Secrets can be good and bad. For many years, I never shared more than what was needed. One never shared or talked about one’s legal status, how we got to the States, or even where we were born. It was as if everyone knew, but no one dared ask. It felt as if my true identity was hidden deep within my heart; the real me hidden amongst all the fake appearances. One had to pretend in order to survive and to blend in with everyone else (who were, perhaps, carrying a deeper secret as well).
From the moment I saw those big brown eyes, short brown hair and a smile that to this day, I will never forget, I realized how long I had kept this secret. She was the door to my healing process. I met this young lady through Our Children Project – a ministry where teams, comprised of different churches in Orange County, CA, visit minors in immigration detention. At first I didn’t know how to talk to her or how to talk about all these “secrets”. But she didn’t even hesitate to talk about it. I couldn’t fathom why she was so comfortable to talk about her upbringing, how she came to the States and why she was in this home.
After listening more and more to her story, my heart drew closer to her and to the secret that I had kept hidden, or at least been asked to hide, for so many years. It felt like this young lady was telling my own story, she was 12 years old when she crossed the border. But there was still a significant difference between us: she was caught and placed in this detention center. For the first time, I felt comfortable sharing my secret with this young lady. She listened and was amazed at how similar our stories were. I sympathized with her and held her tight in my heart. The more we talked about it, the more my heart began to heal.
During the times that I didn’t go visit this young lady, a Bible study was held with other believers who were also mentors of these girls. Each one shared their experience. I was hesitant to share mine because I was afraid of being rejected and singled out. But I remembered my young friend, she wasn’t ashamed. She knew that the Lord had shown her grace. When it came for my turn to share about my experience at the shelter, I looked at our group, everyone was from different backgrounds; I could either keep myself from sharing or have them hear my story, my secret.
After several weeks of meeting and talking about this secret, our conversations brought me healing. For many years, I always perceived everyone who wasn’t in my shoes as those who had always rejected me, even those in the Church because of my status. I was treated differently every time someone from church heard of my legal status. This Bible study group, embraced me and showed me God’s love. This is when I realized what is really like to love the stranger. To love someone regardless of where they came from.
How could I stop myself from sharing God’s unconditional love? This secret was meant to be shared so that others could learn to love and welcome the stranger! Through the Bible study, the interaction with the young ladies at the shelter, brought me healing and restoration. I no longer feel ashamed of being born from a different place, culture and family. On the contrary, now I know that sharing this long time experience, that no longer is a secret, has opened the eyes of people who struggled to love and accept others just because of systems and political views – this was a spiritual transformation, not only for me but for those who were part of my healing process.
Claudia Vazquez is a former volunteer of Our Children project, a multi-cultural ministry that engages the Church in Orange County to walk alongside children in immigration detention and learn about God’s heart for immigrants through experience and biblical reflection. Claudia currently attends Newsong Church in Irvine, CA
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