Kathrin tells us about the faith she has found in a neighbourhood in Texas during this time of pandemic.
My name is Kathrin, and I am a married Servant of the Gospel of God’s Mercy. I am from Germany but have been living in Houston, Texas with my husband Abdul and two daughters Anna and Emma for the last ten years.
I am the executive director of Neighbors in Action, a small Christian community center in a 97% Latino neighborhood called Port Houston. Most of the people I work with came here from Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, fleeing the gang violence and drug wars in their home countries. Many of my families are undocumented and live in constant fear of deportation, and most struggle to make ends meet. We offer spiritual and educational programs for children and young people, as well as their parents (Bible sharing, small groups, prayer sessions, but also tutoring, summer camps, and music lessons, English classes, and more).
Life is challenging in our neighborhood in a normal year, but our families have been struggling immensely during this pandemic. Unlike me, many parents do not have the option of home office or the luxury of health care and benefits, and many lost their jobs or have had to work reduced hours. Those who have kept their jobs work in unsafe environments where social distancing and/or mask wearing is either impossible or discouraged, and a disproportionate number of people in our area have been tested positive for COVID. Some have even lost their lives.
Any yet – without trying to romanticize the hardship my brothers and sisters are going through –, I stand in awe of how much each one of them trusts God in the midst of horrific circumstances and how willing they are to sacrifice every little thing they have to help a neighbor who is even worse off. Theirs is a generosity out of a place of necessity, not abundance. It reminds me of Jesus’ encounter with the poor widow: “But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:42 – 44)
Maribel is one of those women whom I love and admire so much. Maribel, her husband Armando, and her two sons are originally from Honduras, where Maribel and Armando were police officers fighting against gang violence. They had to flee their home country overnight due to many death threats. Maribel’s husband has been struggling with mental illness after almost being killed in Honduras and being detained in a Texas immigration detention center for ten months, separated from his wife and children.
The pandemic has made his condition worse. The stress of not being able to provide has been detrimental for his mental health. For a while, he wasn’t seeing his doctors on a regular basis because the family wasn’t able to pay for all the appointments with his psychologist and psychiatrist. He has been worrying about bills and rent, and those stress factors usually worsen his condition.
But even in the midst of the struggle, Maribel’s faith is unwavering. I see her cling to Jesus and her faith in God’s goodness despite everything life has thrown at her. I see her love her husband even though many times he is emotionally unavailable. I see her fight for the wellbeing of her children. And I see her support her neighbors in need. Whenever I lose hope, I think of Maribel and the strength of her faith. I have received more from this fierce tiny sister in Christ than I will ever be able to return, and I thank Jesus for the beautiful examples of faith all around me every day.