also needed help with practical needs and help navigating our culture. The ministry has now expanded to three apartment complexes where we offer English classes. The vision for the future includes computer training as God provides volunteers with those teaching skills. People from all nations have arrived in Houston. Perhaps there is something you could offer the refugees: Teaching classes? Inviting a family to your home for the holidays? Opportunities abound. The nations are here. Will you answer the call?
Dear praying friends and supporters,
Words cannot express my gratitude for each one of you who have either prayed, served, or given to make this ministry what God wants it to be. It is more evident to me than ever before that He wants to provide for "the least of these" and it is such an honor to be in His service and watch Him at work through each of you.
This ministry could not exist without the many hands and feet that volunteer each week or once per year or once per month to serve Him. I feel so honored to meet so many brothers and sisters in Christ who are different in ethnicity and maybe denomination, but one in Christ. As I get to know each one of you personally, I am just in awe of how God knows exactly what the ministry needs when He calls you, and your being a part of His work is not an accident.
October was a blessed month As Ruben and the Woodlands Creative Arts ministry came to do mime drama and share their testimonies. Those young people are the best and so much fun to work with (Ruben agrees). We also were blessed with hearing so many children from non Christian homes profess to follow Jesus.
And, all of the triplets came home from St. Joseph's NICU. They are doing well, but it may take me a while to learn their names and which one is which. They look the same. Pray for Ashwin, though, who may have a hernia.
November has been blessed as well. Ellie with Clothed by Faith brought brand new warm coats to the kids and was it ever timely!! If you live in Houston, you know we had an early winter. I just smiled as I thought about the kids putting on their new warm coats to go to school when the temps were in the 30s.
But, November is not over. We still have a Thanksgiving Celebration coming on the 29th. A group of volunteers from Kingsland Baptist is coming with full thanksgiving meals for the residents at St. Cloud. This is a first and since there are 25 nationalities there, it will be interesting to see their response. I have asked them to bring an ethnic dish as well, so it will be interesting to see what we are given to taste. The true story of Thanksgiving will be read and a prayer offered for the food. This is special to me since I am told my great grandmother was American Indian and my grandparents on my dad's side came over from Scotland (not on the Mayflower). My kids used to think I came over on the Mayflower-NOT!! I am only 68!
December will be another special month. Three Christmas events are planned for the kids-another first. On December 13th, we will take the kids to Second Baptist West campus for a free puppet show and then treat them to Mc Donalds. On December 20th, the Trinity Mar Thoma church (the first church of India planted by St. Thomas) will take the kids to the church for a drama presentation, gifts and a meal. Then, on December 21st or 19th, the kids have been invited to go to Second Baptist Woodway to see the Christmas production and then eat out.
In all of the future activities. please pray that Jesus is glorified (it is after all His birthday), that the children are safe and we are safe as we travel about, that God will grant the children ears to hear and hearts to respond, and that He will direct the path of all who are doing the planning.
Thank you for taking time to read all of this. Whew! It is a lot. Thank you in advance for praying.
Thank you all who from FBC Katy for the new underwear and socks. Thank you moms who give your gently used kids clothing and shoes. Thank you servants for your time.
Can't close without a needs list. My friend Pam Garcia (now with Jesus) said she always got excited when she saw the needs list
Volunteers needed for ESL program on Monday (one hour)
Volunteers needed to chauffer children on the 13th of December. We usually have about 18 and my van only holds 5. We will need to leave home and arrive at St. Cloud about 10 am. on Saturday, the 13th. The puppet show lasts about 45 minutes, then we will go to Mc Donalds and should be back at St. Cloud by 2 pm.
Gently used kids clothing all ages, but primarily elementary age. Gently used sport shoes for kids sizes 1-6 . Any men's shoe sizes 7-9, and women's shoe sizes 5-8 (no spiked heels)
Target diapers sizes 3-6
Toothpaste and tooth brushes
Gift cards to Fiesta, and Payless shoes
Cash for sundries
Love to all,
A nurse practitioner examines a resident at St. Cloud Apts.
