The work sometimes feels relentless. One of the ways I understand my ministry is to describe it as a new venture in church. Right now, it is a relatively undercapitalized new venture and a lot of what I do is try to figure out ways of finding the capital we need to keep going. This is often unglamorous, tedious, nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. I laughingly tell people that one of the things I’ve learned over these past four years is to stop being embarrassed about asking anyone–I mean anyone–for money for the work.
On Thursday, we were privileged to receive a visit from a senior executive with one of the major banks in this country. We showed him our campus. We had a simple slideshow that covered what we do because none of our programs was in session. Last week was an “in between” week–our summer programs are over and the school year starts day after tomorrow. One of our wonderful women, Maria, prepared chicken with green Mole sauce, guacamole, freshly made tortillas and arroz con fideos; we sat around the lunch table telling the stories. They are good stories. We’ve known one of the little girls we serve for over four years, since she was four years old. At the time, she was non-verbal. We advocated for her to ensure that she got access to speech therapy and I have participated with her brave mother at IEP meetings at her school. She comes to our after school program and our summer reading camp. She is highly artistic and each tiny step in literacy is brutally hard for her. On the fourth week of this year’s summer reading camp, L. wrote an entire sentence by herself. Mr. C, a wonderfully flamboyant, admittedly high-maintenance gay man who is devoted to our children, wept with joy that morning.
We shared our dreams with this bank executive. The women we serve at the Centro are too often victims of domestic violence. L’s mama crossed the desert by herself when she was 13 years old. She’s legal now yet trapped in circumstances that approach those of an indentured servant. That’s not so unusual, even in this country, for first generation immigrants. She is also a fabulous cook, an amazing interpreter of traditional Mexican cuisine. In San Francisco, there is an organization called La Cocina. It is a small business incubator and commercial kitchen that helps women like the ones we serve make the transition from the informal to the formal economy. That means that someone who has been selling delicious food out of the trunk of her car gets the support to become a successful caterer. Our campus has a wonderful commercial kitchen. We dream of having the equivalent of La Cocina right her in Fort Lauderdale. It takes quite a bit to make this happen but it can. So we need investors to help us make it a reality.
At the end, our visitor was warm and enthusiastic about what we are doing. Last year we received a very small grant from his bank. He assured us that we can expect more this year. He emphasized the word “more” and repeated the phrase more than once. We wait to see what that “more” looks like with great hope. He has also offered to bring members of our state and federal legislative delegation, and of the local media, to see what’s going on in our ministry. He says a lot more people need to know about our work. That part is scary. Things can spin out of control so quickly and managing growth is one of the hardest challenges for any organization. But if we are going to serve folks who are otherwise invisible, I suspect this is what we must do. We’ll see. I already know that I need to do to raise funds for the music program we are trying to roll out so I’ll need to work on that next week. For now, I am just happy. It was a good week…