LaGRULLA, Texas _ About 20 years ago, some members of the Martinez family left the Catholic church and became Mennonites.
``I saw that the Catholic church was always getting after the kids if they were making too much noise in church, or they criticized people and embarrassed them right in front of everyone,'' Maria Elena Martinez said.
``I stopped going to that church, and I began to see other people going to the Mennonite church, so I started going. Then Raul joined me and then we started taking all the kids,'' she said.
The older Martinez children have remained in the Catholic church, while the younger ones have joined their parents and are members of the Mennonite church.
``I really don't know why my parents switched religions. I guess it works for them, but I'm comfortable with the Catholic church and that's what I want to follow,'' their daughter Ellen Herbert said.
Once when we were living last summer in Boardman, Ore., Maria told me that what she liked most about the Mennonite religion was the teaching of the Bible.
``In the Catholic church I never read the Bible like I am now,'' she said.
There were many evenings when I would see Maria Elena grab the Bible and sit outside our apartment complex to read. That usually prompted her children to join her. Later, other migrant families living nearby would gather and a Bible discussion would begin.
I sat in on some of the discussions and found them interesting. I liked seeing the expressions on their faces when they would come across a psalm or proverb that would make reference to laborers or harvesting.
``I think that is why we have always been blessed in finding work and even when we are not working, because the Bible always mentions that those who work hard in the harvest season will not suffer in the winter. I truly believe that, and that God will take care of us _ all the migrant workers,'' Maria Elena said.
I met a lot of migrant families while I was living in Washington and Oregon. In each house I visited there was a cross hanging, or a statue placed somewhere, or a picture of Jesus Christ adorning a wall.
Sometimes I would attend the Spanish Mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church, where I would see many of the migrant families from the Walla Walla and Milton-Freewater labor camps.
I learned that religion plays a very important role in their lives. No matter how far away they are from their homes and families, they always have their religion _ and faith _ with them.
When an infant is born, the talk within the family is about the baptism the child will have when they get home.
And in those times when the work has taken its toll on everyone, they feel they can no longer endure the pain, and they are worried about how they will make it through the winter, someone is always heard saying, ``Don't worry. God will help you.''
No one ever spoke about how the church should assist them financially or with material goods. That wasn't expected. What they looked for from the church was spiritual guidance. All said, they received that from their church, regardless of their religion.