Into the Shadowlands

You are a worthless piece of baggage!  Just another mouth to feed.

(slap to the face)

Get OUT! You’re no longer welcome here!

Those were the words eleven-year-old Mary heard from her stepfather just before he pushed her out the door.

Where would she go?  How would she live?   What would she eat that day?  Those questions are daunting enough for the millions of homeless adults in today’s world, but for an eleven-year-old, they crushed her spirit and kindled a hatred in her heart for men who mercilessly beat women and children.

Truth be told, Mary felt a sense of guilty relief knowing that she would not have to endure another slap to the face from the monster who married her mother; relief at not having to look over her shoulder anymore, and guilt because she knew her mom and sisters would probably absorb the blows that she would have born had she still lived home to receive them.

There was no use contacting the police.  What would they do?  They’d lock her up just for daring to challenge a man.

So Mary turned her back and trudged her way to seek refuge at Aunt Gabrielle’s house.  In those tough economic times, “refuge” was a relative term.  With no extra food to give her, Mary’s aunt did the next best thing: she helped her find a job.

Thus it was that eleven year old Mary became a nanny for the first time.  She bathed, fed, watched over, and quickly learned to love three small children and cleaned their home every day.  The few pennies she earned went to pay for extra food, clothing, and shoes.  Sometimes she snuck home when she knew her stepfather wasn’t around and gave her mom a few extra pennies.  This meager existence played out for nearly five years, until the children grew old enough for school, and the family had no need of a nanny anymore.  Once again, Mary found herself on the verge of homelessness and hunger.

Being a faithful girl of sixteen, Mary poured out her troubles to God and daily asked for a way to live free from homelessness, abuse, and hunger.  The Lord provided in the form of a job as a receptionist at a veterinarian clinic.  She loved meeting the people who brought in their pets, and silently she watched and learned.  Her quick intelligence and efficiency soon turned the cluttered front desk into an organized oasis that the clients noticed and appreciated.

Someone else noticed, too.  Mario, a man twenty-five years her senior, was in the clinic one day, painting a sign to hang by the front door.  He paid special attention to Mary, commenting frequently on her beauty and the sparkle in her eye.  At sixteen, Mary was adept at fending off the advances of amorous men.  She had no use for them — always remembering the treatment her mother and aunts received from the men in their lives.  But Mario was persistent, and soon he discovered that the way to soften Mary’s hardened heart was to offer her a way out of her present circumstances.  What would it be like to live in a land where a person gets an honest pay for an honest day’s job?  Where a house can be built without bribes being paid to officials?  Where a woman can go to college and have her own business?

Between Mario’s smooth charm and tantalizing thoughts of freedom, Mary didn’t stand a chance.  She believed his lies and took up his offer to help her achieve this freedom.

Little did she know that this freedom came at a terrible price.

Mario bought forged papers that showed Mary’s age to be 18, rather than 16.  Then he handed her and $3000 to his buddy Owen.  Owen was an expert in helping people move from one place to another…illegally.  Mary was assured that everything would be legit and that the forged papers were made so that she could travel freely in the country without a parent.  Drunk on thoughts of freedom and opportunity, sixteen-year-old Mary allowed herself to be led like a sheep to a slaughterhouse.

The false papers took her six hundred miles from the only land she’d ever known. At no time was she out of Owen’s sights.  At no time could she go back, nor did it ever occur to her young mind that her choices were fraught with danger.  Mary had her first clue that something was amiss when Owen took her to a house — just to stay the night, he promised.  The man at the house had more in mind than sleeping and expected payment in full.  Mary tried to rebuff his amorous advances, politely, at first.  But when this nameless man grabbed her breasts and twisted them violently, Mary fought back.  She punched and kicked and succeeded in making herself off limits — for the night, at least.

Her next clue came when Owen explained that the next leg of their journey would be on foot, rather than by car.  What could she do?

After walking miles and miles across hot, sandy desert, Mary knew without a doubt that she was in big trouble.  Owen suddenly yanked her back and took off running in the direction from which they came.  Mary was trapped.  Owen pulled her on one side, and burly angry men with guns were on the other.  This was no picnic.  It was not “legit.”  And she had nowhere safe to go.  So she ran back with Owen, back to the home of the man who tried to assault her.  She had to figure out what to do.  Mario had paid Owen $3000 to get her across the border in an illegal act.  The money was paid, and she was now a thousand miles from home.  She had no money of her own.  She was a woman in a man’s world — where men owned their women like they owned their houses or their cars.

