'Tis The Season' of Culture Clash
"For an immigrant, the question, "Do you have family here?" is usually answered negatively, because their extended family and heritage is in their home country."

by Sue Smith, Executive Director
CultureDuring the holidays, immigrant families are keenly aware of the cultural value of familia and how the decision to emigrate to the US has affected them. While familia is translated as "family," its meaning in Spanish is much broader than what immediately comes to mind.

Ask average Anglo Americans about family, and they'll probably name their spouse, significant other, and/or kids - automatically defining family as a social unit of one or more adults and their children. But ask Latin Americans about family, and they'll name everyone from the immediate family to grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins, and may even include godparents and long-time family friends. For an immigrant, the question, "Do you have family here?" is usually answered "No", because their extended family and heritage is in their home country.


Each December, LUCHA sponsors a Christmas party to celebrate the LUCHA familia. Between 75 and 100 people fill the Smith home for an afternoon of food, fellowship, and familia. We invite everyone, pack them in, and chaos reigns. Everyone brings holiday foods. Mexicans bring their jalape�os and hot sauce; Salvadorans make pupusas. And there's friendly banter over the merits of tamales wrapped in banana leaves over those wrapped in corn husks - and over the recipes from each country or region!


A couple of years ago, I realized the significance of this party. Alfredo, a quiet young dad, was hanging out in the kitchen, and we began talking. "You know," he said, "coming to your house makes Christmas special. It feels like familia here." He and his wife, Julita, have been in the US for over 10 years, and they have fond memories of large family gatherings in Mexico where the children played soccer and other games outside, the women provided a constant supply of special holiday foods, and the men gathered under the trees to talk about "macho guy stuff". They celebrated Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) with midnight mass, sharing gifts after mass, and eating tamales with hot fruit ponche. Many times the festivities extended through New Years' Day. In contrast, here there's no extended family, just Alfredo, Julita, Eric and Ashley in their small trailer.   With luck, the adults get Christmas Day off from work.


LUCHA's annual Christmas party brings together people from many countries, with different cultures and traditions, to remind folks of what is truly important during this season of the year. We share fond memories, eat good food and celebrate the greatest gift of the season, the birth of Christ. For those few hours together, we are familia.


During this holiday season, it's good to remember that we are all part of God's familia, connected despite our differences. It's not a nice, neat and tidy immediate family kind of thing. The familia is large, loud, at times chaotic, and unorganized. But we are united through our love for the Father, and through His love for us. �Feliz Navidad!

In This Edition
Executive Order Comes on Immigration
by Greg Smith, Administrator

ImmigrationPresident Obama took a strong, bold stand on immigration that all Americans should applaud. He reminds us that we are a nation of immigrants that depends on the strong entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic that immigrants historically have brought to our country.


With his executive action, the president offers temporary relief and real hope for millions of undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, through Deferred Action for Parental Accountability or DAPA. They have contributed for years to U.S. society yet have lived in the shadows fearful of being deported and separated from their loved ones. His order expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to help DREAMers who weren't eligible for DACA when it was first announced in 2012. His order also expands work authorization for high-skilled immigrants who are currently in line to immigrate. I am tremendously excited for the Latino families we know and work with who will benefit enormously by the president's historic decision on their behalf.


Still, while I share the jubilation of the immigrant community by this move, we must keep in mind that the president's action reflects neither a long-term solution nor permanent relief. In fact, for DAPA as well as for DACA recipients, it does not legalize their status, rather it simply defers action on the possibility of being deported for as long as the executive action is in effect. Thankfully, such should not change as long as President Obama is in office, but what about after his administration ends on January 20, 2017?


What we desperately need is for Congress to take up the job of creating a fair and balanced immigration bill that can be signed into law that allows immigrants to take the tough yet responsible steps necessary to live lawfully in the country and become full and permanent contributors to making the United States even stronger than it has ever been. This is the only real foundation upon which our country can move forward on immigration and the immigrant community can build their lives with hope. 