Nurse practitioners came and checked blood pressure, blood sugar and taught breast self exam today. One resident had blood sugar at 486. They must have seen at least 30 patients and gave free flu shots to the children. We are planning a CPR class in the future.
Also today, we gave out 15 bags of fresh produce to needy families.
On November 8 a non-profit will bring 30 new winter coats to the children we helped with school supplies.
We have aslso confirmed the serving of a Thanksgiving meal on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Turkeys and vegetables will be served to the residents, and they are welcome to bring an ethnic dish to share.
The Indian American Nurses Association along with Trinity Mar Thoma church will provide the Christmas meal, entertainment and toys for the children, most likely on the Saturday before Christmas.
How Grandma "walked" after being injured.
One Saturday, we put all donations of clothing and shoes out in the main area and watched as people came to "shop." In the donated items was a pair of large slightly worn women's shoes that had been there for months. An African lady walked in and picked up the old shoes. She tried them on and they fit. She immediately looked up to Heaven and prayed (I thought).
I wanted to talk to her but she did not speak any English. Later her granddaughter came to translate. Grandma said when she was in the camp in Kenya, she was taught that anyone who gave her something must have been sent from God. I told her that in five, almost six, years of giving out donated items, I rarely get a thank you and God gets even less thanks.
Today Grandma came to the apartmentwith her granddaughter and we were able to hear more of her story. I asked how she came to know Jesus. She said she was in an accident that prevented her from being able to straighten out her leg. Because of the injury, she had to scoot on the ground in a sort of sitting position. (See picture)
While in the camp in Kenya, someone told her that Jesus could heal her, so she prayed and then she could walk upright (see picture). "I thank God for the opportunity He has given me to encounter my Christian brothers and sisters from many nations right here in Houston," she says!
Her leg was healed after praying to Jesus.
Today, I was honored to present a check to Santa and her family for $300. Santa and her husband have two children, one is less than two years old and she is expecting another baby in a few months. Even though she is a new Christian and was surprised to be pregnant again, she did not heed the advice of friends and seek an abortion.
Santa and her family never ask for help, but recently she mentioned that her husband's hours had been cut and then the apartment management has increased their rent. In order to pay bills, they were thinking of selling their car, but then her husband would not be able to keep his job in Sugarland (not on a bus line).
The Holy Spirit prompted me to go and visit today and to give her a check. She was surprised and would have refused it if it came from me, but was willing to accept it from Loaves & Fishes.
As we visited she told me that her family is hosting church in their home tonight and went yesterday to get some snacks at Fiesta. On the way, they saw a Hispanic woman with two little girls holding a sign and asking for help. Santa and another Christian lady stopped to help. They talked to the Hispanic mom about Jesus and she accepted Christ. The other lady invited her and her children to come to the church and said the church would help them. Santa said she gave the lady some chips and drinks and the kids devoured them right away. They were hungry. Even though Santa's family is in need right now, she was still willing to use what she had to help someone else, just like the story of the widow and Elijah or the little boy with a lunch.
I was so proud of Santa and thankful that the church of Jesus stepped up to help "one of the least of these." If the "church body" did not give money to Loaves & Fishes, I would have missed a huge blessing today.
A donation box full of clothing contained an answered prayer for one Bhutanese student.
Today started out as a usual day. Thursday is donation day and ESL day. We were able to serve 44 families with donated items, toilet paper and diapers, etc. The ESL class was full but the teacher did not show up. Instead of turning people away, I recruited a volunteer who has never taught ESL. With just a few minutes instruction on the basics of teaching ABC, the class was turned over to a 17-year-old new volunteer.
Several ladies came for clothes for their children and one lady took a car seat for her friend who is having a baby. It always is a good feeling when you can help people. You are more blessed than being a blessing!
About 1 pm, I took the van for a much needed car wash. Some of my Bhutanese friends work at the car wash so we waved at each other (to the other workers’ amazement). The biggest surprise was when one of the Bhutanese ladies called me “Mom.” The Hispanic workers looked surprised. Why? I have blue eyes and gray hair.
