Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Purple Prayer Bead

There is a large, purple bead by my bed. It was given to me by a 7 year old and it reminds to pray for all of the girls at the shelter.

Tonight, at the shelter, I met a 15 year old girl. This 15 year old was arrested when her youth leader was pulled over (without breaking any traffic laws) while driving her and other students home from youth group. When asked to show ID, the undocumented youth leader could not so the officer preceded to check the IDs of all in the car. Those without proper documentation were apprehended, including this 15 year old. The youth leader was deported and this 15 year old sent to the shelter. She actually praises God that she is in the shelter because she feels she is there for a reason. This 15 year old feels a calling on her life to love those who do not feel loved. She has found joy in the ugliest of situations and is trying to share that joy with the other girls. She is sharing that joy with her new friend, a 14 year old who also lives at the shelter.

This 14 year old is a mom to an almost 2 year old with special needs. She was repeatedly raped and became pregnant at the age of 11. This 14 year old has come to the realization that she is not capable of parenting her son at this time and so has agreed to let him go live with a foster family while she continues to work on her issues and prepare herself to be the mom she wants to be. She has made an extremely difficult and selfless decision. Fortunately, she has found support, purpose, and friendship in a little 7 year old.

Self proclaimed "best friend" of the 14 year old, this 7 year old has managed to create family amongst a bunch of broken, lonely teenage girls. She can make anyone smile and although she misses her parents very much, this 7 year old is very concerned with how the other girls are doing. She sits through our Friday night Bible studies aimed towards teenagers, I think, because she wants to ask for prayer at the end. She wants prayer for all the girls and their cases. She doesn't have much of anything, but she had a purple bead and she told me that she really wanted me to have it.

Three incredible girls that are no doubt changing my life. I believe we need these girls to teach us about Jesus' unending joy and peace, boldness in Christ, selflessness, grace, community, and the power of prayer.

I pray we do not deport them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Real Garnet

So what happens when you have an undocumented family living in a poorly kept apartment complex owned by a greedy and lazy landlord? Well, this is what happens....

The other day, a girl from our teen center, whose family rents the apartment pictured above, came into our office telling us about how their toilet backed up and flooded their entire apartment. An awesome way to start the week if you ask me. We went over to talk to the family and see if there was anyway we could help; it was bad...really, really bad. It smelled like poop and their entire bathroom (the only one in the apartment) was completely unusable. The flooding had gone through the wall and into the closet in one of the bedrooms. All of their clothes were soaked and you could not walk through the hallway without your feet getting drenched with toilet water. It was terribly disgusting. The family called the landlord numerous times with no answer. Finally, later that night, the landlord came and snaked the toilet...but he left the house completely flooded and left part of the snake in the toilet, keeping it from being usable. He said, "You guys clean it up." The next morning, with the apartment still flooded, the tenants were at a loss as to what to do. The single mom can not take a day off work to clean it, the kids have school, and there sure as heck isn't money to hire a cleaning company. I went over to check on them and they asked me to call the landlord to put some pressure on him. When I called, with the most polite voice I could muster up, all I got was an angry man who was clearly avoiding his responsibilities. He quickly changed his tune once we got the City involved...but seriously, what a jerk!!
Slumlords. We have about 40 of them that own the run down, cockroach infested, cold water only apartments we, along with our friends and neighbors, call home. See, this is what happens when you have people who need a place to live, but don't have a social security number or the first and last month's rent. Add that to the fact that their are countless property owners who are only thinking about how to get the most money for the least amount of work, and voila, welcome to the American slums. Undocumented Immigrants are the perfect market for Slumlords in the US. After all, they have no rights or at least they don't know their rights. Even if they did, they are too afraid to speak up. Who would listen anyway?
Unfortunately, this story is not an anomaly. It's funny how I asked my landlord for screens on our windows and their was a guy installing them the next day, but my neighbors (who live in the same complex) have been asking for screens for years and have yet to get them. They look at me and assume I will assert my rights, but when they look at the Mexican family, they think, "Ha, what are they going to do??" Something has to change folks, so our friend from the teen center doesn't have to go to sleep to the smell of sewage, so my neighbors can eat dinner without a hundred flies swarming their food, and so the hard working single mom can take a warm shower when she gets home from work. It just ain't right people, it just ain't right.