By: Angel Rivera, Executive, Office of Latin America & the Carribean
Drowning in between papers and reports, Pastor Héctor Velázquez asked for a coffee break in the middle of the Board of Directors´ Meeting at Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries (SGSM), in Los Fresnos, Texas. As I turned off my computer and looked for some coffee, there were these brown skinned families rushing into the room, accompanied by Feliberto Pereira, SGSM´s Executive Director. With their eyes looking down, probably lost in some recent memory of their ordeals, the families stood against a wall in the room waiting for us to finish our break. The directors greeted the families, talking to them in a heavily-Anglo-accented Spanish, as the meeting was losing all formalities and agendas; to put in the center what I thought was the most important part of this challenging ministry – the people seeking refuge.
Stories took the place of the discussions by the Board and now it was the turn of the immigrants and the refugees to speak. Some fled from Cuba, some walked from Honduras, but the one that touched my heart the most was the story of a grandmother, a mother and a baby girl. Astrid and her mother Elsa were both attacked and abused horribly by kidnappers in Guatemala. They managed to escape and endured a long journey to the U.S. Sadly; they became victims again, now of labor abuse once they arrived to McAllen, TX. In their desperation, the women found sanctuary at Ebenezer Christian Church in Los Fresnos, where Feliberto is the Pastor. The baby girl, Aitana, was born several months ago, conceived when Astrid was brutally raped by a masked kidnapper in Guatemala.
Knowing this horrendous background, I just stared at baby Aitana´s tender face. She also stared at me, looking at me with such beautiful eyes. I couldn’t resist taking her into my arms and while she played with my chin and my face, I knew that this family would face a bright future so different from the horrors of her past. SGSM managed to protect Aitana from her captors, activating an intense solidarity campaign that included immigration processes, legal counseling, state prosecution and sanctuary provision. Her looks, the caring hands of her mother and her grandmother, along with the work of a whole group of anonymous heroes, commanded by Pastor Pereira, have secured and rescued this life for a promising future.
My coffee just went cold. The time of the meeting became relaxed and everybody drew their attention to what meant the most. In that place, like in most places in Latin America where I have the responsibility to serve, it’s not difficult to find the ones left half dead on the walks from Jerusalem to Jericho. And, for me, it is an enormous privilege being drawn by the Samaritans, going and doing like the original one from the Parable, bandaging wounds, pouring oil and wine and putting the wounded over their shoulders, to take care of them.