The faith and courage of immigrants

Imagine for a moment you are a woman who has traveled to China without a visa. You can’t speak Chinese and the street signs look like chicken scratches, completely undecipherable. After a long, dangerous and expensive journey, you have to find a place to live and to work. In your prayers, you thank God at least you weren’t raped along the way, like so many others: 80% of girls and women are violated during this perilous trip.

Central American women face the same obstacles when traveling north to the US. With no jobs anywhere, growing narcotics trafficking and the third highest rate of femicide in the world, my friend Maria had no hope of supporting her two children in Guatemala. Reluctantly, she left them with their drunk and abusive father, hoping to work and send money for food and basic school supplies.

Maria’s story mirrors the lives of many Guatemalan women I serve and love in Cincinnati’s Price Hill as an organizer with Transformations CDC, an independent organization created by the Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador (COS/LINS).

Maria, like many women, traveled alone to the US. Others came together with their husbands. Too often the men are deported, leaving their wives with US-born children to support as well as their families back home. Her daughter Candy told me that her only memory of her father was trips to the park to play. Older brother Cheyenne remembers when “la migre” came to their apartment with a warrant for someone else, who had moved. Reluctant to return empty-handed, they arrested his father, handcuffed him and took him away. Cheyenne has never seen him again.

Some immigrant COS/LINS members work in light industrial sites in West Chester or Florence. Others clean office buildings, leaving home just as their children are getting off the school bus. When Jorge was in the fifth grade, he was responsible for two younger children through much of the night. An older sibling died of a fever in Guatemala before his parents came here. He was born in an apartment in Price Hill; his father (who was later deported) was at work and, lacking a phone or any English, his mother couldn’t communicate or get help.

So many tragic stories, but also so much faith and courage! These women have a resiliency and a love of God that shine through the difficulties and sadness that often mark their lives. I feel so privileged to know them.

Nancy Sullivan is a member of the Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador (COS/LINS) in Cincinnati and volunteers with their Latino Ministry.