Went to Denny’s for a late lunch/supper and then back to St. Cloud to wait for a man to bring a donation from his church. As I waited, I was impressed to go and ask one of the Bhutanese Christian ladies if she had food stamps and/ or needed help with food. She held her chest and said, “I was just wondering what to do. There is no food in the house.” I opened the refrigerator and the freezer, and there was very little food. It would not be enough to sustain a family of six until payday. “I needed help, but was too shy to ask,” she said. I told her that the donation was from Jesus through people who don’t know her, but love her, and she needed to thank Him.
The donation arrived about 5:30 pm and Sam and I put the items in my van. Just as we finished loading things, one of the Bhutanese students, Gorap, came and said he needed a lunch box for tomorrow. His school planned a field trip to the zoo and he did not like the food, so he wanted to take his lunch. Frustrated, I told him he needed to let me know sooner. I did not have a lunch box today and could not produce one before tomorrow morning. “Maybe there is a lunch box in here,” I said, seeing his disappointment. Looking at bags of clothing, I knew the chances of finding a lunch box were slim to none. Sam, the donor, said, “Why don’t you use Tupperware for your lunch box? That is what I use.” Gorap replied, “We don’t have any Tupperware at home.”
What to do? I uttered a quick silent prayer to Jesus as Sam looked in a box in the van. Soon his hands found a Tupperware bowl in the box that had nothing to do with Tupperware. Sam was amazed. “There is no way that Tupperware bowl should have been in that box,” he said. “Listen,” I said, “I have seen God do this over and over. He shows me repeatedly that He cares about the smallest details of our lives. As a matter of fact, I believe that He knew that Gorap would be standing here today and needed that Tupperware bowl for school tomorrow.”
I am blessed to see God at work every day in big and small ways. Truly, I can give nothing unless it is given to me. That is why this ministry is called “Loaves & Fishes.” In the parable of the loaves and fishes, Jesus was able to take what was given to satisfy the hunger of 5,000 men plus families and bless it to feed the multitude. He is still doing that today.
Dear Praying friends and family,
March was a marvelous month and I KNOW it was because people were praying for us.
St. Cloud apartments:
Spring Break: Fairway Baptist church came during spring break and spent quality time with the youth at St. Cloud apartments. They did a VBS program 3 days and then spent one day with the kids at a local park. There were 45 children who enjoyed a day at the park and pizza! In that group of 45 children were at least 5 nations and 3 religions and some Christians. We may never know the full impact of what happened spiritually-one young boy heard the plan of salvation and received the forgiveness of his sins. God is so good.
Donations: We have been blessed by those who give and those who serve. At least 40 people, including a newly arrived refugee family, were helped with gently used clothes, shoes, toiletries, toys for the kids, and food. On Thursdays, at least 40 families, sometimes more, come for diapers, wipes, shampoo, laundry soap, dish soap, toothpaste and other items needed for hygiene. These items are distributed because no government program meets that need. All of our families from Bhutan live in a low income project. Those who work are not eligible, so the majority of the recipients are the stay at home moms who don't have or can't afford child care or they have physical impairment which keeps them from working.
ESL program: the classes are packed with mostly elderly who take care of the small children so that their sons and daughters can work. But during the day, they come to learn English and they "glow" when they can say something in their "new" language.
Children's Ministry: The two Kids club groups are doing well. The children amaze me with how many Bible stories they have learned. We were privileged (due to a donation) to take some of the Bhutanese youth to the movie "God is not Dead." If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it to high school and college students.
None of this could happen without the wonderful, dedicated volunteers that God sends to His harvest fields. Pray that they do not become weary in well doing and boldly declare truth as their light shines at St. Cloud.
SANTA CRUZ apartments:
Our ladies Bible study began last Wednesday. We are going through the book of John and answering the questions: Who is Jesus? What are His names? What did He do? Through the wonderful gift of bilingual Bibles, Spanish and English, we are able to teach the Hispanic ladies. We also had an African American lady who came needing prayer and stayed. Guarded Heart Ministries and Loaves & Fishes is partnering in teaching the Word and praying for those who desire to be prayed for. Please pray for more ladies to come and for the Word to be planted in fertile soil.
Easter is coming this month so please pray for Easter program at Santa Cruz on April 11 and Easter program at St. Cloud (to be determined) to bring glory to Him and bear much fruit.
