Over the next weeks and months, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will be sharing reflections from our CBF field personnel serving around the world. These are stories of impact and outreach, Gospel-sharing and relationship building, long-term presence and abundant love.
The following is a reflection from CBF field personnel Sue Smith, who serves through LUCHA Ministries in Fredericksburg, Va., alongside her husband, Greg. You can learn more about their ministries and support their work at www.cbf.net/smith.
Today, a young man was hired for his first job. And I’m excited!
Carlos, age 21, is originally from Mexico and is a product of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). His parents brought him to the U.S. when he was a toddler. They had been given little hope for his survival in Mexico.
Carlos has spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair. The physicians in Mexico weren’t able to fully explain Carlos’ condition to his parents; but his parents knew they needed to take whatever steps necessary to find help (and hope) for their son. They could not simply give up.
The years have been hard. Carlos is uninsured and doesn’t qualify for Medicaid, because he doesn’t have a permanent legal status. Medical expenses have been paid out-of-pocket or with assistance through charity programs at various hospitals. Durable medical equipment, like his wheelchair, is paid for over time through monthly payments.
DACA offers those who qualify temporary protection from deportation and the ability to have a work permit and apply for a drivers’ license or state-issued ID. In some states, persons with DACA can qualify for in-state tuition at colleges and universities, as opposed to enrolling as an international student.
I was invited to attend Carlos’ high school graduation. His parents were beaming with pride as he rolled across the stage to receive his diploma. While they felt certain that there would be other opportunities as well as challenges for their son, this was the first major accomplishment for the kid who doctors didn’t believe would live past age five.
Carlos didn’t enroll in college or university that fall, as he had a major surgery scheduled for November, and his recovery would extend through the spring.
And then, his dad was deported. His mom struggled to make ends meet, and Carlos couldn’t find a job.
Until now. Through a random conversation with my dentist’s office staff, I learned that they needed a bilingual person to staff their front desk. I recommended Carlos, and he was interviewed and hired.
One of the greatest joys of being a CBF field personnel is being able to walk beside Spanish-speaking immigrant families over the long run. We still have contact with many of the families that we worked with in the early days of our ministry in Virginia, nearly 20 years ago. We’ve seen them through good and bad times. We celebrate their victories and mourn with them in their losses. We try to be present when they need us.
For Carlos and his family, our contact began when he had just turned five and needed school supplies for kindergarten. It continued as we provided food assistance for the family, transportation and translation for medical appointments, and helped to foster the family’s relationship with the local school. Carlos received DACA through our legal services program, and continues to renew it on a regular basis. We’ve have used catered food prepared by Carlos’ mom for different events. (She’s well-known for making some of the best tamales in the area). I helped Carlos’ dad find an immigration attorney for his case, and Carlos and I visited him in detention before his deportation, so that they could say goodbye.
Long-term presence by field personnel is an investment in the lives of those among whom we serve. Thank you for your faithful giving that provides us with opportunities to engage in the transforming work of Christ in our communities.