I grew up Catholic in Mexico. At 21, I became a single mother. When my baby ws 8 months old, I woke up and told my father I was leaving for the United States. I came here by myself and started working right after I arrived. I saved my money and did all I could to get my son here.
I met a local man here in Lincoln Heights and married him. I always had a passion to help people. I worked for the Red Cross in Mexico and I love to talk to people! I have a really strong character, though, and I used to have a really strong potty mouth, so I didn’t know how to really speak to people.
My kids went to local schools and they grew up here in Lincoln Heights. When my kids were in school there started to be gang violence and shootings in our neighborhood. I was so angry about it that I went to a Town Hall meeting and said “What are you going to do about it?” They told me, “You live in this neighborhood, you do something!” I ended up organizing a march against the violence in our community. We made signs, invited people, and got a group of about 150 people. I marched around the gang areas and made them know that we would not be tolerating this kind of violence in our community.
In 2005 my son started played football at the local high school. I got involved as a parent. I was there at every single practice and game. I even went into the locker rooms and got into arguments with the coaches.
One day the coach was very mad because the kids lost. I said, “What do you expect from them? They don’t get fed. How are they to give you 100% if you don’t feed them?”
The coach said, "If you can do better, go for it." So I ended up cooking for them that day. I made spaghetti. I had never cooked for so many kids in my life - there were 65 of them. I made salad and bread too. The kids ended up winning the game. After that, I realized that this was my role. I cooked for the rest of the season and I was able to do it at the moment.
One day I was bringing the food out of my van and this white man came over to me asking if he could help. I thought to myself, “Who is this white guy and what does he want?” I was really bossy, so I ordered him to help me. This was the first time I met Chris in 2008.
I used to pray for the kids before the practice. I invited Chris to then join me to pray but I didn’t know he was a pastor. When he opened his mouth, I realized he really knew how to pray. The kids were really into it. After that he told me he was a pastor. I thought to myself, "If he’s a pastor and he can handle my potty mouth, maybe I need this pastor in my life."
He invited me to his church. I went one time and then I didn’t want to come back. I had a lot of problems in my marriage and with my family. I was abused when I was a kid, and my mother was absent the whole time. there were a lot of issues i had in my mind. I started having problems with my daughter too - she started smoking pot.
My daughter started going to the youth group. Her friends invited her. I started seeing the change in my daughter and I didn’t believe it. I decided to go and check out the church. She ended up convincing me to go back to church. I never expected to see the same pastor. But I went back and it was Chris again.
My daughter and I got baptized together. Chris talked to my several times. He wanted to introduce me to a very cool guy that he knew. It was Jesus. I said, “I know Jesus.” But Chris said, “you don’t know the Jesus I know. The Jesus I know is a loving Jesus. A forgiving Jesus. An accepting Jesus.”
He started mentoring me at that time. He saw something in me. He told me to read the Bible. I thought it was too boring, but he told me just to try. So I started with Luke and I completely fell in love with Luke. I wasn’t sure what the change was in me. But I knew I felt different.
I wanted to be more involved in the church. Chris came to me and said “I want you to be the leader of the Bible study.” I said, “Are you out of your mind?” But I ended up having a Bible study with a few people. I just laughed the whole time, throwing jokes in Spanish. But i still have the same Bible study and a prayer group of ladies that I'm leading. It’s amazing how things are changing in our lives. Every step of the way, it’s been a journey. It’s not easy. Sometimes it feels like life is a roller coaster. I never was promised that giving my life to Jesus would make it easier. But I’ve been learning to forgive myself.
The guy that Chris introduced me to is a cool guy. And I’m ok with Him getting into my mess. And it’s been powerful the way He’s been changing my life. When God committed to me, He didn’t write a contract with me with all these things that I have to do and uphold. He just said, “Come to Me. I accept you.”
Sometimes I ask Him questions. I feel like I’m a friend of Jesus. One day I asked Him, “Why did you allow someone to abuse me when I was 8 years old? Why why why?” I asked him all these questions and his response completely blew me out of my socks. He said, “How can you relate to others if you never went through this pain?” And I was like “Ok." I can relate to a lot of people, a lot of women who have been through what I’ve been through. I work with different people of different ethnicities. They come to me and ask me for prayer. People know I have a relationship with God. They know that I love God and that I respect God.
I’m the most passionate about forgiving yourself. You can close a chapter in your life and remove the power that others have on you. When you forgive the the people that abused me as a little girl, I remove the power that they have over me. They don’t have power over me anymore. I can talk freely about the abuse because it just happened.
I have a passion to have a Spanish service in my community. We have a big percentage of our community that speaks Spanish. I want people to come freely in this place and worship. I want people to come and learn. I’m trying to teach the ladies in my Spanish group. Even if the Bible is 2000 years old, we can learn it.
Photo: Maritha Mae Photography