Thank you for taking time to read this and pray. God bless you!
Today I was excited to see one of my Nepali-Bhutanese "children" get her American citizenship after fleeing a Nepal refugee camp and coming to America for a better life. The ceremony was held at the M.O. Campbell auditorium on Aldine Bender. There were 1508 candidates from 112 nations there to receive their certificate of citizenship. I thought about my country and how my grandfather came from Scotland and settled here in the late 1800s. (Probably most people in the room could say their parents or grandparents were from other countries).
I thought about my "daughter" and her personal journey. She came here with her brother both in their 20s with no parents. She worked assembly at some horrible jobs, and walked or rode her bicycle to work. She was freezing the first winter because she did not know how to set the thermostat at her apartment. One afternoon while sitting on her balcony she saw a Burmese refugee shot in front of her and she had no phone to call for help if she needed to. All of the refugees then had to move to other apartments because of the violence. She enrolled in college and now has a nice car and a much nicer job.
America has been blessed to be a blessing to so many hurting people fleeing oppression or just wanting a chance for a better life. May God continue to bless us because we hold out freedom (though some is slipping away) and most of all hope to so many people.
The ceremony was well organized and short because I am sure there were so many people to receive certificates of citizenship. In 1996 I witnessed a similar ceremony in my Immigration building. There were only about 50 people then but each one was clutching an American flag.
Today a few people had a small flag but it was in their pocket. We said the pledge of allegiance to the flag but nothing was mentioned about putting your right hand over your heart. (Perhaps they were told, but forgot). Then we had a small choir sing the Star Spangled Banner and a few had their hands over their hearts. To coin a phrase from television: "Back in my day" I think I would have been scolded for not having my hand over my heart.
Immediately all of the new citizens were given voter registration forms and volunteers waited to gather them up after they were filled in.
God truly has brought the nations to our doorstep. What will we do to help them assimilate to their new culture?
Dear praying friends and supporters,
When I look back on a ministry that started from the back of a car to where it is today, I can only fall on my face (or my knees, if they allowed) and worship God. Who could have imagined where He was leading?
Receiving an apartment for ministry, a warehouse to store donations (winter clothes come in summer and vice versa), helpers to maintain the warehouse when my health failed, volunteers to teach the children and see their spiritual growth, ESL classes twice per week plus English sign language class, and donations given out weekly to about 50 families. Who could guess where all of these people and funds would come from? Only a sovereign Lord.
We are blessed to partner with such churches as Kingsland Baptist, Chinese Baptist, First Baptist Houston, Jersey Village Baptist, Sugar Creek Baptist, First Baptist Katy, First Baptist Crosby, Katy Bible Church and Tallowood Baptist. Upper Room Bible study, and Pregnancy Help Center-Katy and Second Mile have also helped. These church members have either volunteered in some capacity, given donations, or prayed for the ministry. All is needed and vital, especially prayer.
We have two major expenses each month: the warehouse and the commercial insurance on the ministry van. Those expenses total approximately $500 per month. Throughout the year we help families with diapers, wipes, shampoo, toothpaste, laundry soap and dish soap. These items are not supplied by government programs and when you are the working poor you cannot afford to buy these items, and therefore, the children suffer. Working parents pay rent, utilities, car loans (if they have one), car insurance, money for the laundry machines, money for the water machine, and their loan to come to America. Yes, refugees pay $1,500 per person for the airfare to come here. They have three years to repay the loan, but the note can be several hundred dollars per month. The items we supply cost between $200-$300 per week.
The Lord gave me several Scriptures in the early days of the ministry. One was "I was naked and you clothed me, I was hungry and you fed me. " Last Saturday, He encouraged me greatly. I had gone earlier in the week to the warehouse in Katy and found two pairs of boys' shoes that had been donated by someone (I never know who) and took them to the apartment. Almost as soon as I arrived, people were lined up for help. About 21 children came for clothes, shoes, back packs etc. In the afternoon, one small boy came with the worst looking pair of shoes I have ever seen and the smell from the shoes sent us out looking for a can of Lysol. It just "so happened" that one of the used pairs of shoes fit him. He was so excited, and so was I. Immediately the Spirit spoke to me and said, "As you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me."
