Advocacy | Care
SAN ANTONIO – Arina Popovici is the first immigrant to be assisted by the Immigration Service and Aid Center (ISAAC) to obtain legal permanent residency within the United States. She never dreamed that she would have this opportunity in her lifetime, but with the help of the ISAAC Project, her dreams are finally coming true.
Seven years ago, Arina Popovici came to the United States from Italy as an international student. While her student visa expired, she did not want to go back to Italy because her family was already here. After residing in the US. for a couple of years, Arina married and was soon pregnant with her first child.
What started out as a loving relationship turned into a constant battle of mental and physical abuse. Along with having to care for and nurture her daughter, she also had to handle and work through her marriage that was falling apart. Arina left her husband and began to file for divorce, but the price of achieving that was more costly than she could afford, so she turned to ISAAC for help.
“I wish I could find and speak to women who are in the situation like I have been. I was lucky that I had my brother here, but there are people who have no one in this country,” said Arina. “ISAAC can help!”
The ISAAC Project works with the dire need for quality immigration counseling and services. Many immigrants have fallen victim to ‘notarios’ and immigration consultants who capitalize on their lack of familiarity with the legal system.
Located in San Antonio, ISAAC is a collaborative ministry of Texas Baptists and Baptist University of the Americas that seeks to encourage and train churches in order to offer legal service ministries to their immigrant communities. They offer 40-hour Institutes on Basic Immigration Law every year in order to provide the training needed for those who wish to serve this way.
Six months passed by and Arina saved enough money to file for divorce. “It was a hard battle,” said Arina. “It takes a lot of support and patience to go through all of this, but my main motivation was always my daughter.”
While her case was pending, Arina received a Pell Grant and went back to school. After it was approved she went straight to Jesus Romero, ISAAC program coordinator, knowing he would know exactly what to do to help her.
“He pays attention to the details and works in timely manner,” Arina said. “He helped me right away.”
At ISAAC, they are intentional about providing an atmosphere of hospitality, care and a good listening attitude. They provide immigration information from a Christian perspective. Whether it is through personal visits, sermons, website information, newsletters, or social media, the staff at ISAAC helps on all platforms, issues, and topics.
“We don’t just fill out immigration forms,” said Romero. “We care about people who need legal help with an immigration process, we listen to their stories, we explore ways for them to get legal relief for their particular situations, and we legally represent them before the Department of Homeland Security in seeking legal immigration status.”
ISAAC has helped two Texas Baptist groups become recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in the past year and a half. These groups have aided immigrants to become citizens, processed paperwork for visas, and, in some cases, even helped undocumented aliens to remain legally in the United States.
Juan Rangel, of Piedras Negras Coahuila Mexico, is another immigrant that has received help from ISAAC and is now waiting to take the oath to become an a citizen.
Juan came to the United States as a young boy to work as a farm laborer. At age 21, Juan found a home in Austin, Texas, where he married his wife. It was there that he first applied for citizenship in 1997, but he was denied.
Months went by, and Brother Leonel Flores was preaching at the church Juan and his wife attended, Emanual Baptist Church of Bastrop, Texas. After the service, Juan received a text message from Brother Flores inviting him to an immigration seminar at a church in Oak Hill, Texas.
“I had to work that day so I was not able to attend the seminar, but a few weeks later I texted him and asked for information about the seminar and how I could get in touch with the ISAAC program,” said Juan. “It was that moment where my life would change forever.”
“Praise be my Lord for putting me on the right path to citizenship with the help of the ISAAC program,” said Rangel. “With the help and knowledge of Brother Jesus Romero and his staff, I passed my interview and I am now waiting to take the oath. I am very grateful for the help received from the ISAAC program!”
For more information on the ISAAC program, visit http://www.isaacproject.org/.
Bread for the World has announced its 2014 Offering of Letters to United States senators and representatives. Bread does not send these letters; Bread encourages and empowers individual Christians to conduct this annual letter-writing campaign, and this often occurs through churches.
