by Maria Vargas
Maria works as a medical assistant in the Yakima Valley. She read Shaunee’s story in February and was inspired to share her story! She has never shared her story before.
My story starts with a mother of five children living in poverty in a small village in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. Oliva was married to Isidro. She was alone with her children for most of the year, while her husband would work in the United States to provide for her family. Oliva was tired of living in poverty and knew if she didn’t do something for her children’s future, they would end up in poverty like her.
Both of my parents agreed to bring up their children to live the “American dream.” They knew it would be hard and obstacles would come their way. They were ready to fight for a better future in America. At the age of nine years old, I came home from school one day to find both parents and my older sister had left for the United States. My 16-year-old sister Laura would care for me and my brothers while my parents worked hard to make enough money to petition the rest of the children to join them at the end of the year.
I arrived in the United States at the age of ten, enrolled in school, and learned English as a second language. I enjoyed school, I was smart and a dreamer. I met teachers who inspired me to pursue my dreams in education. During a visit to Washington State University campus in Pullman, my heart filled with hope to one day be there as a student. I worked hard to have the best grades in my class.
When I was 12, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I felt there was no more future for me. In my mind I thought, I will die very soon; I will never get to go to college; I will never get to experience love or get married; I will not be able to become a mother. My heart became full of fear. During sophomore year in high school, a teacher, Ms. Gonzalez, gave me a rock with the word “passion” written on it, telling me she saw passion in my writing and she advised me to fight for my dreams.
My parents were not able to send me to college or university. They were making only enough to feed the family. At the age of 15, I started working at a local restaurant after school to earn extra money to pay for college. It was hard to study and work, but I was motivated by “the big picture” and the possibilities that college would bring. That same year, my family collapsed as my father suffered mental illness that landed him in the hospital and eventually took over his life.
At the age of 16, my life was harder than ever. I fell into depression, fear, and anxiety. School seemed harder and harder. From being the best in my class and nominated to national student of the year, I began to struggle to keep my grades up. I ran away to escape the struggles I faced at home. My heart filled with hate and loneliness as I suffered domestic violence in silence. Alcohol became the way I would cope with my pain. The “big picture” became blurry.
But there was “light at the end of the tunnel.” One day I opened up a Bible and read “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Jesus, the light of the world, called me out of my darkness.
A few months later, I graduated from Charter College as a certified medical assistant proud of overcoming the troubles faced in my past. I met a wonderful man who married me after graduation. I worked hard serving an underserved population. After many years of working hard together with my husband I became a homeowner. Although the dream of going to the university had not yet been a reality for me, life looked like the “American Dream” of freedom and the pursuit of happiness.
In August of 2019 I experienced health issues. The doctor told me it was probably cancer. When I went in for the MRI, I distinctly remember the feeling that my time on earth was not up yet. God still had plans for me here.
After facing multiple health problems, the Lord helped me understand I have a calling. All the struggles in my life are not “unfortunate events,” but a blessing. Blessings also come with tears! I want to respond to the Lord as Samuel did with “Lord here I am.” People in our community are suffering, our nation is full of fear and insecurities. But one thing is certain, if we come together, we can see the glory of God!
My name is Maria, I’m a 28-year-old woman, who wants to remind the world there is still hope. “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24
Maria’s story is part of The Seventh Stories Project, which shares stories of reconciliation, compassion, and love to create new narratives of inclusion, collaboration, and community. Inspired by the book, The Seventh Story, by Brian McLaren and Gareth Higgins, Broetje Family Trust seeks new stories to share every month on our blog. Send us an email if you’d like to contribute!