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“The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Rom. 8:26

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Beth-El: "A house of worship" for the most marginalized

By Jessica Reid

“Jesus didn’t say, ‘Clothe the naked, but check for documentation first,’” noted Dave Moore, executive director of Beth-El Farmworker Ministry.

Dave spoke in morning plenary on Saturday, July 21, sharing news from the Florida ministry that advocates for and helps farmworkers. The group (who received a gift card offering at the Gathering) provides food, clothing, educational opportunities and a place of worship for some of the most marginalized people in the United States and also shares the story of the farmworkers with others.

Over the last seven years, Beth-El has provided food to more than 609,000 people and given away more than 80 tons of clothing while also providing a weekly worship place for hundreds. Beth-El continues to feed more than 600 families weekly. David says he couldn’t do so much without the help of Presbyterian Women.

PW’s Birthday Offering funded the expansion of the worship area in the main campus, which can now hold up to 250 people for services. Beth-El currently has four sites, including one in Immokalee, Florida, where farmworkers fought for a fair food agreement with Taco Bell. They won that fight in 2005 thanks, in part, to the support of Presbyterians. Now, they’re asking for a similar agreement from the Florida-based grocery chain, Publix. 

“What we are faced with now and have been for the past three decades—since the last immigration reform—is a broken system of immigration,” David told the crowd. “Comprehensive reform is needed. The life that exists in the river of hope surrounds four communities where we serve. God is in the midst of this city and we are a cove in that river.”

He says Hispanic immigrants (mostly from Central and Southern Mexico or Guatemala) constitute the majority of those working the fields. He estimates about 20 percent are Haitian, who arrived even before the 2010 earthquake. Most are in the United States to earn wages in support of their families in their home-countries, where there are few economic opportunities; most are also working in the hope of returning to their loved ones.

David says supporting those who have come here to seek a better life is not only the Christian thing to do, but it also helps our own agricultural industry.

“As we are commanded, we need to welcome the stranger, those aliens in our midst, not have the anti-immigrant laws that almost ruin the agriculture cycle,” David told the crowd. “Ask farmers in the two states immediately to our north, what happened when these states took immigration enforcement into their local jurisdiction. After one season, farm owners realized their crops would not be picked and lost billions of dollars in revenue.”

He says there are several ways we can help farmerworkers—organizing a clothing drive or food drive; leading a Vacation Bible School at Beth-El during June or July; collecting toiletries to be distributed weekly; making a financial donation to Beth-El; or by keeping the Beth-El Farmworker Ministry in your prayers.

The Work and Wages of an Average Tomato Picker

2 tons (4,000 pounds) = weight of tomatoes picked daily per person

$45 = average daily wage

$8,500 = average wage for seven months of work

$1.99= current U.S. average price of tomatoes*

$7,960 = amount paid for 4,000 lbs of tomatoes by U.S. consumers

$0.01 = increase per pound farmworkers are asking to receive

*Average price from USDA report for Friday, July 20, 2012, on seasonal vine ripe tomatoes

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