For Yireh Moreno, an 18-year-old freshman wrestler and student trainer at Wayland Baptist University, the desire to provide food to hungry people is based on personal family experience.
“I want to be that neighbor that gave to my parents,” Moreno said.
She has made feeding the hungry her personal mission since arriving on campus.
“I don’t care about putting my name out there. I just want people to get food,” said Moreno, who makes trips from Plainview to Lubbock to provide sandwiches to people living outside a homeless shelter.
“Once you know how it is in those situations, all you want to do is give back. It is very close to home for me. I just want to help.”
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She is joined in the effort by Baily West, a second-semester freshman wrestler from Houston. West has experience ministering to homeless people through Kuts for Christ in his hometown.
Moreno thought she was going to be starting at University of Texas–Rio Grande Valley this semester, but a call from a Wayland wrestling coach in July changed that.
“He offered a scholarship and some aid. God provides,” she said.
After working as an intern at Grace Church Houston for more than a year, West applied to Wayland in July because he felt it was time to renew his collegiate wrestling career.
Both student athletes arrived on the Plainview campus in August.
Moreno pointed out her first name means “God provides.”
“Jehovah Jireh means ‘God provides,’ but my parents changed the J to a Y,” she said. “I was going to be named Monica, but they came up with Yireh because they knew God was going to provide for them.”
Moreno grew up in Los Fresnos, a border town in the Rio Grande Valley.
“I come from a humble family,” she said. “I’m first generation as far as college. My parents are first-generation immigrants, and my grandparents were born in Mexico. When I was still in my mother’s womb, my parents struggled a lot financially.
“They had to move into my grandmother’s house, because they did not have the finances to buy or rent a home. A couple of years after, they got their own apartment. But because of the apartment, they didn’t have much money for food. My mother was always praying, and she knew God was going to provide.”
A couple of months after the family moved into the small, one-room, studio-type apartment, a neighbor started buying groceries for them.
“Every month, she would give us groceries. She would buy kid’s food for me,” Moreno recalled. “My mom asked why she was doing this, since we had never asked for food, and she said: ‘God told me to start giving y’all food. So, I’ve had it on my heart to give it to you guys.’”
Although the apartment was a “really small space,” Moreno said, it was “a good place to grow up with family.”
“We went to church every Sunday and were very involved. Through the years we saw God providing,” she said.
When Moreno arrived at Wayland, she was not financially able to get the full meal plan.
“I have the 10-meals-a-week plan. So, I lay my food out thin to see what days I will eat at the cafeteria and what days I will not,” she said.
But that hasn’t kept Moreno and West from making sure others don’t go hungry. With West’s assistance, Yireh Moreno is living up to her name — God provides.
“There are people who don’t have any food,” she said. “They are just out on the street, and these are not just any people, they are somebody’s kids. They just grew up in a bad situation like me.
“I wanted to do something about that, because I know how I felt back then to not have any food in the fridge.”
Not deterred by initial rejection
Moreno and West embarked on their mission to feed the hungry when they spotted a homeless woman camping under a tree in Plainview. They were on their way to get a sandwich when Moreno spotted the woman living under a tree along a side road.
The sandwich shop, which was about to close for the night, offered them a left-over sandwich, and they took it to the homeless woman. But their first encounter with feeding the hungry did not go as expected.
“When I got out of the car, she asked, ‘What do you want?’” Moreno recalled. “I told her I just wanted to give her a sandwich. She said, ‘I don’t want anything from you.’
“So, I laid it down where her stuff was and walked away. I said, ‘This is not from me, this is from God.’ As soon as I closed the door of the car, I saw the sandwich flying across the windshield.”
But that didn’t deter the Wayland student athletes.
“Just because one person rejects something doesn’t mean everyone else will,” Moreno said. “I thought there are people that will be grateful for a sandwich. So, we went to Wal-Mart and got a bunch of sandwich materials. We made the sandwiches and decided to go to Lubbock.”
Their destination was a homeless shelter, but Moreno said she wasn’t prepared for what they saw.
“All you see is homeless people everywhere,” she said. “There was a man lying on a bench next to the facility, and he was so skinny. There was this woman who did not look hygienic. There was a man with a bunch of clothes on because he doesn’t have a place to put them. He just keeps them on.”
It wasn’t hard to decide who needed food when Moreno asked, “Do you guys want some sandwiches?”
“As soon as we said that, there was a swarm of people,” she said. “It warmed my heart, because they were very grateful, but it saddened me too. I got to thinking that I wanted to do this every week. I wanted this to be something regular and effective, not just a one-time thing for the good of heart and then just leave. I wanted them to know that at this time on Sunday afternoon there is going to be food.”
After returning from the Lubbock trip, Moreno inquired about leftovers from the cafeteria.
“I asked for food that was extra or would go to waste, because we could pack it and send it to Lubbock. It would be something that people could benefit from,” she said.
Moreno envisions enlisting a group of students to deliver the food. She said the university is investigating the logistics of her proposed project.
While wrestling, West is majoring in Christian ministry and plans to graduate in five years with the accelerated bachelor’s to master’s degree.
‘One step further’
An injury has sidelined Moreno’s wrestling for a while, and instead of studying sport medicine, she has opted to go a different route.
“I’ve decided to go one step further, and have changed my degree to pre-med microbiology,” she said.
“God willing, I will get my doctorate degree and do something similar to this but in healthcare. I want to go to a rural area where they can’t pay for a doctor.”
In the meantime, Moreno and West continue to make sandwiches to take to those who hunger.
“I want this to prosper,” she said. “There are just too many people out there who are hungry.”