Contributor: Twila Bird, TSOS
Photographer: Kristi Burton, TSOS
We’re back with a new story from our partnership with Their Story is Our Story, once again featuring Israel and Marta!
Israel, from Mexico, and Marta, his wife from Honduras, are productive members of their community and committed volunteers in helping those who are following in their footsteps.
Israel: I walked 100 miles alone through the Sonoran Desert to get to the U.S. when I was 18 years old. It took me over a week. I didn’t see anyone during that time. After three days, my water ran out. I came across water tanks for animals but the water was green so I used my shirt as a filter. Also, sometimes at the bottom of the hills, the sand is dry but if you start digging and wait a minute, water will come out. I came to join my four brothers who have a cabinet making business in Phoenix. I began working with them. Our family is from Morelos, Mexico.
Israel and Marta began helping Central American asylum seekers last fall when families began coming in greater numbers to the United States. Since then, they’ve hosted over 500 people in their home. Once, they harbored a group of over 50 at one time. Marta explained how they managed to transport and offer amenities to so many at once.
Marta: That day, we went to the bus station around 3 p.m. and got the ladies with their kids. Late that night, Israel said, “Let’s go check on the men and see if another organization picked them up.” So we went around 11 p.m. and they were still there. A few of the men came over and started saying, “Please, help me. Give me just a little corner in your house.” And Israel said, “Okay, I’m going to take you.” But then they all were coming. And I said, “What do we do?” And he said, “I don’t know, but I cannot leave anyone.” And then I said, “Okay.” And he said, “We’re going to take everyone.” And he put 25 people in his truck — 25 people in his truck! I was inside and we had like 10 kids inside the cab and we put about 15 dads in the back.
Marta: The police were following us and I’m like, “We’re done. We’re done. They’re calling the helicopters. You know we look like human traffickers.” [Laughing] “We are done!” And one of the dads, he said, “No we just have to pray.” And I said, “Do you know how to pray?” He said something like, “Yes, we just call for the blood of Jesus to cover us and to blind the police officers’ eyes.” I said, “Okay, do that.” [Laughing] So he did it. And I think we were followed for about 2 or 3 miles but nothing happened. When we got home, the ladies started hugging and saying, “Oh my God! We’ve been praying for you guys. That somebody would help you.”
Israel: To get everyone cleaned up, we have this enclosed trailer out back that we use to transport the cabinets. We got a big plastic container and we put water in it. We set up a fire and then we got a pot like where we cook tamales. I had the men use the pot to heat the water for the ladies. And then we put the container in the trailer and had them go in one by one. That’s how they took showers with warm water—it was winter time.
Marta: Gather them up and bring them. We are capable. And when I say “we,” I’m saying the community. A lot of non-profit organizations. You know we are ready. We are ready to provide them with a shower and clothing, food, you know, whatever they need. We are ready. We are not tired and we will continue doing it. We love what we do.