ABBA House — a Place for Miracles

There is a place — on a side street in the ragged city of Celaya, here in the central mountains of Mexico — where miracles happen. This place houses, feeds, clothes, and lovingly cares for migrants, mainly from Central America, passing through Mexico, many of whom have been seriously injured in transit.

This miraculous place is ABBA House (Abba meaning Father in Aramaic), which was created in 2015 by a Christian minister, Pastor Ignacio Martinez Ramirez, who has dedicated his life to living Christ’s teachings. He is especially devoted to helping migrants: Two months ago he earned a law degree with a view to specializing in Immigration law.

Front exterior wall of ABBA House in Celaya

According to Stan Allen — a fellow former Peace Corps Volunteer (Stan served in Venezuela from 1969-71, and I in Gabon from 1996-98) and, like me, a resident of San Miguel de Allende — who has worked as a faithful volunteer at ABBA House for four years, ABBA is “a remarkably committed village united by our shared humanity with one of the most vulnerable, too often villainized, and totally at-risk groups of people who just want what we all want — a life free from fear, violence, poverty, insecurity of every kind, and better opportunities for ourselves and our children.”

As organizer of the Go Fund Me page for ABBA House, Stan is­­ proud to add, “Through our combined donations and commitment, we have made positive and significant differences in the lives of over 36,000 migrants-refugees, raising close to $120,000 (USD) to date.

“Our Go Fund Me has offered unrelenting material support – such as weekly groceries and fresh meats, backpacks, new underwear and socks, shoes, meds and other items (often totaling over $500 USD per week) – as well as emotional uplift and a caring community that validates the human dignity of the ‘strangers in our midst’.”

ABBA House is located in Celaya because this city sits at the crossroads of Mexico’s rail line and is a vital – as well as lethal – mode of transport for migrants heading to the U.S. These trains are called “La Bestia” (the beast) by the migrants, who in desperation hitch rides on them, often clinging to their tops and sides. Many fall off and lose limbs in the process.

ABBA House hosts four distinct groups of migrants: those who are passing through briefly (up to a few days’ stay) on their way north; those who are seriously injured, such as amputees (assisted by the Red Cross) who remain in ABBA’s care during their healing process; those who are repatriating, who have decided to give up their quest for a new life in the U.S. and return to their countries of origin; and those who are applying to remain in Mexico. There is no cost to the residents for any of this aid.

This week, I had the privilege of visiting ABBA House for the first time to help with a new project there organized by my friend Toni Roberts. (See my interview with Toni of several years ago: www.bonnieleeblack.com/blog/for-the-kids/ .)

Stan drove Toni, me, and another knitter/crocheter, Suzzi ViTaris to ABBA House in Celaya this past Wednesday, leading us in a rousing chorus of his favorite ditty, “This Little Light of Mine, (I’m gonna let it shine!)” in the car. At ABBA, we three women taught both knitting and crocheting to the long-term residents who wished to join our classes.

Here are a few photos I took, between teaching my beginners group how to crochet a simple, white (bleachable) cotton wash cloth:

Elvia, the cook at ABBA, standing, on the left, is observing
Toni (standing, in red) teaching knitting
Toni (in red) and Stan (in black) assisting; Suzzi is lower left

And here’s a photo Toni took of me (I’m at the upper right) with my group:

To quote Stan again, “This albergue [hostel] for migrants not only offers rest, recuperation, safety and humanitarian care but also opportunities to share in community and the fun and confidence of learning new skills. You can see pure joy on the faces of our residents — who have lost and sacrificed so much — when they learn how to create something personal out of nothing.”

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26 thoughts on “ABBA House — a Place for Miracles”

    1. Dear Bonnie,
      I add my thanks to that of so many others for sharing the miracles that happen everyday at Alberque ABBA, or better known now as ABBA House. My husband Gary and I are filled with gratitude that so many have joined in helping support the efforts of Pastor Ignacio to bring joy and aid to the many suffering migrants and refugees. As the founders of Latin American Relief Fund at the end of 2017, when no one knew of this place of “miracles,” we take great pleasure in knowing ABBA now has a “huge family of supporters” and that due to LARF’s fundraising along with Stan, truly an Angel, the house is now owned by Pastor Ignacio. This has been a great step in allowing for aid to come also from the UNHCR (note the solar panels which now mean no more high electric bills). Also, it has allowed for our donor dollars to go towards education and cultural programs to bring more joy to the many people who have had to remain for a long period of time healing from both physical and psychological wounds.It was a joy to read that Fatima, a little girl we have known for almost two years since her mother, Raquel and she arrived at ABBA having suffered injuries, is excelling at the new knitting and crocheting project. Bravo to all the “Angels” bringing their talents and skills to ABBA, and to you Bonnie for sharing the news!

