Restaurando Esperanza – Part Two

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

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She came up behind him

The bleeding woman was an atrevida, courageous in knowing her truth of being marginalized, but choosing not to isolate herself and seek Jesus in spite of how society would see her and her condition. How she approached him speaks volumes: as it is said in two gospels “she came up behind him” (Mark 5:27; Luke 8:44, NIV). She didn’t dare approach him face to face but overcoming fear and shame she boldly reached for her miracle. I understand her posture vividly as I have felt shame with my own undocumented story. Shame for the number of years suffering without a pathway to citizenship, internalizing unworthiness and inadequacy as truth. Ashamed to tell others for fear of losing their respect and avoiding the pain of people’s sympathy or “suggested” solutions, as if I haven’t exhausted every possibility to adjust my status. Yet, I’ve abided in Jesus because behind him I am covered, protected and seen–not uncovered, in danger, and rejected. I am the bleeding woman who has come behind Jesus reaching out in hope of a better future for us, the undocumented immigrant community.

Daughter, your faith has healed you

Jesus, the Son of God called the bleeding woman “daughter” after he felt her touch. He asked his disciples who did it and she in fear and trembling told him her truth. I understand the bleeding woman’s fear and trembling because I still wrestle with it. It is not easy to live in between knowing whether or not you’ll be deported just because of people’s political perspective.

I’ll never forget the day after Trump’s election. On auto-pilot, I traveled to work in NYC’s subway system but saw a swarm of sullen faces on the trains. People on phone calls with voices breaking, some crying, others sitting on the train with blank stares. New York City was grieving. I tried to hide behind my work. My supervisor came to me with watery eyes and a shaky voice. She shared her uncertainty for her family who had a blended status. This means members of her family were both documented and undocumented. She didn’t know what would happen to them.

Later, I witnessed the fear of a group of female Muslim undergrads pleading with their professor to pardon them from class as they had to leave early for their safety. Unfortunately, unsympathetic, the teacher responded abrasively, informing them of their need to make up the work. All of these factors were cumulative bricks on my glass heart; and I shattered. My eyes filled with tears, a lump formed in my throat, and in a desperate need for privacy, I raced to the restroom. I found a stall and unraveled.

Quiet tears escaped and the knot in my throat softened only to tighten again as I heard two young Muslim friends trying find the safest way to study late in the library. That evening I hit my breaking point on the phone with my mentor who was angry as well with the results of Trump becoming president. She reminded me that I wasn’t alone and if I ever needed shelter, her home was open and prayed over me with reassuring words which imprinted in my soul reminders of whose I was. I was a daughter of the King of Kings, who is over rulers and principalities, despite the circumstances and hardships of a Trump presidency.

As the Trump administration dehumanized me, I was confronted by my own dehumanization of white Americans in New Life Fellowship Church’s Racial Reconciliation Conference in 2017. I heard Sandra Van Opstal speak wonderfully of God’s heart for unity and standing in mutuality for our hurting immigrant communities. She spoke with tears on not just singing worship songs in Spanish, but caring for our Latino community in the midst of profound hardship. I cried inconsolably. After her talk, we debriefed in groups and spoke about what impacted us the most. For the first time I shared my anger against the white American Christians who dehumanized my immigrant community with their xenophobia. A white American brother spoke through tears and told me, “On behalf of them, I apologize. I am so sorry for the hurt and pain it caused you.” Tears just flowed; and I could feel myself being healed. God came to me in this brother’s wonderful words of reconciliation which immediately brought to mind the many white Christians who mentored and counseled me on my journey. How did I dare forget? Due to the pain of others’ xenophobia, I forgot the Christ-loving community that loves and supports me.

My hope will continue in Christ and I thank you for reading my story. The 2020 election is in your hands. As an undocumented Latina pastor who is a Dreamer and DACA recipient, I pray with all my heart you may choose wisely who you place in power in our nation. I don’t have the right to vote, nor do my parents and the millions undocumented in all our nation striving to survive in this global pandemic. Remember your vote for a candidate is also a judgment on us, your undocumented immigrant neighbors. If you do not know someone who is undocumented, now you do. We are more than just a number. We are a people who just like you are in the pursuit of love, happiness, dreams and goals for our families and future generations.

My hope for all who are undocumented is for you to know you are not alone. I, too, as an undocumented single pastor with Afro-Peruvian and Peruvian-Italian roots, lament with you. I lament all the times you’ve never heard that God loves you and is for you regardless of your documentation, because you are a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I apologize for all the racist, discriminatory, xenophobic comments you’ve received from the faith community. I’m deeply sorry for all of the rhetoric which has affected your heart and soul.

I apologize for all the ways you, too, our dear beloved Afro-Latino community, have heard Scripture manipulated to tell you to “honor the law by going back to where you came from,,” making you feel less than, just as the enslaved did. You are not what people say you are. You are who He says you are. I apologize for not speaking my story sooner and advocating for you as it took me time to get out of the shadows of telling my undocumented story but also recognizing my own Black heritage. Through my grandmother’s roots on my father’s side I am Afro-Peruvian. I grieve with all who are Afro-Latino, my dear brown church community who suffer the injustice of police brutality. I recognize my privilege because I have lighter skin and lament with you those who don’t recognize our African origins. I ask for forgiveness on their behalf and will continue to fight for you. No estan solos!

I recently had a conversation with a German friend of mine. I shared with my friend that I watched a documentary on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and was alarmed by the Nazis’ usage of Scripture to justify the Holocaust. My friend with much sadness and confidence told me this was true. He recited the history of his people with a humble repentance from the atrocities it caused and the Nazis’ misusage of Scripture. He was absolutely aware of the pain, suffering, and grief this history left for decades. He also said that Trump’s politics reminded him of the same fear tactics and manipulation he saw in Hitler’s campaign. I was shocked hearing my friend’s response and also comforted. I was shocked as I saw history repeating itself, yet I was comforted in seeing the humble repentance of a German native reciting his history many generations after the Holocaust. Perhaps one day, generations after the Trump administration, Americans will recite history and recognize and own all the pain and suffering caused to people of color. I hope to be living to see this unfold. But even if I don’t this side of heaven, after America is gone, there will come a day when our stories of suffering will be told, and all will repent of what America did to us.

About the Author
Miluska E. Aquije
(Milly) is many things. As an educator, a spiritual advisor, a mentor, and a Dreamer - among so much else - Milly supports her community with a unique passion and vibrancy. Her current professional experience includes serving as the Discipleship Pastor with Reconcile Brooklyn, and as the founder of Hoping Greatly, where she uplifts others through her story of resilience as an undocumented immigrant. She holds degrees from Nyack College and Hunter College, as well as a certificate from the City Seminary of New York.