After a night praying, Mary decided to keep moving forward.  The land before her was at least a place where she would be free.  Free from Owen, free from corruption, free from men who abuse women as a matter of course.  The Lord would help her sort out her life — or He would send her back, or He would take her home to the ultimate destination.

The next morning before sunrise, Mary and Owen again set out on foot.  They took a different path…one that led to a high fence studded with barbed wire.  Mary was past the point of return; there was nothing to do but grit her teeth and find a way through the fence.  A barb tore a chunk out of her shoulder, but still she walked, waiting for the freedom that supposedly beckoned beyond the fence.

First the holes in the soles of her shoes were small, but as the days passed, they grew larger.  Soon she wrapped her feet in discarded paper, trying to protect them from the hot sand.  Thirst and hunger were constant companions, and the wound on her shoulder began to fester.  Mary grew weaker and more and more ill as time marched on; the days blended into a blur until finally she and Owen reached a city large enough to allow them to hide in its shadows.

Mario was waiting for her.  Alone, frightened, dazed, and sick, Mary became a child bride in a strange country which was now her home.  Her old life of abuse was behind her; life in the shadowlands with limited opportunity awaited.

She was trapped, but she was not defeated.  Mary determined to make her new country her own.  She set her mind to learning the language.  She worked as a nanny for several years, raising those children as if they were her own.  She became a mom when she turned 22.  Life in her new country was much better than the one she came from.  There were no more physical beatings, but in a few years emotional abuse set in.  Mario lost interest in Mary; he moved out of their home and into the home of his mistress.  He threatened to report Mary to the authorities.  He refused to pay his share of medical bills for their daughter and stopped paying the mortgage.

Once again, Mary faced a giant hurdle with tenacity and courage.  She took on more work than most people could shoulder, cleaning two, sometimes three houses a day.  She used a large chunk of her earnings to pay for health insurance so that she and her daughter would never be denied health care.  Mary has lived and worked in her adopted country for fifteen years and wants, more than anything, to earn her GED and go to college.  She is the one person in a thousand who wants to pay taxes.  She wants to give back to the country that has lifted her out of a life of abuse.  She wants to become a citizen of the land of the free.

But, ironically, she can’t.  Mary is an illegal alien, brought to the USA from South America as a bright-eyed teenager, hoping for a better life.  She has worked difficult, hard jobs these past fifteen years without complaint.  She is grateful for the work she has because it puts food on her table.  She contributes to the economy and does not rely on public assistance.  She is a believer and knows that coming over here illegally was wrong…but it was also right.

Readers of my blog know that I have in the past taken a very strong stance against the concept of amnesty.  That was before I came to know and love Mary.  The Lord put her in my life for a reason; she has been a blessing to my family in ways that I can’t even describe.  She is a shining example of someone who really does deserve a real chance to come out of the shadowlands.

Through Mary, I have been given a heart-upgrade.  I see America’s potential through her eyes, and it saddens me.  I read the Lord’s words with new meaning, and I cringe at the hate spewing out of the mouths of those (of whom I once was) who do not look behind the numbers to see the faces and hands and hearts that God sees.

Isaiah 56:

1 This is what the Lord says:“Be just and fair to all.
Do what is right and good,
for I am coming soon to rescue you
and to display my righteousness among you.

6 “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord,

who serve him and love his name,
who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest,
and who hold fast to my covenant.
8 For the Sovereign Lord,
who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says:
I will bring others, too,
besides my people Israel.”

Are not we believers, too, foreigners?  We, too, are among those of whom the Lord says, “I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.”

Sinful Leaders Condemned

9 Come, wild animals of the field!
Come, wild animals of the forest!
Come and devour my people!
For the leaders of my people—
the Lord’s watchmen, his shepherds—
are blind and ignorant.
They are like silent watchdogs
that give no warning when danger comes.
They love to lie around, sleeping and dreaming.
11 Like greedy dogs, they are never satisfied.
They are ignorant shepherds,
all following their own path
and intent on personal gain.

Is that much different than those of us who shout and complain that “the illegals” are taking jobs away from hard-working Americans?  Are we all, as the verses say, following our own path and intent on our own personal gain?

Former Republican candidate Mike Huckabee speaks a great deal about helping these people come out of the shadows.  If America’s leaders would institute some sort of system (paying a fine, speaking the language, becoming citizens) that would allow these twelve million souls the means to become legal, our entire economy would benefit from the taxes they would pay.  More importantly, the hard workers like Mary would finally be able to emerge from the shadowlands and work unencumbered for God’s glory.

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