applying for a real jobor entering into college so she cleaned houses and prayed for God to help her find a way to reach a legal status. Maria struggled with all the same issues that other teens struggle with here in America but always behind the smiles lived the fear of what might happen if she were to be found out. For a time Maria began to come only rarely to church then it seemed something slowly began to change. Step by step she began to commit her life back to the Lord and with halting steps to find a new path.
But one afternoon shortly after, as she drove home from house cleaning Maria was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. One of her turn signals was not working and when she looked into her mirror she saw a police car. All the things she had feared came crashing down into her life that day. Her father called our pastor and asked him to pray because his little girl was now locked away behind the doors of the County prison.
One day not long after I sat in the visiting room of the prison. I still could not
believe that Maria was really there. At the time for the visits to begin a guard called everyone to line up and pass through a metal detector and then into a long narrow room with tiny cubicles, each facing a window. On the other side of the windows were the prisoners waiting next to a telephone receiver. As I sat in my assigned place I saw Maria sitting on the other side. “How are youMaria?” I asked in Portuguese. “I am good Pastor how are you?”
“Not good at all Maria.” I answered and tears began to roll down my cheeks. This isn’t the right place for you!” “Don’t cry Pastor!” She said. Then Maria began to encourage me that God was taking good care of her there. had few options but inside that prison she began to pray also. Her first prayer was just a simple request. She prayed, “Lord Jesus it is so cold here and the clothing is so thin, please help me to stay warm!” Then she explained how she felt the warmth of God’s presence around there in her cell and fell fast asleep that night and each night afterward.
We joined together as a church to pray for Maria. She was alone, afraid and vulnerable. She had no money and no lawyer. So we had a special offering and a fund-raising dinner to raise the $1500 needed for legal counsel. So we prayed, we cooked, we sold meals and soon we were able to present her family and friends with the money needed to get an immigration lawyer. On the day of Maria’s hearing about ten of us drove the 2 1/2 hour trip to the hearing. Yet in spite of our hopes and prayers the answer was 42 days to gather her things together to go back to Brazil.
For those who have not never had a friend or family member pass through this the matter may seem simple.
Maria came without the documents – she was an “illegal” and she got caught. Logically she should go home (at her own expense). But real life is never as simple as it seems. As a young girl could she have stayed behind alone in Brazil? Had she been asked her opinion about leaving her friends and family behind to go to a far away country? Did she have any means by which to get the paperwork she needed at any point along the way? Add to the mix of official problems, all the normal average growing up teenage problems such as boyfriends, a desire for independence, and hoping and dreaming for things beyond your grasp. Maria’s story is just the first I will share. All the incidents are exactly as they happened with only names being changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
I will end this first installment with the thought that Jesus left us, because one day it may our own face on the other side of a window!
Do to others as you would like them to do to you Luke 6:31
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