So for 2015, LUCHA invites you to work with us to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, by talking with your representatives and senators, speaking out for permanent changes in immigration law, and welcoming immigrants with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.  May the upcoming year prove to be pivotal in the struggle to bless our immigrant friends and neighbors who have blessed our communities and countries so much!


VideoAs we complete ten years of work with immigrant families, LUCHA has the privilege of knowing many young adults who have literally grown up with us.


LUCHA initially focused on the needs of immigrant adults but soon realized that we needed to include the family as well. Immigrants often told us that they had come to the US to give their children a better life, and we wanted to help make this possible. We support families by providing school supplies, offering youth and enrichment activities during the summers, and providing homework assistance to children.


LUCHA helps create a strong, healthy family environment by giving parents the tools they need to be good parents. We guide them through the challenges of parenting bicultural children who are both Latino and American, who share values from both cultures. We help them understand the school system and the role of parents in the educational process. 


And these efforts pay off. Watch our new video, The Hope, to see how two young immigrants are thriving in college today, thanks to the sacrifice of their parents, the encouragement of LUCHA, and the willingness of a school to accept them. 

Taking a Look Back at 2014
Sue Smith, Executive Director

LookBack2014 has proven to be one of our most exciting years yet as we celebrate 10 years of ministry and service to the immigrant community!


We began by adding a 10-station computer lab to the Bridges of Hope program site, which gives the 27 students in the after-school program access to computers to do homework.  It also offers parents the opportunity to connect with their children's school and teachers by internet. The 30 ESOL students also have access to the computers.  Project �Adelante! has also used the lab, providing classes for adults to master computer basics, improve keyboarding skills and learn to work with Microsoft Office programs.


Of the 128 students who received school supplies this year from LUCHA, 3 are college students, and they are among the students who have received supplies each year from LUCHA. Providing the essential tools for education, especially for middle and high school students, helps them focus on their education and follow their dreams.


Ten persons received scholarships through LUCHA to take American Red Cross courses in Spanish in Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED, and we have received a grant that will fund 20 additional students during 2014-15. In-home childcare providers, parents of children with special needs, and others seeking to improve their skills to enable them to obtain a better job earned certification.


Approximately 1,400 persons received food assistance through LUCHA's Cinco Panes program during 2014, and an additional 275 children received "Kids on the Go" food assistance during the summer vacation. Between 50 and 60 volunteers run this program, and all are from the immigrant community.  Most of them have received food assistance themselves. They work in an outdoor picnic shelter to sort and pack the food boxes, rain or shine, regardless of the temperature. A recent grant means they will soon have outdoor propane heaters for those bitter cold days.


In a given year, LUCHA touches approximately 250 families through its various programs. But while numbers are important, our true impact comes through things that can't be measured. When we see persons reaching their potential, pursuing their dreams, and serving in their community. When we help reunite families, celebrate births and birthdays, and walk beside people in times of crisis. When we pray for our friends, and see the hand of God working in their lives.


As 2014 draws to a close, I give thanks for the privilege of serving Christ through LUCHA Ministries, and for each and every person who shares in this ministry. �A Dios sea la Gloria! 

Living Latino in the USA:  Interview with an Immigrant
Tom Scott, Contributing Author

ImmigrantWhat does it feel like living in another country, especially when you lack legal status?

To be in a country as an immigrant is a somewhat bad experience, because we are deprived of certain things, and there's only so much we can do [in terms of work, obtaining ID or drivers' licenses] as undocumented persons. We want a better life for our kids, for our wives, and for other family members back in our home country. Many like me become depressed, just from the perspective of being in a foreign land. And in my case, especially after my problem when I ended up in jail because of an accident.  I know I can't have a car, and I'm not allowed to drive. It makes life even harder now.


Why is it so important to give your children a better life that you are willing to take the risk and live here, in spite of your legal status?

