Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More of our story...

I realized today that I haven't shared much of our story, so I thought I would take us back a little today... I met Jorge two years ago. (It seems like he has been a part of my life forever! When I think it has only been two years... Wow. It surprises me! LOL) I was on vacation visiting friends, and I was asked to talk to an acquaintance who was in crises. The guy was from Mexico, working at a restaurant in the US, and had just gotten a call from his family, informing him that his sister had a huge growth that had suddenly popped out on her neck, and that it was cancer. The doctors told her family that if it wasn't removed immediately, she would die. This man was devastated- he didn't have the money to help and going home was not an option. He sat on his bed and weeped while all of his friends- there were 8 other people there at the time- tried to comfort him. Someone pulled out a wallet and suddenly all of these Mexicans were emptying their pockets to give what money they had and help. I had never seen anything like it! I stood wide-eyed as they all dropped money on his lap- they wouldn't take no for an answer. And then Jorge walked in. I had never seen him before, and probably wouldn't have paid much attention even then, if he hadn't done what he did next... He walked over to the guy, sat next to him and said "I know someone who is bigger than sickness, bigger than cancer! You know what we need to do! Let's pray!" and there in that tiny packed room he started praying... I was at a point in my life where my faith had been shaken, but there in that room I felt the Holy Spirit move, and I dropped to my knees and cried as the man who would become my husband prayed for a stranger's sister! It was the most beautiful prayer I have ever heard, and when it was over everyone there looked at me like I was a crazy little guera, sitting on the floor with tears running down my face! Jorge, on the other hand, acted like it was no big deal, and simply walked out of the room when he had prayed!
The next day I was alone in the house while everyone was at work. I was sitting with my computer in front of me, working on a portrait, and Jorge walked by. I called out to him in Spanish- it was all I had heard him speak- because I wanted to thank him for praying the night before. He stepped into the room and acted shocked that I spoke Spanish! We introduced ourselves and ended up talking for hours... along the way, I realized he speaks nearly perfect English as well!
We talked again the next day, and when I headed home, I had his phone number. Over the next few weeks, we talked daily. Friendship blossomed into something more, something much much deeper, and it wasn't long before we were talking about marriage. In my heart, I just knew that he was the man I had prayed for, the husband my heart longed for...
We talked about his legal status in the US- he was a resident, and in my nieve way of thinking, that translated as "legal" and "citizen." I was relieved that we would never have to face the trials of dealing with immigration or deportation, like alot of our friends. We talked about his desire to be a pastor, and we talked about the thing that was holding him back- the man I love was a drug addict, fighting every day to try to be free of his demons! I made the decision, after a lot of prayer, that God had put him into my life and that he was indeed an answer to prayer and the longings of my heart. I felt the Lord whispering, "just LOVE him. Love him unconditionally, as I have loved you, and I will make everything ok!"
He moved to be closer to me, and we became active in a couple local churches. We were talking classes to become pastors, and we started hosting weekly Bible studies at his house. And I was busy planning our wedding.
Then in the early spring of last year, Jorge fell back into his old habits and became very depressed. He ended our relationship and disappeared. Two weeks later I learned that he had been arrested on DUI and minor possession charges, in a city four hours from home. Devastated and betrayed, I refused to contact him. But every week I called the jail to check on him, and then reported back to his mom about how he was doing. Finally, three months later, he called me. It was a short conversation, and in my anger I was very short. He asked me to wait for him and begged for forgiveness. A week later, I went to see him. It was a long process, but we were able to work things out, and I was able to forgive him for hurting me. He was sentenced, and we anxiously awaited his release. We were planning our wedding for November 6th, after he came home... It wasn't to work out that way, though. A few days before his release, I got a call from a very upset Jorge, telling me that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) had picked him up. His residency meant nothing, and he was being held in ICE custody, pending yet ANOTHER trial, this time to determine his right to remain in this country or not. I spent the next few days in a haze of pain and anger. I could not understand why a man who had served his time and was here with all the correct papers should be held in ICE custody and deported! They refused to set a bond, so he couldn't even come home while we waited for his trial... But in those first few days my husband let his light shine! He would call and tell me about being locked in these horrible holding cells, packed in like cattle, without clean water to drink and nothing to sit on. And in those horrid conditions, he started to minister. The first day alone he told me that 18 of the 23 people in his cell got saved! Those moments were my rock- knowing that my Jorge was being used even in there, and that he was ok in spite of it all!
He was sent to an ICE holding facility 13 hours from home- so far there was no chance of me visiting him. And he was held there (after being moved to a different facility in a different state for just a few days) for 3 months. Somewhere along the way, my anger at having the love of my life ripped away from me, and having our wedding taken as well turned into a hard resolve. This was the man I loved and no government was going to steal our dreams! I spent days on the phone, researching to find out where we could get a marriage license without him being physically present, and how we could find a pastor to perform a ceremony by phone. The answer turned out to be right in my backyard!
Our local court house turned out to be the ONLY place in three states that would issue me a marriage license without Jorge being present. All I needed was a copy of his driver's license, and his social security number and birth information. As it turned out, the farm where he had been working helped me by providing copies of his driver's license, residency card, and social security card! I bought the license, and set my sites on the last requirement- a pastor to do our ceremony.