God has been faithful to supply our every need and I praise Him. Many have asked if I receive support. The answer is yes, but it is used exclusively for ministry, either to supply a need, like gas and upkeep on the van or to give love offerings to ministry helpers from the Bhutanese community. All other donations go directly into the Loaves & Fishes account and is used to purchase items needed or help a family in need, or support ministries that have begun as a result of "feeding the hungry and clothing the naked." All of us are volunteers. I live on my Social Security :) . With what we have in the bank now, we can give out non-food items only until the end of the year and, hopefully, use what is left to pay ministry expenses until the mission teams have come and God has done His work. But I have seen Him supply at the eleventh hour and He has said to "Be anxious for nothing." If He cares about the sparrow that falls from the sky, He certainly cares about the needs of refugees at St. Cloud Apartments.
We are blessed with two Christmas programs this year. One is on December 7 and will be Christmas music sung by the Houston Home School Choir. The other is on Dec 14 and will be a reenactment of the Christmas story with real Bhutanese refugee children dressed in costumes (mostly from non-Christian homes). We will also have music, chicken nuggets supplied by Chik-Fil-A, and goodie bags for the kids on the 14th. In the spring, we will host a mission team from another city and in the summer we will host a returning mission team from another city. Our prayer is that these children will develop a heart for the nations and be called to missions. I also pray that the churches will serve in their communities if they have refugees.
It has been a great pleasure to serve Him in whatever capacity He calls, whether preaching the gospel, washing dirty feet, mentoring the Bhutanese Christians so that they can go and evangelize their people, or just giving a hug when needed. I thank Him for forcing me out of the boat to serve and allowing me glimpses of His power, and I thank Him for all of the wonderful Christian brothers and sisters that He has called out to be a part of Loaves & Fishes.
Many, many thanks go to all of you who have given a bottle of shampoo, or dish soap or prayed and asked others to pray for the ministry (we are always in a battle), given your time, or given money to buy supplies. I know that He will reward you because He promises that those things done in secret will be rewarded openly.
May the Lord bless and keep you. Have a blessed Christmas celebration!
Margie Randall, Directorwww.4loavesfishes.org
"Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do [it] to one of the least of these, you did not do [it] to Me." Matthew 25:45
One day, I was at the apartment and one 5th grader came running up to me and said "I am so glad that you are here. I prayed you would be." I was shocked. God had delayed me as I went to visit a family , otherwise I would have been on the way back to Crosby. You see, that young child needed socks for school and his family could not afford them and doesn't have transportation to go and buy them. It is all of these small "miracles" from God that just show me how much He cares for the needs of His people. I am convinced that He knew the young child needed those socks and had no way to get some, except through me. I am just the channel of blessings from Him. How humbling!
Yesterday, a young mother came to the apartment with her one year old baby. I don't know why , but after a Bhutanese helper told me she needed diapers, I asked if she needed formula. Another Bhutanese mom previously brought me about 8 cans that her baby did not use. I handed the young mom two cans and immediately the father went and made a bottle for the baby. The baby was so hungry that he ate all of that bottle in a matter of minutes. She had no way to communicate the need. The mother, you see, is deaf, and I do not know Nepali sign language and cannot understand her most of the time. She read my lips and nodded when I asked about formula, but could not tell me her baby was so hungry. She is a sister in Christ as well, and again, the Father showed me how much He cares.
Our needs are growing as families are hurting. The greatest need, and most expensive, is diapers. I have learned that not only is it a commandment to help "the least of these" and the "aliens within our borders" but there are other reasons. The Bhutanese women stay home with their children and breast feed them for about one or two years. That means only one income for an already low income family. Lack of money leads to marital strife and domestic abuse and abortion. I know of at least two babies who were not aborted because we can supply diapers, wipes, etc. to them on a weekly basis. We are like a refugee pregnancy help center. One of the babies, Abel, is celebrating his first birthday today. So, we press on to sow, and God supplies the need. Last Thursday we served 46 families in 3 hours.