The story below was authored by Adam Sebastian, the director one of our Projects Hogar de Niño’s Emmanuel, a Children’s Home in Juarez Mexico. Adam reminds us it’s not always all a cake walk on the way to healing and Faith.
Sometimes, the realities we face at Emmanuel can be shocking and uncomfortable. However, you are part of the Emmanuel family, and we feel it’s important that you know the story of Joselyn, Mariana, and their mother Valeria. Tears form in my eyes as I began to type this story for you, but I promise that the end is full of hope, promise, and the hand of Father God.
This is only the beginning of the story of Valeria and her two girls Joselyn and Mariana, because the best is still yet to come! As with most of our stories, this one starts with the mother.
An Unbelievable Beginning
Valeria was an orphan given up by her mother to a very cold and unloving lady. After years of neglect, Valeria’s mother took her in only to continue the neglect. Valeria explains, “My mother never went to my school functions because she told me that her job was more important than me. She didn’t even notice when I stopped going to school. That’s when my life started to really mess up.”
From Orphan to Prostitute
Valeria felt her mother wouldn’t miss her if she left, and so she went living from house to house at just the age of 13. At one point, a cousin tried to rape her, and when her mom found out, her mother hit her, accused her of doing drugs, and sent her to a drug rehabilitation center. That is where Valeria actually started doing drugs for the first time.
At just the age of 14, she became pregnant at the rehab center and left to start a life with her boyfriend. However, this young man would beat Valeria, even as she was pregnant, and when she asked her mother to take her in, she was rejected. “So I spent my pregnancy on the streets, sleeping on benches and begging for money,” Valeria remembers.
When Valeria was 8 months pregnant, she had to be hospitalized and the staff threatened to call Child Protective Services. Valeria’s mother was forced to be present in the birth and Valeria’s life again. Upon setting eyes on her baby, Valeria was determined to change her life, but her mother wouldn’t have it and instead chose to send her baby away and sell Valeria out as a prostitute.
From Prostitute to Drug Dealer
Valeria became pregnant again and started working at a bar to support the baby. However, she crashed a friend’s car and had to work day and night for a time to pay for it. When she came back home, her baby had been given away. “My family didn’t want anything to do with me and told me I was dead to them. So I left the city, without my children, and prostituted myself out and became addicted to drugs
She started a relationship with a drug trafficker who also violently beat her even while she was pregnant with her third child. Being only a 17 year old in so much pain, she took her anger and desperation out on her unborn baby, trying everything to have an abortion. God protected the baby, however and Joselyn was born healthy.
Valeria was still being beaten physically in front of baby Joselyn when she became pregnant with Mariana. Now with two young children to care for, Valeria tried to escape the abuse, but her boyfriend would also find her, even beating her at her workplace. Joselyn was only 4 years old when she told her mother to leave her dad, that she didn’t want him to hit her mom anymore.
From Drug Dealer to Widowed Paraplegic
Valeria finally escaped and began making a lot of money trafficking drugs. She gave her girls everything they wanted, and remembers, “At the time, I felt proud because I didn’t need a man helping me take care of my girls.” One day on the road trafficking drugs, a mudslide occurred ahead, and the van Valeria was in flipped over a barrier and down a hill, throwing Valeria out and landing on top of her.
She continues, “It was a miracle from God that I survived, but I was left paralyzed from the waist down.” She saw no other choice but to go back to her boyfriend, and she fell into a deep depression. Her boyfriend began actually helping her and the girls, and Valeria started to improve emotionally, until a rival drug gang murdered her boyfriend.
Valeria remembers, “I had hope that he had changed and would help me and my girls, but they brought his body to my house, and my daughters saw their father dead. Joselyn was 5 years old, and Mariana was 2. Mariana would cry a lot, run and hide wanting to leave the house. Joselyn, silent at first, after a while began asking for her father, wanting to see him and wanting him to kiss her.”
Now alone, confined to a wheelchair and desperate, Valeria returned to the drug business. Joselyn and Mariana would even answer the door and tell Valeria things like, “Mom, a man’s here and wants two bags of marijuana.” After many people began dying in the drug violence, Valeria came to her senses. She fled with her two girls to Juarez where she knew her sister was attending a church that might help.
Paths Cross, Hope Begins
Around the same time this past summer, my wife Becky and the pastor of our church Christian began passing out flyers at other churches in the neighborhood around Emmanuel. We were in search for good people that could join our team of caregivers, as we were receiving many new children and were short on staff.
Still without any leads, they happened to come upon the little church where one overwhelmed pastor had just taken in Valeria and her two girls. In the end, we didn’t find a single new caregiver, but rather two new children and a 25 year-old widow in great need of hope and a family.
I guess sometimes the seemingly disappointing and random journeys we go on to find what we think we need are actually very carefully designed for someone else to receive what we have to give.
With just a few months being at Emmanuel, Joselyn, now 8 years old, explains, “Before, my mom would treat me and my sister really bad. We would fight and bite each other and my mom would hit me. But then she decided she wanted to change, and now we are here and everything has changed. My mom doesn’t hit anymore, and my sister and I hardly ever fight.”
After 25 years of abuse and disappointment, Valeria explains what the Emmanuel family means to her now: “You are helping so much in my difficult situation. I have seen a lot of improvement in my girls… their behavior, attitude, thoughts, and how they share with others now.”
In order to better serve Valeria, we have plans to outfit our campus to be wheelchair- accessible. We are also inviting Valeria to become a part of a new ministry of Emmanuel that God gave us just in time for her. You will be hearing much more soon, but Valeria will be surrounded by other women becoming empowered to believe in themselves and trained to make and sell their own jewelry.
It is a joy to have Joselyn and Mariana in our home, as they are such sweet girls, very kind, intelligent and respectful. They are also doing very well in our school and love attending dance classes in our ballet academy and learning about Jesus in our church. No doubt God brought them to Emmanuel because He has a future full of hope and promise waiting for them.