The risk is worth it because here in the US, there are many more opportunities and it's more advanced. In our country they are just beginning to really use electronics and computers and technology. In our country, there are these things, but the problem is that they are very expensive. Students would have to go to private schools or take private classes to learn to use a computer. Here, they experience it from the early grades in school, when they begin to teach computer skills and have access to computers. This is very important, for this is the future. Everything is computerized today.


The food is a little cheaper here, too, and you can eat better, dress better, live better. That's what we want for our families. In our countries, the dollar is more expensive than here. With the salary that we earn in the US, we can feed our family, pay the bills, and send something back to take care of, for example, our mothers. We know how life is in our country -- low salaries and expensive food. The Latino custom is that the adult children help their parents. Those of us in the US have a little more possibility of helping the family with what we earn here.


How do you feel about the work that many Latinos do in the US?

As Latinos [immigrants], we're here to work. If it's raining, we work. I have seen lots of Americans that won't use a shovel, they want "equipment". In construction, they don't use a hammer, they want a nail gun. Everything here is with equipment and machines. In our country, we work with our hands. Under the sun, in the rain, when it's cold, in the snow. Here, if there's a lot of cold, Americans don't work outside, the workers you'll see are only the Latinos and yet they (Americans) say we're taking away their work. I know there are Americans who get $25 or $30 an hour for their work and Latinos gets $8, $9, or $10 per hour. That's a big difference, but we're not Americans so we don't expect the same pay. We understand the difference. There isn't resentment. We just do it. When they ask"why are they here" and "what are you doing," we just want the chance to feed our families and live decent, safe lives.  


What are some differences you have found in this country, particularly as they relate to your family?

Here, it's a very different concept. Latino immigrants live life very different from Americans. Many of us want to have "the American life" but we can't, not as undocumented persons. We don't have the same privileges, and thus can't have the same life. And the culture is very, very different. In what aspect? They [Americans] think differently than we do. For example, it's rare to see people with tattoos where I come from. Here, you see women with tattoos, and in our culture, a woman would never go around with tattoos. Here, in America, people think much more openly than in our countries. That's my opinion about that, because I guess we're a little bit, how do I say it, more conservative.


How do these differences affect your children?

Another aspect is the kids.  At home, they're exposed to Latino culture, but they see only American culture at school, and they begin to mix the two. By a certain age, they will begin to shift and determine which culture they will turn more to, and that's when we as Latino parents cannot influence our kids anymore. In our countries, they are our [parents] responsibility until whatever age. Here, when they turn 18, they can do what they want, be free from the home. In our country, our children are home until they get married, and many continue live with family with their spouse and own family, or maybe they move out on their own with their spouse.  But we are always close and connected.


Describe what you know about LUCHA Ministries and Sue Smith.

It is through LUCHA that I know Sue. I am very thankful for her and for LUCHA Ministries for the help that they have blessed both me and my family with.


What are some of the ways LUCHA has impacted your life and that of your family?

They [LUCHA] have provided economic as well as moral support for us. LUCHA Ministries is a great collaboration of persons who help people with needs, without profiting, without expecting any monetary benefit for the organization. As far as the moral part is concerned, that's really something personal for me. I had an auto accident, and was in jail for months, and the only person who came see me personally, to provide me with moral support during a very shameful time in my life, was Sue Smith. And for that reason, I am very thankful to her.


Tell us about the really rough time you went through recently, when you were in jail.  How did LUCHA get involved?

Honestly, I'm not one of those persons who has never been in jail or had experience with the law; it was very painful, a very bitter experience. I don't tell anyone -- couldn't tell anyone--that I was in jail.  Sue heard from my wife's ESOL teacher that she was missing class because she had taken a second job, so Sue called my wife to see if everything was OK.  Being in jail is a very, very, very bad experience, morally, physically, and economically as well.   It's hell to be locked up but Sue would come to visit me, pray with me and made sure I had a Bible to read [in Spanish].  It was a long three months, serving time for the accident as well as being turned over to immigration authorities.


How does your faith play a role in your life and that of your family?