This year’s effort asks lawmakers to reform United States food aid in times of crisis and to foster long-term solutions to hunger. Specifically, it asks for legislation to pursue three goals:
1) Improve efficiency in international crisis aid by allowing more food to be bought in or near the country where it is needed and by reducing sales of American-grown food in developing countries and instead funding local projects that can provide more sustainable anti-hunger efforts.
2) Enhance the nutritional quality of food aid and better target it to vulnerable people, such as women and children in the first 1,000 days of life.
3) Protect funding for emergency and development food aid.
Bread, which is supported by the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, provides a wide variety of helpful resources to help people understand the issues related to U.S. aid and to help churches organize letter-writing campaigns. It’s a great way to lay a foundation of concern for hunger and poverty in the world, and this concern is firmly rooted in the gospel message of Jesus.
DALLAS – Texas Baptists endorsed Hollas and Nelda Hoffman as the first Oil Patch Chaplains on Monday, February 24, during a meeting of the Executive Board. The Hoffmans, of Gonzales, will serve on the oil fields of South Texas as chaplains. Full Story »
The Hospitality House in Huntsville ministers to the families of those who are incarcerated, and Texas Baptists help support this effort.
Executive Director Debra McCammon said, ”The simple touches, conversations, hugs and smiles help us to share the love of Christ with them.”
She also wrote:
“Loving those who are hurting is always about the little things we do: small craft gift on their pillow, a ‘Welcome’ picture postcard sitting on top of their linens, providing a sewing kit when their dress has torn, putting a candle in the brownies, cakes or pies on their birthdays and presenting them with a small gift, or especially a Bible of their “very own” with scriptures marked and a prayer a salvation in the back.”
DALLAS – Two Texas Baptist pastors raised concerns about payday and car title lending practices during meetings with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau leadership in Dallas on Dec. 12. Full Story »
War powerfully shapes a person’s understanding of the world, including one’s faith. World War II created in many people a veneration of the United States that caused love of country to sometimes override love of God or to conflate the two into one love. The Vietnam War then brought about a mindset of distrust, and since love of God and country had often been melded the two could be dismissed together by some.
It is not surprising that war shapes understandings of faith, but it is surprising that faith does not more often shape understandings of war.
The other day I ran across an article written by Charles Colson in July 2001 shortly after the release of the movie, “Pearl Harbor.” Colson told a story of a young man who wanted vengeance on the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor and how we was able to exact that revenge as a bombardier in Doolittle’s famous raid.
But that was only the beginning of the story. That young man, Jacob DeShazer, became a POW in Japan and asked for a Bible. Ten days into his study, DeShazer asked Christ to forgive his sins. He remembered, “suddenly … when I looked at the enemy officers and guards …, I realized that … if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel. … My bitter hatred … changed to loving pity.” Remembering Christ’s words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” DeShazer asked God to forgive his torturers, too.
That is an example of faith shaping one’s conception of war, and it was expressed by someone deeply impacted by and involved in war. The story continues and illustrates the power of the gospel to change lives. It can be read at colsoncenter.org.
It is interesting that just two months after Colson’s column, the United States was attacked again. Like World War II, it brought a revival of national and religious spirit—and the two together. I do not recall many Christian voices calling for love of our enemies, but some did.
Of course, individuals and nations are different. The United States needed to take action to break up the terrorist camps in Afghanistan, but there was a great temptation for individual Christians to beat the drums of war as if our national enemies were some alien race and not fellow children of God.
Terrorism and war should produce more sadness than anger among Christians for those tragedies are a reminder of how much the people of this world need Christ.
Colson said that when World War II ended, Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the raid on Pearl Harbor, returned to his family farm near Osaka. Later, stepping off a train in Tokyo, he was given a copy of DeShazer’s pamphlet about his experience. Fuchida started reading the Bible. And despite his Shinto heritage, he accepted Christ as his Savior.
Two opposing warriors: Both loved by God. Both forgiven. Both united in Christ.
A prayer: Dear God, help us to see our world through your eyes and not our own. Help us to love all people, not just the people who are like us or who fly the same flag. Help us to be more like Jesus and love those whom others see as enemies.