Handcuffed, Imprisoned, a Pastor Finds Peace

CHICAGO, IL (September 6, 2013) — Editor’s note: This week Covenant News Service is highlighting stories of immigration and the proposed Resolution on Immigration to be voted on at the 2014 Annual Meeting. As part of this coverage we are posting letters from people who have immigrated to the United States without documentation and from pastors who regularly minister to undocumented people.

Margarita Monsalve is a church planter for the Evangelical Covenant Church in the Pacific Southwest Conference. She currently is in the country legally on a temporary basis while waiting to hear whether she will be allowed to remain in the United States. For a previous story on Monsalve that highlighted her case and the support she received from denomination leaders, click here.

My name is Margarita Monsalve. I am Colombian and an ordained pastor with Navigating with Jesus Ministries. With this ministry we have been able to help young people who suffer from drug addictions. We also have been able to help their families, and we have shared Jesus’s message of salvation with them. Our hope is that one day we see them serving the Lord Jesus.

On June 18, 2010, just before I began to do my devotional, I went out to the apartment building’s laundry room. At that moment an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official called me by my name and asked me to accompany him. I was with my six-year-old grandson, Raymond, so I asked the official what was going to happen with him, and the official said that my grandson’s father was going to pick him up. As the official was taking me to the car in handcuffs, I saw that my daughter was already in the car handcuffed as well. As the ICE car drove away, we could see my grandson from the car’s window.

Once we arrived at the detention center, we were registered and then taken into a room where six other women were already waiting to be deported. They were all different nationalities. We spend all day calling anyone who could help us and trying to contact an attorney. As I was sitting there, I kept asking myself why we were there. I knew that ICE was deporting people who had committed crimes, but we hadn’t committed any crimes. I only preached the gospel and my daughter works, so why were we there?

At 11 p.m. that night, my daughter, the other six women, and I were taken to the prison in Santa Ana, California. We all were handcuffed, and that’s when I decided to to share the gospel with the six women. Each of them ended up accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, and we all held hands as well as we could around the handcuffs. By the time we arrived at the prison, even in those circumstances, we all were full of peace and joy. When the official who was driving us saw that, he said, “I knew I was not driving criminals.”

Once we arrived at the prison, we had to change our clothes and put on the uniforms, and we were taken to our cells. My daughter and I were separated from each other. As the time to sleep came, I kept wondering if I was going to be able to sleep since I could see young women who had been arrested because of prostitution. I also saw people who had been arrested because of being under the influence of alcohol. There were people yelling and people who were under the influence of drugs.

I didn’t sleep much that night, and I kept thinking about the Apostle Paul and other men of God who had spent many nights in prison. I came to the conclusion that God is very real—much more than we think!

The next day I was impatient to get out of my cell so I could find out about my daughter. She and I were both aware that we could face deportation and, in her case, being separated from her six-year-old son. But once I saw her, she said to me, “Mom I asked God to help me rest, and he did, and I am at peace now.”

Miraculously, God was able to work it out. The church did seek advice from attorneys, but there was not much hope for they thought we were going to be deported. Yet at the end my daughter and I were released. My cellmate and the other six women were released as well.

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