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Interviewing Church's Members: Itzel and her girls

When I first heard that Itzel Suarez, a member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Providence, where my wife, Gwen, and I attend was from Cuernavaca, Mexico, I became very interested in talking with her. Gwen and I lived there for four years in the 1990’s. Gwen was in charge of hospitality at a retreat center for North American church people and I organized house building that became Habitat for Humanity.

I envisioned Gwen and I spending hours talking with Itzel about the city I came to love, and writing a blog about our experience there. Then I learned that that Itzel had two daughters who impressed me with their career goals: twenty year old junior in college, Hannah, aiming toward social work and going on ten year old Victoria, who wants to be an immigration lawyer. I decided to shelve the Cuernavaca blog in favor of interviewing two interesting young women who had set high goals for their lives.

I spoke with Victoria first because her interest at not quite ten years old in becoming an immigration lawyer was very unique. She told me that she always wanted to help people who couldn’t help themselves because of poverty or other handicap. She said that many of people in her family were immigrants and some were undocumented. Having someone whom she loved being deported scared her made her sad. Being an immigration lawyer would be a “dream job”, because she could help family and others who had immigration problems.

Victoria at BLM protest with Pastor Santiago

I asked Victoria if she talked with other students immigration, and tells them about problems like racism, but she didn’t get much response from them, except from one friend. I asked if she considered herself a loner, and she laughed.

Hannah described her field of social work as helping youth at risk, which she described as a special passion of hers. Many minority youth suffer from not being challenged at school and are put in classes that do not prepare them for higher education. She noticed in her school that college prep classes were all white.

Hannah with high school friends

This became very personal for her when she had a special teacher who had love for her students and showed that she believed in them. She helped Hannah get into college prep. I asked Hannah what might have happened to her had not had this teacher. She said she would not have become what she is now. Without this teacher she might have continued being handicapped with teachers who didn’t help her believe in herself.

There are many more testimonies I could relate about these two fighters for justice and peace for immigrants, but space doesn’t permit. The most important foundation holding up what they do and are is the family that supports them. Hannah calls her mother a best friend who encourages her to follow what “she is passionate about.” Victoria learns from her sister whom she respects and listens to. Hannah related how her mother had helped her in difficult times and knew the right word to say. Itzel confessed to having a tear when Hannah said this.

We are living in desperate times when racism needs to be confronted. Perhaps teams like Hannah and Victoria, and many, many others can be trained to go out to churches, youth clubs, schools and many other places where youth gather virtually, and be witnesses for justice and peace.


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