Tzu Chi Midwest Distributed Winter Supplies Just In Time for the Holidays

Midwest  |  January 31, 2024
Churchgoers who received winter supplies showed happy smiles on their faces.
Church members receiving winter supplies, with smiles on their faces. Photo/Shangyu Dai

Translated by Ariel Chan
Edited by Patrick McShane

Although the United States is an immigrant country, the challenges faced by new immigrant families hoping to establish roots in the United States are still diverse. According to data from the Migration Policy Institute in 2021, immigrants accounted for 14% of the total U.S. population, but the proportion of immigrants who experienced poverty that year was 24%. These figures highlight the economic challenges faced by immigrant communities. In addition, new immigrant families face cultural and language barriers, exacerbating the difficulties of starting a life in a new home. Establishing oneself in the United States is not easy. Nearly 9,256,000 immigrants faced poverty before the COVID-19 pandemic, and many more have fallen into economic hardships since. Most low-income immigrants in the United States come from Latin America and the Caribbean, which often means they arrive in the United States unable to speak English, and unprepared for the harsher climates found in Northern regions of the country. 

Elias Cabarcas, 59, from Colombia in South America, is the pastor of Christ Church Presbyterian. He and his wife jointly maintain this church, which has a large congregation. “Our community is composed of people from Latin American countries, such as Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, and other countries,” explained Pastor Elias.

New immigrants born in Latin America and the Caribbean face the toughest economic conditions in the United States.
New immigrants born in Latin America and the Caribbean face the most severe economic conditions in the United States. Source of image/Migration Policy Institute official website
The pastor takes a photo with Tzu Chi volunteers.
Pastor Elias Cabarcas with Tzu Chi volunteers. Photo/Shangyu Dai

Several years ago, Pastor Elias learned about Tzu Chi USA Midwest from the nonprofit organization Illinois Community for Displaced Immigrants. As he began to learn more, he learned about many of the benevolent actions Tzu Chi was undertaking in the area. Since then, for several years, Tzu Chi USA Midwest has donated many supplies to this church, providing spiritual and material assistance to impoverished new immigrant families in the congregation.

On Christmas Eve, Tzu Chi USA Midwest once again visited this church, bringing various winter supplies to all families in need.

Distribution in Joyful Warmth

On December 24, 2023, a dozen Tzu Chi volunteers carrying bags of winter supplies, arrived at the church. Upon arrival, the volunteers got busy immediately, neatly arranging the supplies for distribution. The variety of winter supplies this time includes fuzzy hats, gloves, shoes, warm blankets, and scarves.

Winter supplies are neatly placed.
Neatly arranged winter supplies. Photo/Shangyu Dai
The priest lights the candle.
Pastor Elias Cabarcas lighting candles. Photo/Shangyu Dai

With everything ready, Pastor Elias walked to a candle stand in the sanctuary, lighting the candles one by one, slowly adding a faint and warm glow to the space. In the Christian tradition, candles symbolize the selfless dedication of Jesus Christ. Their brilliance not only symbolizes Jesus’ salvation to believers but also symbolizes the power of light driving away darkness. Just as Jesus sacrificed himself to the world, candles burn themselves but illuminate the surroundings, bringing warmth and light to every corner, dispelling darkness completely.

As cheerful and lively music played, children with handbells joyfully rushed to the stage, singing festive Christmas songs. The children’s voices were pure and melodious, like angels singing, full of festive joy and boundless warmth. The Tzu Chi volunteers sitting below all had smiles on their faces, feeling extremely joyful and giving warm applause to the children’s wonderful performance.

Children hold rattles and perform Christmas songs and dances.
Children performing Christmas songs with handbells. Photo/Shangyu Dai
Tzu Chi volunteer Yamei took the stage to introduce the winter supplies distributed to the church members.
Tzu Chi volunteer Yamei introducing the winter supplies distribution to church members. Photo/Shangyu Dai

Later, Tzu Chi volunteer Yamei went on stage to explain the winter supplies distribution to the church members. When introducing the warm scarves, she emphasized that these warm scarves were made from dozens of recyclable bottles. The audience below warmly applauded this environmentally friendly and thoughtful design.

In this joyful and warm atmosphere, Tzu Chi volunteers personally distributed the supplies to the church members. Families receiving the supplies were exceptionally happy, feeling the joy of the holiday.

Tzu Chi volunteers personally distributed the supplies to churchgoers.
Tzu Chi volunteers personally distribute supplies to church members. Photo/Shangyu Dai
The children couldn't put down the toys they received.
Children holding onto the toys they received, unwilling to let go. Photo/Shangyu Dai

Interfaith Connection

In the interview, Pastor Elias expressed great joy in being able to establish such a connection with Tzu Chi volunteers in Chicago. He said, “We are very lucky to know the Tzu Chi Foundation. They have helped many new immigrant families within 1 to 3 miles around the church. Today, we received Christmas pajamas because these families are trying to adapt to the culture here. Thanks for the help Tzu Chi provides.”

We are very fortunate. We met the Tzu Chi Foundation, and we are very happy to establish a connection with them because we are Christians, they are Buddhists, but we can feel the same divinity. We have the same spirit, the same ideas, to help those in need.

A group photo of church members and Tzu Chi volunteers
Churchgoers taking a group photo with Tzu Chi volunteers. Photo/Shangyu Dai

Philosopher of religious philosophy Guanglu He proposed the metaphor that “all rivers flow to the sea.” He said, “The connection of all rivers lies only in reaching the sea—originating from the sea, returning to the sea; the connection of all religions lies only in believing in God—arising from God, returning to God.” Master Cheng Yen also proposed the metaphor of the “ocean” many years ago: “There should be no divisive feelings between religions. We should respect and praise each other: like the ocean, where the waters of rivers, streams, brooks, and ponds can all flow into the ocean and be accommodated. This is true faith in religion.”

Tzu Chi volunteers will continue to work towards interfaith connections, converging like rivers to the sea. They will continue cooperating with various religious groups to jointly help new immigrant families in need. Let love persist, and benevolent thoughts endure!

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