Guided by GOD
When Fauta Estebes began coming to the Boston Central Hispanic Corps for the Thursday night women’s ministries, she requested to speak with Major Mayra Vasquez, the corps officer.
Estebes had always loved God, but she wanted to know how she could fully accept Jesus Christ as her Savior. As they talked about their own walks with the Lord, Major Vasquez learned something from Estebes that few people knew.
Says Vasquez, “Fauta confessed to me that she didn’t know how to read in either English or Spanish, but wanted to learn. I agreed to help her learn. We began using tutoring guides for children and reciting the Bible together. That was when I noticed how she had gotten through life for so long without knowing how to read.”
Estebes has an excellent memory. She can recite hymns she had heard just once and years ago. She remembers phrases and responses in English (which she cannot speak). She keeps them in her mind to get her through the day on her job as a janitor at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School. She has worked there for the past 27 years.
Fauta Estebes welcomed the challenge of finally learning how to read. Her faith in God had guided her through a life filled with difficult times.
Through the storms
In 1986, Estebes emigrated from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico on a makeshift speedboat, known as a yola. Her ultimate goal was to join her husband and three children who were already living in the United States.
Eighty–five people boarded the yola. The 60–80 mile trip from one end of the Dominican Republic to the western shore of Puerto Rico can be dangerous. Migrant trips from one Caribbean island to another in search of a better life are notorious for their cramped, unsanitary conditions, inexperienced navigators, and the constant threat of violence to its passengers, particularly the women. Estebes remembers being doused with gasoline by a group of men on the boat, who then set one of her arms on fire.
During the voyage, many of the passengers fell ill to disease, dehydration, and even starvation. Sailing through storms, says Estebes, was where many of the passengers’ lives ended.
“Like an animal, the ocean swallowed people whole,” she remembers. “Two friends perished. One of them was pregnant.”
“Every time I faced a storm, I would stay close to the floor and pray. Through the rain, I could hear God saying, ‘I will protect you.’ Hearing His voice in the hardest of storms made me feel as if I was floating.”
A new country
Estebes made it to Puerto Rico, where it became easier to come to the United States to be with her family. However, when she arrived in Newton, Massachusetts, new challenges arose.
“Getting my residency was difficult. I missed many days that I had to show up in court because I did not know how to read,” she says.
But Estebes had kept a clean record while maintaining two full–time jobs and taking care of her children alone. When she finally got her residency, she knew it was only by the grace of God. She was finally making a life for herself in the United States.
Though the sea no longer posed a danger to her, she continued to ask God for guidance. Fauta remembers how after a stressful day at work, she noticed that her residency card, which she always carried with her, was missing.
“Any immigrant knows that when you lose your residency card, you begin to feel like you are living on borrowed time,” says Estebes. “I prayed as hard as I had ever prayed. After two days, I had a dream where I saw myself moving my bed. It was God telling me where to look.”
When she woke up, she reenacted the movements of her dream and found her card, which had slipped from her purse and fallen behind the bedpost. God was looking out for her, just as He had on the yola.
He chose this church
The Salvation Army Boston Central Hispanic Corps could always be seen from the window of the bus that Estebes took to her cleaning job at Harvard.
In the summer of 2016, her bus route began making more stops by the corps, making it easier for her to catch a glance at it. She had visited many churches while in the U.S., but God was once again guiding her, and increasing her curiosity to walk in.
“I cried a lot during my first few days of attending The Salvation Army church,” she says. “I felt shame when I told the Major I couldn’t read. But God spoke to me, as always. He said, ‘Trust her.’ Eventually my tears of shame became happy tears. I felt thankful that He had chosen this church for me, where I could hear His Word and learn to read it.
“This church has been a blessing for me. Besides my grown children, I don’t have much extended family near me, but God greets me every time I come to the corps. After all, who is a better family member than my God?”
“What a soul this woman has,” Vasquez says of Fauta. “Her humility keeps her from seeing the power of her testimony. To leave your country in the manner that she did and to see people she knew die at sea; I don’t think I could be as brave as she was.”
Estebes says her testimony has less to do with bravery and more with a complete trust in God. It brought her from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico to the United States and finally to The Salvation Army.
“When I was on that yola, hearing people cry out in fear, watching the sea eat people alive, my faith in Him was the only thing that kept my mind calm,” says Estebes. “It took years for me to find the peace that I had lost, but at the corps, I feel I have finally found God’s peace.”
“Fauta being at The Salvation Army is proof God works miracles today,” says Vasquez. “We all face storms in our lives, but she has literally survived the deadliest of storms; she has lived through situations that seemed impossible to you and me. But there is nothing impossible for God. With Him, we can survive the worst storms.”
by Hugo Bravo