Emma was a single mom for 12 years, after she and her three daughters left an abusive husband. She cleaned houses in New York, one of few jobs available since she had entered the U.S. without documentation years ago.
“My heart always felt this big need,” Emma said of her life then. Eventually, she met Father Julio at a Catholic church. He went back to his home country for a while, but felt the need to have a family. When he returned to the U.S., he left the priesthood, and the two met again, started dating, and married.
A pastor friend told Julio, if he wanted to stay preaching, he needed to find a church where pastors could be married. The couple attended a Lutheran church in Long Island for three years.
That same friend later visited the couple to ask if they would like to work for a church in a far off corner of Texas.
“I just said yes, not even thinking about how tough it would be to move far away from my three daughters,” Emma said. “I asked them to come with me, but they were in their 20s and had roots now in New York.”
Emma and Julio arrived in Eagle Pass in 2018 to a humble church with a big heart.
“It's a poor community,” Emma said. “The church doesn’t have much income, and people sell food to try to support the church itself.”
Emma and other volunteers recorded 40 stories from migrants they’ve hosted, detailing the horrific circumstances that prompt people to move thousands of miles from home. One man came home to find his mother and grandmother killed because they couldn’t afford to pay the gangs. Another woman’s son was viciously killed by gang members. Emma wants to highlight the stories and construct a Stations of the Cross in the peaceful tree-filled space behind the church. “We have here authentic Christs, walking their Calvary,” Emma said. “Everyone needs to think of the ‘why.’ People aren’t leaving their homes to come here on a whim.”
Those who stay at Frontera Ministries for three days have legal papers to continue in the U.S., usually applying for asylum.
“There are also those who arrive without papers just passing through,” Emma said. “But I give them food because it is a Christian obligation.”
Immigrants arrive from across the world, including Mandarin-speaking Chinese migrants and French-speaking Haitians. “We just have to use hand signals!” Emma said, since she speaks only Spanish and English.