A dear friend of ours knows that Vicki and I have a soft spot in our hearts for the local Latin American community, particularly those who have come up against difficult circumstances while trying to make a living here in the U.S. Because of her work, she sometimes works with Latin American children here locally that have special needs. Very often the families she serves are poor, at least by American standards.
She told us of Ascension and her family. Her husband was recently captured in South Dakota in a factory during an INS raid. The authorities told him that his papers were not in order and that he would have a few days to come up with $5000 to pay a fine and cover the expense of a new worker’s Visa (This family had already been in the states for 10 years). His family and friends pulled together the necessary funds in Louisville and began the trip to South Dakota to have him released from the custody of INS. They arrived only to discover that he had already been deported to Mexico. It turned out that though he was told he had a few days to get the money together they deported him the next day, anyway.
Since her husband’s recent deportation Ascension has given birth to their fourth child, a little boy who arrived prematurely and is estimated to need to be in the NICU for at least four weeks. Being a parent of premature twins, I myself, can not imagine what it might be like to have a child in a place like the NICU and not know the language well (she does know enough English to get around). Believe me; it is difficult to make sense of what you’re being told by the doctors and nurses in your native tongue. I can not imagine what she may be misunderstanding. I can not imagine the anxiety she has to endure with her child in this place, especially without the added comfort of her husband. And for him, how helpless he must feel having been deported in the midst of this whole turn of events. He has three daughters and this is his first son, that he is not there to see him and to hold him must be especially difficult. He has been the main source of provision for his family for 10 years but now what he can provide will pale in comparison to what he was able to do. So many frustrations in their story are coming together at once. What a terrible burden.
And so, Ascension is left with her children without a primary source of income for the time being. She is fortunate in that her sister and brother-in-law live close by. Latin American communities are very good about taking care of extended family for the most part. She was lacking some very basic needs for her little boy who will be home soon. She did not have a crib or a car seat to bring him home in, no clothes for him as his other siblings are all girls.
Our friend alerted us to these needs and we were able to call on a handful of other friends connected with our ministry to help. Before long I was on my way out to Prospect, KY in my pick-up truck to pick up a crib and car seat. They were both very nice and in excellent condition. The next day I acquired a mattress. Other friends contributed shoes, clothes, and toys. One woman is making Ascension a fleece sling to carry her son in.
So Saturday, January 27th Vicki, the girls, myself and our friend who discovered this situation met up and headed for South Louisville. We arrived at Ascension’s modest two bedroom apartment. They had a couch and a television. There were no lamps, only the ceiling fixtures, nothing on the walls, no trinkets, no end tables, no curio cabinets, etc. Both bedrooms were sparse and had no light fixtures. As the afternoon went on the rooms got darker except for the one closest to the hallway light. In the master bedroom there was a bed, probably a full sized with sheets, etc. There was a bare twin mattress lying against the wall. I assume this was where the daughters slept. Likely at night they would just throw it on the floor, covering up with blankets. There were several toys around the room. This seemed to be the most luxurious detail in the apartment. I could see directly in the closet while I was assembling the crib. For so many children to be in this household there were very few clothes; it was more empty than full. This was a family whose economic life was closely oriented around their basic needs, probably out of necessity, possibly out of the deeper wisdom of simplicity. There was nothing extravagant, nothing impractical, only things that were useful.
While I unloaded my truck and moved things in Vicki and our friend were hanging out with Ascension and her daughters. Our daughters loved the attention they were getting from Ascension’s daughters who were about 11 months, 2 and 4. As I moved to and fro the flow of spoken Spanish back and forth served as a soundtrack of sorts as I labored. I sat there on the floor of the bedroom getting all of the pieces together and reading the instructions. As I began to put the crib together the middle daughter would come in and address me as “Senor, Senor, is this my baby’s bed?” to which I would respond, “Yes, sweetheart, this is for your little brother.” What a precious little girl.
I was beginning to feel like I was back in the Dominican. Oddly enough this feeling intensified when I asked to use their bathroom. While I was in there I noticed that they failed to flush their toilet paper, having thrown it into the trash can beside the toilet. Latin American plumbing does not handle toilet paper very well. I suppose that even after 10 years living in the States that old habits die hard. Strange as it may seem, that little detail made me smile. I was struck by a little bit of nostalgia. Strange, I know.
So this particular Saturday proved to be a little mission trip of its own. I finished putting the crib together; we gave Ascension the items we had collected and before we left presented her with a brand new Bible in Spanish for her and her family. Vicki plans to go back in a few weeks, once the boy has come home from the NICU, and take pictures both of him and the family so that Ascension will have them and be able to send some photos to her husband who will likely be in Mexico for some time.
Vicki and I ask that you pray for this family. Pray for this little premature boy. Pray for his health, especially as he comes home in the midst of RSV season which can be deadly for premature babies. Having older siblings that are still children will increase his health risks at home. Pray for the financial provision of this family. Pray that Ascension’s husband is able to return to Kentucky to his family. It will be a miracle if this can be done legally having already been deported but certainly a legal re-entry would be the most secure situation for his family and the least problematic, particularly since immigration is such a hot political issue these days.
In All Things Peace...