Life: God's Renewable resource
by Vicky Garcia
My first impulse was to walk across the border and lose ourselves among the millions of illegal immigrants living in the States. To his credit, Julio refused.
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MY HUSBAND JULIO SLIPPED ACROSS the Mexico border into Texas at age 15 in search of a better life. His abusive childhood was filled with long hours of hard work and constant reprimand. When his uncle jokingly asked if he wanted to flee to the United States, Julio stuffed a single change of clothes into a bag and started the long and dangerous trip. It was the best day of his life.
After crossing the border, Julio lived in Dallas, Texas, with his Aunt and Uncle for the first year. One day, he met a man who told him he could make a lot of money working in the onion fields near Glennville, Georgia. Eager to make more money, he traveled to the small town that would eventually become his home.
Upon arriving in Glennville, he began to wonder if he had been misled. He found himself living in a camp for homeless migrant workers, wondering what he had gotten himself into. When a man came to the camp to hire workers, Julio was the first volunteer. The man gave him a job planting pine trees, provided him with housing on his farm, and treated him like one of his own children. Julio worked for the family for the next 15 years.
Julio was very limited in communication during his early years in the country because he spoke little English. A quick and willing learner, he soaked up the language like a sponge! Before long, he could communicate with little difficulty. As the years passed, Julio became more and more comfortable with his new life.
When Julio and I met through a mutual friend, it was a case of love at first sight! In spite of my feelings, I was cautious about entering a serious relationship. I had a two-year-old daughter, and she was my top priority. I also worried about how my parents would react to a Mexican boyfriend. I need not have worried. My daughter loved Julio from the start, and she melted Julio’s heart in return. When my parents saw that Julio was a hard worker and well respected in our small town, they quickly accepted him.
One day, during a discussion with my pastor, Julio asked God to come into his heart. Raised in the Roman Catholic Church, Julio had never liked the religion, but he did not know any other way. His conversion was the final step in our budding relationship. One year after we met, we were married at beautiful St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.
In January 2004, we were thrilled to learn we were expecting a baby. Our new son Mason was born the following September, the same day that our new preacher and his family arrived from North Carolina. Reuben Cason and his wife Terry quickly became close friends. Julio and I were hungry for God’s word. Our close friendship with the preacher was like having a personal Bible instructor 24/7.
When we dedicated Mason to the Lord a few weeks later, we promised God that we would do our best to bring our child up in a godly family, attending church faithfully, and being good examples to our children. We joined the church the following week.
While I had accepted Christ as Savior as a child, I had never been baptized, so Pastor Cason baptized Julio and I together. A few months later, our daughter followed our example and asked Jesus to come into her heart. We were simply overjoyed. The pieces of our lives continued to fall into place. Little did we realize that our new and growing faith would soon be tested.
Journey of Faith
We applied for Julio’s residency papers (Green Card), filling out and submitting a mountain of paperwork. This tedious and expensive pattern continued for nearly two years before we finally received an appointment to pick up Julio’s Visa, pending a final interview at the American Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Because of Julio’s status in the country, we found ourselves dreading the trip.
On the night before we left, our church family gathered around us and Pastor Reuben prayed for our safety and for God’s will to be done. Our flight (my first) took us to El Paso, Texas, and we took a taxi across the Mexican border. I will never forget my excitement as I saw my husband’s homeland for the first time.
Photo: Julio with his parents
in Dolores Hidalgo,
The next morning, as we waited in a clinic for Julio’s required physical, we met Victor and Jamie Hernandez, a young couple from Illinois who were also seeking residency. We established a friendship immediately.
When we returned to our hotel, we were surprised to see Jamie and Victor. We got to know them over coffee. Victor was very inquisitive when he found out that Julio was a Christian. He wanted to know more about “the God who takes fears away.” Julio and I began to tell them about God’s might, that He is with us on the mountaintop and in the valley. Before the night ended, we led them to our room, and together we prayed that God would accomplish His will.
The next morning, the hotel shuttle driver dropped us off at the American Consulate with our new friends Jamie and Victor. When we reached the gate of the compound, the Mexican police informed us that only Victor and Julio could enter. Moments later, Jamie and I were alone on the street, frightened and cold, waiting for the hotel shuttle to return for us.
When we reached the hotel, I began to pray fervently for Julio. As the hours ticked by slowly, I grew anxious. Eventually, I found myself in the hotel lobby, peering through the windows for my husband to arrive. Nine long hours after he entered the consulate, my exhausted husband stepped from a taxi. As I ran to greet him, I could sense the news was not good.