The church we had been attending required a month long marriage on the rock class before marrying a couple. We had never done this. The other church I had been attending was across the state line, so the pastor could not perform the wedding. I called all of the pastors I knew, and met rejection with each one. Finally, in desperation, I listened to the small voice that had been saying "call Ron!" since I began my search. Ron was a man in our ministry classes, and he had made a big impression on Jorge and I. So, humbly, I called Ron and explained our situation. I asked if he had any idea where I could find a pastor to marry us. After a brief silence, Ron asked "How much do you know about my background?" I really didn't know anything about him, and I said as much. As it turned out, Ron was an ordained mennonite minister who had not led a church in years, but was still licensed by the state. He agreed to do the ceremony in my living room, with Jorge attending by phone!
On Friday October 22, 2011, in a very small ceremony, I became Mrs. Jorge Medina. My children were there, and a couple from church served as our witnesses. They made me cry when they arrived with beautiful hand-tied pink roses. "Every bride needs a bouquet!" they explained... We exchanged vows with my cell phone set to speaker so all our guests could hear, and the groom didn't get a chance to kiss the bride. We spent our wedding night hundreds of miles apart, I with my youngest son and a cat curled up beside me, while my husband spent it sleeping on a hard bunk surrounded by 50 other men. It was two months before he was sentenced and granted voluntary departure, and sent back to Mexico, where we could begin our life together as husband and wife!
In the mean time, we were faced with hard choices. We both have children from previous marriages. Taking his with us to Mexico wasn't an option, since they lived with their mother. But I had custody of my children, and they were determined NOT to go to Mexico. The choice our government forced me to make was very painful: follow my husband to Mexico and be without my children, or be with my children and live without my husband. My kids helped me decide- they knew everything about our situation, and they all agreed that they liked the school at their dad's, and that it would be fun living there instead of just visiting in the summers. I went to Mexico with my children's blessing, and little Isaiah's words ringing in my ears: "Mommy, the Bible says ALL people have to know about Jesus, and I think you and Jorge should be the ones teaching those Mexicans about him! Besides, if you go now maybe He won't send ME when I grow up!" I laughed, but it hurt to leave them...
On December 15, after nine months of being apart, I stepped off a plane in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and into the arms of my husband!
Guadalajara was amazing, and I loved it right away, but I missed my kids and fought constant guilt over leaving them. The newness and romance of being together slowly wore off for both of us, and we found ourselves in the reality of trying to make a life in Mexico. I had no papers to work, and Jorge had spent 14 years in the US, so he was almost as clueless as I was. The stress took its toll and ended in us fighting and ultimately, in Jorge using again. In April, after weeks of struggle, I came back to the US to let him fight his battle on his own. I didn't know how to support him, I didn't know how to fight for him, and I felt betrayed by his continuing to turn to the arms of a drug for comfort. He, for his part, was hurt by our fighting and my sharp words, and felt betrayed by my lack of support. With a heavy heart, I left, not sure that I would ever even SPEAK to my husband, let alone see him... After a couple days, we finally had a chance to talk. I begged him to change, he said he wanted to but didn't know if he could, and then he would use again and the cycle would repeat. Finally, after two weeks, and without me asking, he checked himself into a rehab center and committed to 3 months of intensive inpatient therapy, something he was not even willing to consider before that.
He has made amazing progress in the program. They have an open door policy, which means Jorge can walk out and go use any time he chooses to. And they are not isolated in the building- they go downtown, they take trips to the zoo, parks, all the places where temptation is on every corner... But Jorge has stayed- he has fought tooth and nail and has allowed himself to be stretched in ways that have been physically, emotionally and spiritually painful. He has opened his heart up and taken a stand, and even though there have been days when it's taken every ounce of courage and determination he has to not walk out that door, he has persevered! He has started preaching again, which is his heart's desire. I can't wait to hear him in front of his first crowd, sharing this testamony God has given him!
 For my part, I have been able to spend this time with my mom, who is battling Grave's Disease, and my little brother, who is autistic. My boys are with me for the summer, and even though I miss my husband with every ounce of my being, I know that very very soon we will be together again. And I am growing too- I realize that I was becoming the nagging wife that I never ever wanted to be, and that I was not helping my husband fight his addiction. In fact, I am sure there were days when I pushed him toward it! But God is growing me and helping me to overcome the parts of my nature and my own personal baggage, and I know that together, my husband and I will fight through this. I will not walk away from him again! And I am sure that he won't either.
Jorge graduates the program on August 3, and we are celebrating with a surprise party at the Chili's in Plaza del Sol. He has no idea about the party, but I feel the need to celebrate him, to thank him for his courage and determination. I have never been so proud of my husband or so honored to be his wife.
I am looking forward to a long life by his side. In whichever country God puts us!!!


  1. Thank you for sharing Rhonda. It is a rough road. I know for me without my faith and belief that God has a plan and he knows what he is doing i would never make it here.

  2. REBECCA! Thank you so much for that- I feel exactly the same and it is so nice to hear someone echo that belief... Looking forward to getting to know you better- where did you say you are? I think it always helps too, to surround ourselves with other believers who can lift us up when we stumble or are weak... One of the things I have come to rely on through all of this is the wonderful group of friends God has put in my life. I truly count each one as a blessing...