Christian Life Commission
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.
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.
Can you believe it? You can provide 6 people with a nutritious meal for just ONE DOLLAR! Between now and August 31, you can anyway. The David M. Crowley Foundation has issued a generous $100,000 matching challenge to friends of the North Texas Food Bank. Full Story »
The Christian Life Commission has received a couple of questions about why it honored Texas Sen. Wendy Davis with its Horizon Award in 2012. As virtually everyone knows, Davis was thrust into the national political spotlight in June with her filibuster in opposition to a bill supported by many Texas Baptists, including me.
The CLC honored Sen. Davis last year for her support of various issues that are important to Texas Baptists, including opposition to predatory lending practices. The senator from Fort Worth has been vital to the legislative effort to limit immoral payday and auto title lending practices, which are devastating thousands of lives in our state.
The reality of working on public policy issues in Austin is that specific senators and representatives side with us on some issues and disagree with us on others. In our dealings with all elected officials we seek to be clear, truthful, and respectful whether or not an official agrees with us. This is one of the reasons the CLC has a great deal of influence in Austin; legislators trust us and respect us, though they do not always agree with us.
It would not be wise for Texas Baptists to make one issue the most important issue and sacrifice all of our other legislative concerns. Since life is sacred, we work hard to bring that understanding of life to bear on a wide range of issues. In other words, just as we value the life of a child in a mother’s womb, we also value that child after it is born and in need of nutrition, education, and security. And this sanctity of life does not end with childhood; we continue to value people throughout the life process, including their final years.
This approach to life is informed by Jesus’ injunction to care for “the least of these,” the most vulnerable among us. This is part of why the protection of unborn life is so very important; these children represent the most vulnerable among us. It would not be consistent with the teachings of Christ and of Scripture if the CLC set concern for pre-born life above concern for all human life; Jesus’ concern for the vulnerable covers all.
Abortion is indeed a critical issue and one which tugs at the heart of so many of us. We simply cringe with pain at some of what happens in our culture today. During the first special session, the CLC staff hand-delivered a letter from BGCT Executive Director David Hardage to each legislator’s office in the Capitol. These legislators, including Sen. Davis, know where we stand on these proposals.
Texas Baptists care deeply about the abortion issue because of the sacredness of life and the importance of caring for the most vulnerable among us. It would not, however, be wise for us to convey a message that this is the only issue that is important to the followers of Christ.
We care because we love, as God first loved us. That love seeks to protect the weak from the powerful, the hurting from those who seek to harm, and the least of these in a world that often honors the opposite. In Christ, God has brought salvation to the world. The sad reality of abortion reminds us that while we glimpse heaven through our walk with Christ, we still have work to do–God’s work.