Julio fell into my arms. The Consulate had denied his Visa and banned him from applying again for 10 years. My first impulse was to walk across the border and lose ourselves among the millions of illegal immigrants living in the States. To his credit, Julio refused. I immediately called Pastor Reuben, and he reminded me that we had prayed for God’s will. Now, we had to trust Him.
Victor and Jamie received the same news. In frustration, Victor questioned why God would let this happen. I reassured him that God was still holding our hands. Victor thanked us for sharing God with them. While he did not get a Visa that day, he received something far more precious.
The interview changed our lives forever. The pain of separation loomed over us like a thick fog. When I boarded the plane to start home, I thought my heart would break. The pain was like none I had ever experienced. As I look back, I realize that Jesus carried me through those dark, dark days. I prayed all the way home for Julio, and for God to give me the strength I would need for the days ahead.
When I left Julio in Mexico he had little money, no place to live, and no place to look. Because he left Mexico at such a young age, he had great difficulty reading and writing Spanish, and he faced the daunting task of learning the language. Yet by the time I arrived home in Georgia, he had already rented a room from an old man who lived in a house by himself. God had begun to answer my fervent prayers.
I remember little about the next few weeks. Although my heart was still aching, I had no time for grief. I became a single parent overnight, and the responsibilities seemed endless. My children cried morning and night for their daddy. As a stay-at-home mother, I was faced with an increasing pile of bills (especially the international phone bill) and no substantial income.
Thankfully, my parents stepped in to help, giving me time to contact senators, congressmen, and lawyers—someone, anyone who would tell me that it was just a matter of paperwork to get my husband back. That never happened.
In the meantime, Julio was searching desperately for work in Mexico, but everywhere he turned, he hit a brick wall. He had no legal papers for the States or for Mexico.
I’ve never experienced such a lonely Christmas. Don’t misunderstand. Our church was kind and compassionate and provided bountiful gifts for the kids. But my heart was in Mexico where I knew Julio waited, lonely and depressed.
When I thought I could stand the separation no longer, our church family bought tickets for me to visit Julio. Again, God quietly reminded me that He was still holding my hand. The month-long visit was a shock. The tiny house where Julio lived did not compare to the comfortable tourist hotel of my previous visit. Living conditions were poor, and I cried frequently—selfishly missing my comfortable home. Eventually, I adjusted to the dusty cement floors and cold water, and learned to focus on the pleasure of being with my husband.
The month passed far too quickly. When I left, the pain of separation was so intense that it felt new again. No sooner had I arrived in the States than I began planning to return. Yet days stretched into months as I scoured the Internet looking for inexpensive tickets. Just when I reached the point of despair, I found tickets! Again, God reminded me that He was still holding my hand.
I made plans to leave for Mexico as soon as my daughter’s school year came to an end. Time flew, but it could not pass fast enough for me. Our financial situation continued to be tight, but time and time again, God provided. People in the community helped. Families from our daughter’s school poured out support.
God was at work in Mexico as well. As Julio reconnected with family and friends he hadn’t seen in years, he had many opportunities to share his faith. The longer he stayed in his homeland, the more he began to view Mexico as a mission field. After two months of struggling with the decision, Julio contacted the Seminary of the Cross in Altamira about studying for the ministry. The next morning he boarded a bus for the 24-hour ride to the seminary.
The early days at the seminary were far from easy. Julio often asked himself, “What am I doing here?” As a new Christian, he knew little about the Bible—he couldn’t even name all of the books. Before long, however, he mastered the basics and began to excel in his classes.
On June 1, 2007, the entire family (pictured at right) left for Mexico. When the three of us embraced Julio in the airport, I was jubilant! Our family was finally together again, if only for a short while. Our return-trip tickets were dated August 14.
Our lives changed drastically as we learned a new culture and a new way of life. As the weeks went by, I began to understand that Mexico might be the place where the Lord wants us. I stayed busy cooking for E-TEAM and other mission groups that visited the seminary. For the first time, I began to see our experience as an opportunity rather than a burden. I realized that with God’s help, Julio and I could accomplish anything the Lord has in store for us. Rather than trying to bring Julio back across the border, I found myself content with the idea of a life and ministry in Mexico.
August 14 came, and we chose not to use the return tickets. Julio’s seminary classes started on August 27 at the Seminary of the Cross, and I began to home-school my children in September. Mexico is now our home.
When I sit and think about my life, I am overwhelmed by the realization that we have started over with nothing. Yet I ask the Lord daily to give me the strength I need, and I know He will provide for us. After all, He is still holding our hand.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Vicky Garcia and her family live at the Seminary of the Cross in Altamira, Mexico.