About seven years ago, already into her early 50’s, something started to change for Carla. She had been a Christian since she was eight but says she was just content with going to heaven. When she decided to truly put God first in her life, the Holy Spirit started to change her heart toward people. “I started seeing people the way God sees them, like I’ve never seen before,” she says. Her views about immigration began to shift as well.
She used to think, “Why don’t immigrants who come to the U.S. speak English? Why don’t they try to become citizens?” God put a desire in her heart to know more and she came across the Women of Welcome community. She started reading the posts on Facebook and thought, “This is me,” and says, “It’s been a big part of me ever since.”
She didn’t know a lot about immigration before, just what she saw on TV. As she dove into the community, she read every book recommendation and watched every video she could to learn more. As she kept watching and reading, she saw articles about churches helping immigrant communities. Carla says, “I had to see it for myself. I didn’t want to look away. I had to see it.”
That is why she chose to go to the border in 2019 to meet people in the refugee camps in Matamoros, Mexico with The River Ministries, part of Texas Baptist Ministries. “I could not unsee what I saw,” she says.
“When you realize these families are trying to survive, they’re fleeing violence—it changes how you see them,” she says of her time at the border. “The media tells us these are bad people. But when you see the women and children, when you see the fathers—you realize that’s not who these people are. We have to get to know them and see them for who they really are, not who the media tells us they are.”
The most challenging part of the journey for her has been feeling alone a lot of the time. Not all friends and family understand her changed heart. It’s been a process helping some family members see where she’s coming from. They ask things like, “Why can’t you just do things for people in America? Why can’t that be enough?”
“Many times we think someone else is going to do that,” she says, “and I’ve been there before. Where now, I see people how Christ does and I have a placement on my heart about it.” Carla says she loves America but sees how we’ve let ourselves be divided. “We have let politics become a part of our communities and church. I didn’t see that before and now I do, and it breaks my heart.”
She’s grateful for the doors God has opened for her and the people she has been able to meet as part of Women of Welcome. “When you take the risk to engage and help others, when you choose to be bold,” she says, “it is so rewarding and such a blessing.” Carla has gained the confidence to share the truth and to advocate for immigrants and refugees.
At age 58, she says, “You’re never too old to be used to be God. It’s never too late.”