God always shows His care

Insight from IVEP participant

Editor’s note: Maria Isabel Fuentes Fuentes is a 2023-2024 IVEP participant from Guatemala who is serving as an Immigration Legal Services temporary program assistant at World Relief Sacramento (link opens new window) in North Highlands, California. 

My name is Maria Isabel Fuentes Fuentes, but my friends call me Isa. I am from the beautiful country of Guatemala. I have a degree in business administration and a master’s in finance. During the pandemic, I decided to study law, and I am currently halfway through my degree. I am very passionate about the field of law, and my goal is to finish as soon as possible.

My family in Guatemala has been hosting foreign students from Mennonite universities for over 10 years. It has been an incredible experience; we have had the opportunity to host more than 60 students. I have many friends from various parts of the U.S., many of whom are pilots, doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, etc. One of my brothers met the love of his life during one of these exchanges, and now I have two beautiful nieces and nephews. Cultural exchanges have always caught my attention. I believe that when you travel to other countries, it changes your perspective on life and makes you eager to continue meeting more people and experiencing different cultures.

My work experience has always been in the financial and administrative areas. When I applied for IVEP, they asked me which field I would like to serve in, and without hesitation, I wanted to experience the legal field. When I applied, I felt very nervous. I remember praying and telling God to surprise me. I asked for very specific things, like a boss I could admire, a united work group, co-workers who spoke Spanish, a window with a view of a tree, and most importantly, that I would feel peace and happiness. 

A person stands behind a table that reads "World Relief Sacramento" and is covered in covered informative documents and brochures. Their shirt is for the same organization.
Isabel participates in the Around the World with Highlands Festival. (Photo courtesy of World Relief)

God fulfilled every detail. I was accepted at World Relief in Sacramento, California, to work in the legal area of immigration. Working with Ted Oswald and his legal team has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I had an extraordinary boss and team, a window with a view of several trees, co-workers who spoke Spanish, and others who encouraged me to speak more English and other languages. They helped me understand how U.S. laws and programs work. Most of all, I felt happy and at peace.

It’s not easy to leave your country, your culture, your language, your family, your friends and your life. I believe this stage of my life is called “one step at a time and trusting in God every moment.” Starting from scratch is a challenge. I experienced cultural shocks, and my brain worked twice as hard, not only to understand what people were saying but also because one of my biggest professional challenges was understanding how U.S. laws work, especially the technical legal language in the area of immigration.

World Relief has been one of my favorite places; I love how this organization works, helps and impacts many lives. The dedication of every professional in every area of work inspired me to give my best. One exceptional aspect of World Relief’s organizational culture is having a time of prayer, putting God first, and praying for every immigration situation, for every event happening in the world. This time opens your mind and heart. It connects you with God and allows you to be vulnerable, but at the same time grateful and very blessed. 

Six women wearing ethnic attire stand in front of an arc of blue and yellow balloons.
Isabel, wearing a blue shirt and a hat, participates in the Around the World with Highlands Festival through her work at World Relief in Sacramento, California. (Photo courtesy of World Relief)

This year has been a year of much learning but above all, of being resilient and compassionate with migrants. I had the opportunity to travel to several states and understand how immigration works, starting from the border. Many people seek better opportunities and the American dream, while others seek peace and a safe place amidst so many wars. There are so many organizations around the world that impact the lives of thousands of people and make a difference, simply by giving them a hug, a little food, and directions on what to do and where to go. It’s something indescribable.

I’m wrapping up my IVEP experience, and I can only say that it has been an incredible year, a year where I grew personally and professionally, faced many challenges and obstacles along the way, but felt God’s presence, support and His details in every moment. God placed exceptional people in my path, friends who impacted my life and brought out the best in me. I understood that God’s timing is good, pleasant and perfect. I am a grateful heart to God for life, to MCC for providing this opportunity for young people like me to go and serve, and to World Relief for what they do as an institution in serving migrants, and for the quality of people within the institution who were special to my life. 


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