The distant hope of being with his father and the dream of an education was cause for then 14-year-old Israel to begin a more than 1,600 mile trek from Guatemala to the United States. Using all the money he had, he bought a bus ticket to a destination in Mexico – a place that in his memory has no name. It was only the point in his journey where he began to walk.
“I never thought about the obstacles,” he says. “All I was thinking: ‘I must reach my father.’”
Israel’s father is a documented agricultural worker who travels from Florida to North Carolina following seasonal crops.
After Israel reached Arizona, authorities helped him contact his father and the two were reunited. But instead of his father allowing him to go to school, he made him work in the fields.
“I told him that in my heart I wanted to go to school,” Israel remembers pleading.
But he toiled along with his father and the adult workers. It seemed the life Israel had dreamed about was not going to be. Things became worse the morning he woke and he realized his father had abandoned him.
“There was no trace,” he says. “He was gone and I was alone.”
Israel continued to work in North Carolina. He was afraid and unsure what to do. Desperate, he called the authorities in Arizona who had helped him. They called the Sampson County Department of Social Services.
“The bad was over,” Israel recounts. “I was brought to Kennedy Home. I no longer had to fear – I felt safe. I did not have to stay awake at night and worry.”
Shortly after arriving at Kennedy Home in December 2014, 16-year-old Israel was enrolled in school. When he arrived in the States, he spoke only a Guatemalan dialect. He learned Spanish while working in the fields. Now in school, he began the arduous task of learning English. Israel proved to be a quick learner.
“I love school,” he says. “I love all my subjects, but math is my favorite.”
He does well in his classes. In fact, at the close of this school year, he was told that he had done so well that he would not start the 10 grade in August, but he would begin his junior year.
Israel has made the best of every opportunity and is appreciative. His bedroom is the tidiest in his cottage. His hair is always combed and he presents himself with maturity. Israel claims Christ as his Savior.
“The place here is so nice,” he says. “There is plenty of food and I have good clothes. It is better than my dreams.”
His love for learning has spilled over to music. He has taught himself to play the guitar – he listens to music and picks out the tune. When his cottage visits area churches, Israel plays and sings.
“I only play Christian songs,” he says assuringly. “Being a Christian is more than just saying you are a Christian. Being a Christian is being like Jesus. It is about doing what God wants us to do.”
Israel is fully documented and has a summer part-time job. He hopes to receive his learner’s permit to drive soon. He is planning on going to college and one day serving the country that has helped him realize his dreams.
“I have overcome so much and have come so far,” he says. “I am humbled by all the good things that have happened in my life. I love my life. I love the Lord.”
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