Hispanic churches minister to homeless people
Story and photos by Irene A. Harkleroad | May 19, 2023
Each Saturday morning, members of Centro Cristiano De Alabanza y Adoración in Phoenix seek homeless people who are in miserable and often potentially threatening places: under bridges, in parks and other quickly expanding pockets of despair and depression in the city.
Saturday, Feb. 4, was no different. Fourteen committed members carried food, water, coffee and clothing to a homeless encampment beside a bridge at 27th Avenue and Thomas Road.
From the time they got out of their vehicles to gather at the bus stop at QuikTrip, people were waiting for whatever the church had to offer. Ragged and dirty, many appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Some were asleep, passed out or hiding under blankets.
While church members handed out burritos, water and clean clothing, others began to pray. They did not pray quietly. They shook the heavens as they pleaded for the salvation of each person.
Among the tents, Pastor Enrique Borja; his wife, Enelida; and their church family shared the Gospel with anyone who would listen. They handed out food and poured coffee. They stopped and passionately prayed over each tent and the lost souls who called it home. Other members distributed clothing to those who needed it.
“The last time we were here, there were many people under the bridge,” Borja said. “We were here almost every week. One day when we came, the people were gone. We don’t know what happened to them, but we believe it’s God’s work.”
This happens often. People from other churches that are involved, like Iglesia Expandiendo El Reino De Dios, say they are seeing the same thing.
Centro Cristiano De Alabanza y Adoración members regularly go to several places along 27th Avenue. They also minister on Indian School, Camelback, Bethany Home and Bell roads, along with
Van Buren and Northern avenues.
The main reason they go is to share the Gospel. They are also motivated because a person they know is on the streets.
“Things are very bad,” Borja said. “We see many kids 15 to 17 years of age who have dropped out of school.”
Church members offer to take people to rehab centers and then encourage them to seek restoration at places like Victory Outreach and Church on the Street.
With the onslaught of fentanyl on the streets, the situation grows more dire.
“We’ve been doing this for many years,” Borja said. “There are more needs now than ever before.”
While Spanish is the first language of the church members, many of the people they minister to do not speak Spanish. Despite the language barrier, this has not stopped them from fulfilling the
“We believe in prayer, and I believe more churches can be involved in this work,” Borja said. “I encourage churches to go to these places and pray for people in person. We thank God that other churches are doing this now. If we can have unity in prayer, we can see great things happen in our state.”
- Pray with your church leaders for God’s guidance in beginning a ministry to homeless people.
- Locate the homeless people in your community.
- Develop a ministry team for this specific outreach.
- Determine how you can most effectively minister. Should you go or should you support those who are going by providing food, clothing, toiletries and prayer?
- Invite other churches in your area to partner with your team.
Irene A. Harkleroad, a freelance writer living in Carefree, is a member of Black Mountain Baptist Church, Cave Creek.