I thank God for the family that He has given me, for the help He has provided me, because in spite of everything, God provides for us even when we do not behave well. For me, my faith is a very fundamental part of my life. As Latinos, back in our countries, we put much faith in the Catholic religion, and the majority of Latinos in the world are Catholic. In this country, I see many religions, but what I notice most is that there are many more churches, and the majority are mainly Baptist, but my country wasn't like that. Honestly, it is faith that unites the family. I feel God's presence in my life. I read the Bible, not just the "Catholic" Bible, but the Bible, and I feel God's presence, especially because of the problem I had. I pray and ask God for guidance and help, to move past this part of my life.


If you could tell Americans one things about immigrants like yourself, what would you want them to know?

There are Americans that hate Latinos. Many see us as different, as foreigners trying to take away their jobs. There are good immigrants, good Latinos, and bad ones, and unfortunately, the bad ones hurt us all. But there are good and bad Americans as well. No one is perfect. For those Americans who don't like Latinos, I can understand, because we are foreigners. In my country, we would treat them [Americans] the same way they treat us here. But I think they should look at Latinos more positively.


Thinking about immigrants and our families, we have to remember especially at this time of year that Jesus' family took him as a baby and emigrated to Egypt, to save his life, to protect him. This [immigration] isn't something new that is happening.  And it's not all about what's happening in the United States; it's all over the world.
A Personal Word on Giving
By Sue Smith, Executive Director

PersonalIt's that time of year - the Annual Appeal, and I've got to tell you, I hate asking for money!  This is foreign to who I am and makes me very uncomfortable.  However, I love and believe in this ministry so much, I value what we are able to do in the lives of such beautiful people, not to mention the reality is that LUCHA needs your help, so here I am, asking.


During FY 2014, approximately 65% of our financial support came from individual donors, and the remaining 35% through churches, special offerings, grants, and from other organizations. That may be news to many of you so consider this - you, our friends and neighbors, are a vital part of what we do.


As mentioned throughout this newsletter God allows LUCHA Ministries to do some amazing things, and yet we are at a point where LUCHA needs to increase its revenue in order to do even more, to better serve our immigrant families, to raise awareness and serve as advocates. We continue to depend on dedicated volunteers, who are very committed and work tirelessly for LUCHA, but we need another paid staff member to direct programs, manage logistics and help us coordinate volunteer efforts. We can and do utilize student workers and interns, but we must provide for their expenses and/or a stipend. While the costs are skyrocketing, so too are the needs.


We've all been hearing about unaccompanied minors coming to our area to be reunited with family here in the USA.  Their needs are formidable, and their families are often overwhelmed when they arrive.  You can help make it possible for us to minister to them at this crucial time in their lives.  


We want your help! Please consider making an End-of-Year donation right now.  Commit to raising your support for this ministry in 2015 by giving, volunteering, serving, and praying. Consider talking with your church, Bible Study or missions group about LUCHA and ask them to support us. Maybe you sit on the board of a foundation or organization that would consider aiding our efforts and can help by recommending LUCHA Ministries for financial assistance.  We spend considerable time each year, probably more than you may realize, writing grant applications in an effort to raise more funding, and your help could be valuable.


Also, when you shop through Amazon, be sure to use AmazonSmile and designate LUCHA as your charity of choice.  Every little bit goes a long ways toward caring for immigrant families struggling in their new home.  And finally, check the opportunities for giving through your workplace.  As a member of the Rappahannock United Way, LUCHA can receive donations through federated campaigns.  And of course, we take checks (payable to LUCHA Ministries, Inc.) and cash! 


LUCHA Ministries is eternally grateful for your support.  We are humbled by your commitment and we are thankful to God that you choose to be part of this ministry.  Please scroll down and click the "Give" button now from your laptop (link will probably not work from a phone or tablet).

Your donation ensures the work continues and is tax-deductible.  We are grateful for your generosity and hope you will include a prayer for God's abundance in the coming year.

Blessings and Merry Christmas!

LUCHA Ministries, Inc.
P. O. Box 8239, Fredericksburg, VA  22404-8239
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