“Grateful that I’m not the person I used to be, and working on the person God wants me to be.” Dear readers, I would like to share my brother’s story. On Thursday morning, December 13th, 2012, my mother heard a car outside our house. She looked out the window and saw a man running down our driveway putting something into our mailbox. Confused, she put her robe on and ran outside to see what was going on. A few minutes later, when I left my house to go to work, I found my mom crying at the end of our driveway and talking to two men. These men were Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who had arrested my brother Tony – a lawful permanent resident – on our quiet residential street as he made his way to work, and who were now taking him to jail. The man she saw outside our window was an officer returning the keys to the car Tony had saved up for and just finally purchased before they took him away. Through this post, I wish to share just how my family ended up at the end of our driveway that morning, being tearfully torn apart. My mom, my brother, and I moved from Brazil to Connecticut in 1986 when I was five years old and my brother was under the age of two. We became lawful permanent residents in the ‘90s. My mother and I later became US citizens, while my brother’s green card was renewed. Tony, whose motto began this piece, is a wonderful person, and several people – law enforcement officials as well as business and religious leaders – have recently attested to that fact. In 2007, however, he made some wrong choices and was arrested late that year on a drug charge. When we bailed him out, he told us that he had recently begun for God to show him direction. He felt God had something planned for him. In the months between his arrest and his incarceration at the beginning of 2008, Tony immediately began turning his life around. He became a member of Victory Christian Center (a local church) and also attended several Brazilian churches. He dove into Scripture, applying the Bible’s lessons to his life; he even began preaching about it! In fact, my family became born-again believers during this time as a direct result of Tony’s newfound zeal. His dedication to the Bible mentally and spiritually prepared him for his upcoming ordeal. Once his sentence began, his exceptional character was quickly noticed. After a short time, he was moved to a lower-security area. He was even given outside clearance to cut the grass outside along the sidewalk outside the prison. Despite several hurdles, including verbal abuse from officers, he kept his spirits up, kept God in his heart, and continued going the extra mile to turn his life around. He even rejected the idea of selling coffee to make money, as the idea of selling an addictive substance (even one viewed as benignly as caffeine) reminded him too much of selling drugs. Tony became a leader among his fellow inmates; in addition to serving as their barber (his alternative way of making money), he began to gather a group for Bible study and prayer. While this period of time was the hardest thing my mother and I went through, we were so proud of watching him evolve into a man of God. Finally, he was moved into a halfway house right before Christmas. What a blessing it was to hug him and eat with him in person, instead of looking at him through a glass window. Most importantly, Tony was finally reunited with his 2-year-old son, who was so happy he could not stop singing, “I saw my dada!” on the drive home. We will never forget that night! During his six months at the halfway house, my brother attended programs and counseling while looking for employment before being released for parole. In May of 2009, he came home and experienced financial hardship; however, he was at Victory Christian Center every Sunday. He always tithed 10% of the little he had, though there were weeks the amount was so small he was too embarrassed to put his name on the envelope. He remained strong, kept filling his soul with God’s word and commands, and continued to thrive. Among his other church involvements, he also volunteered at a Brazilian church, counseling members’ troubled teenage sons. In 2010, Tony was blessed to meet the owner of a structural steel and miscellaneous metal company who was willing to hire him despite his record and lack of experience applicable to the only open position. Tony very quickly learned the skills required for the job and was given a raise. In 2011 his probation officer told him that she knew he was a good kid and felt he is not a threat; therefore, he was put on unsupervised probation. Over these years he maintained a life of work, studying, church, gym, jiu-jitsu, helping younger boys, and spending extra time with his best friend – our mom. Now that you’ve traced Tony’s journey, let’s fast-forward to the present. Despite the overwhelming evidence of Tony’s complete rehabilitation, he still found himself hauled away by ICE agents in full view of our neighbors one morning. They said his name ended up on their desk and they had a warrant for deportation because of his past convictions – convictions for which he has fully paid his debt. This is because current law is that non-citizens found guilty of certain misdemeanors and/or felonies, past or present, and given sentences of 1 year or more (even suspended) face deportation. In my brother’s case, this means that even though he has completely turned his life around and has paid his debt, is a leader in his community, and is the head of a household made up of two other US citizens, he can still be summarily arrested and deported. My brother’s being taken away from us so suddenly the morning of the 13th was a terrifying shock. It took some time to cope with the emotions and the fear of what was happening, but God soon began to put things into perspective and send us messages. One night within the first week, in the midst of my panic and worry, I was walking past my mom’s room and saw Peter 1:7 written at the bottom of the television screen. This verse reads, “These have come so that the genuineness of your Faith, of greater worth than gold that perishes – even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” AMEN! The revelation of God’s plan has continued as Tony has become a leader in his county jail. He asked us once to call an aunt of another who needed clothes and money. We were able to help by driving the 150 miles to bring him clothes and money, which his aunt was unable to do. Another detainee was jailed in Connecticut because they thought he was a criminal from Georgia. When they realized he was not the criminal from Georgia he was released; upon his release, ICE arrested him due to his legal status. He has been detained since November and had no money to call family or funds to buy food. Thanks to my brother, I was able to send him enough money to do both; I was also able to work on finding him a pro bono attorney. This detainee is married to an American citizen and has an 8-year-old daughter; he may very likely qualify for legal status, which was unknown to him. Yet another detainee had no money; my mother drove to his uncle 40 minutes away to get money for him which we were able to get to him so that he could buy food. Many of these detainees and their families are afraid and uniformed as to their rights; as a result, there is much injustice that occurs. My family is the type of family that always stands for what is fair and right and puts ourselves in others’ shoes. These stories could be those of anyone’s son, father, or brother. Through my brother’s situation, we have been able to bless many other people in similar situations. One month later, Tony is still facing deportation. While I have retained an amazing attorney who is very experienced and compassionate, we still have no definite answers. My mother has been in poor health since her 2009 stroke; consequently, my mom and I are desperately in need of Tony’s return, as he as the man of the house. However, we keep entrusting ourselves to God’s will while praying and waiting for my brother’s return home. We strengthen ourselves through Scripture; my brother’s letter to us last week ends with Luke 18:27, which says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” My brother’s middle name is Enoch. Enoch was very special in the Bible; he walked with God! Hebrews 11:5-6 states that “By Faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without Faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Show God your FAITH and he will show his FAITHFULNESS!!!!…… AMEN! Thank you for reading!