      Sher Davidson
      Founder and Past President of LARF

      1. Dear Sher — Thank you very much for deepening and widening this WOW post for us all. My posts are always on the short side, meant to start meaningful conversations among readers. Your words have added enormously to this conversation. Mil gracias, Bonnie

  1. Hi Bonnie. I may be inheriting some knitting needles and crochet hooks from my mom who passed away. I already have all I need so I’m wondering if ABBA would be able to make use of them. I will be traveling to the US soon and could bring them back to SMA with me.

  2. As always, dear Bonnie, a heartfelt and helpful post about a subject worthy of the spotlight. Love seeing you in your element, teaching with care. ❤️

    1. Thank you, dearest Michael! Yes, I loved being there and feeling useful in this way. It was the same gratifying feeling I had most days serving in the Peace Corps 25 years ago. Hope all is well with you and Tony. — BB xx

  3. Bonnie, Kindred RPCV, Thank you so much for your generosity, time and wonderful blog about your experience at ABBA this past week. I went today and delivered Daniel another skein of yarn to finish his black cap. He was so grateful and proud of his new skill. It is heart moving to see residents who have suffered such loss on so many levels be open and brave to try something new. Your kind guidance and preparation were so well received. I hope you will come back many times. Today the ABBA band and chorus convened for another rehearsal with a band director. Joy everywhere!
    Stan
    https://www.gofundme.com/abba-house-sanctuary-for-migrants-and-families
    It takes many villages.

    1. Ah, Stan! YOU are the one who deserves thanks. And Toni, for coming up with the idea of teaching crocheting and knitting to your ABBA House long-term residents. I felt honored to be there and to be able to share the ABBA story with my WOW blog community. I hope-hope-hope many will click on your go-fund-me link and read your own wonderful writing — and, of course, contribute to this important effort.

  4. And 24 hours later, Fatima, a young girl but one of the more advanced crocheters in the group produced a completed scarf with the donated yarn I left them. Sorry WordPress is not allowing me to post the photo but I’ll add it to your FB post.

    Happy to have you as a member of the team.

    Toni

    1. This is such great news, Toni! Fatima, one of your more advanced students, shot to the head of the class! 🙂 No doubt more in the group will want to emulate her and make themselves scarves for the upcoming colder weather.

  5. Dear Bon,

    Thank you for showing us this wonderful place where those who struggle to escape persecution are assisted rather than denounced. Pastor Ramirez and all who help him are the true peacemakers of the world. It is unfortunate that people who do this work go largely unacknowledged. Fortunately, that never hinders them from what they do.

    Love,
    Paul

    1. Yes, dear Paul, you put it so well: “assisted rather than denounced.” And, yes, my hope in writing about this wonderful place was to acknowledge this assistance. But how many, I (sadly) wonder, really care?

  6. Thanks for this Bonnie. I have wondered how innocent people fared traveling through Mexico. So many sad stories. Our church here supports a center for people already here struggling to get acclimated.

    1. And it must be a terrible struggle for them, Kaye — the cultural and language barriers, the racism and xenophobia they’re likely to face in the States. The migrants I met last week, even those who were badly injured on their journey, seemed so hopeful and optimistic. I fear for them.

  7. What a wonderful project!! Indeed, ABBA House is where miracles happen most every day due to the leadership of a truly selfless man, Pastor Ignacio, and his entire family with the help of Stan Allen and other tireless volunteers and fundraisers. Gracias mi amiga!

  8. Thanks so much for shining a light on ABBA House. It never would have crossed my radar without WOW. I’ve just made my first donation. It was kind of you to spread the word.

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