Maria and her four siblings had a nice childhood with supportive parents, an active church life, and a strong education in Mexico City. “We had a good and healthy relationship with our parents—we were very lucky,” Maria said. “We had a comfortable living—my dad had several businesses, and he taught us how to be hard working from childhood. He would take us to his businesses and teach us different skills, instilling in us a hard work ethic.”
Maria became an interior designer and was the first of her siblings to get married. “I didn’t have a good marriage, and after eight years, we got divorced,” she said. “There was domestic violence. I endured sexual abuse on two different occasions. I believe that made me a lot stronger.”
Maria had four children with her husband who are adults now. After the divorce, Maria got support from her parents, who helped her and her kids with food and anything else they needed. “I really wanted to be independent though, so I worked with as little help as possible,” she said.
Maria drew on her experience with a lot of childhood sports and activities, including swimming and dancing. She worked at an Olympic swimming pool as a private instructor for 11 years. She met another man, and she looked forward to marrying him. “I thought I was going to move on with my life,” Maria said. “This was in 1999. But I ended up finding out he had two other relationships going on, and both of (the women) were pregnant.” Maria learned she was pregnant too. She had a daughter, Sammy.
When Maria had the opportunity to come to the U.S. in 2004, she took it. But within three months of their arrival, tragedy struck. Maria’s daughter, then just 5 years old, was taken and held captive for two hours. “She endured some difficult abuse,” Maria said. “After, we were going to doctors and lawyers, there was a legal battle in order for her to get justice. We were emotionally beaten up.”
Maria also has dysphagia, a condition that affects her esophagus. It requires her to see a doctor often, and prohibits her from carrying a lot, or making certain movements.
Maria and her daughter ended up having to sleep in her truck. One day a lady was walking her dog, and told Maria about the Mission. “I found myself at the rescue mission for the first time in 2005 and ended up staying almost a full year. I definitely cried when I left,” Maria said. “It was a great place and I didn’t want to leave. It was my family.”
Maria got back on her feet, but down the line her esophageal problems worsened. “It caused me enough pain that I couldn’t work,” she said. Maria and her daughter spent two months in her truck, and then stayed with a friend. But when that wasn’t an option anymore, Maria was back on the streets in her truck again. “In January, I found the rescue mission again. I went to look for the shelter where I remembered it, but it’ wasn’t there anymore. They told me it had moved.”
Maria was accepted into the shelter as a single individual, as her daughter is now off at college. “I feel like I’m among family,” she said. “I feel great, and everyone treats me incredibly well. I’m really thankful for this place and to the Lord for giving me shelter, a place to sleep. The staff is incredibly kind, and always willing to serve and help at any hour. The rooms are spacious and everything is super clean and orderly. It’s just wonderful.”
Maria is in school in a culinary program and will graduate in June. “I’m excited that this will be my future,” she said. “I’m gifted in this area. I really enjoy doing it and that I’m able to help the shelter here.
“They’ve allowed me great flexibility, allowing me to keep my regular schedule, which requires me to come home late. I’ve appreciated that grace, not only for my work schedule, but for my school schedule. They believe in my dream for me, and that makes me feel empowered.”