Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)’s Immigration Program in South Florida has walked alongside Dmarcos Ramos since he was 15 years old, the earliest age he could apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. In an August 2017 article, readers got acquainted with Ramos and learned that his DACA status, which MCC’s immigration office helped him receive, opened many doors for him, including the opportunity to attend college at Florida International University (FIU) soon after that article was published. Ramos has been an active member at his church, Ministerio Cristiano Monte Sion Brethren in Christ (BIC) Church for nearly 10 years. He said in 2017, “I hope to have served as testimony to those in my church and community and to one day give back.”

This past spring, Ramos, who is now 22 years old, was approached by church leaders and presented with the opportunity to connect with MCC again, this time through the Summer Service program. As a DACA recipient and 2020 participant in MCC’s Summer Service program, it’s safe to say that Dmarcos Ramos is indeed giving back as he serves at Ministerio Cristiano Monte Sion in his home community in Miami, Florida.

Dmarcos Ramos is a 2020 Summer Service program participant serving with Ministerio Cristiano Monte Sion BIC in Miami, FL, where Ramos is an active member.Photo courtesy of Dmarcos Ramos

More than 600,000 immigrants are currently able to obtain work permits or attend school through DACA. However, the program stopped accepting new applications in September 2017. In June of this year, the Supreme Court ordered a full reinstatement of the program but, on July 28, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would not accept new applications or let recipients travel outside the country and would require DACA recipients to renew every year rather than every two years.

MCC’s Summer Service program is a 10-week program for young adults of color in the U.S. that nurtures and equips young adults of color for leadership in the name of Christ. Young adults ages 18-30 serve their local church or community from June to August, filling a wide variety of positions such as organizing summer peace camps, coordinating an urban garden and serving as a pastoral intern. Through service, program participants realize the resources, wisdom and strength of their home communities. This year the program has made adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic by hosting a virtual rather than in-person leadership conference for participants. MCC also extended greater flexibility to partners as their summer programs were altered in accordance with state and federal COVID-19 guidelines.

"[I'm] getting the opportunity to invest my time in the kingdom of God."

- Dmarcos Ramos, Summer Service program participant at Ministerio Cristiano Monte Sion in Miami, FL

Ramos is one of 25 Summer Service program participants spread across the U.S. this year. Ramos wanted to be part of the program to gain leadership experience and help others in his community. Through service, he says, “[I’m] getting the opportunity to invest my time in the kingdom of God.” Ramos’ assignment with Ministerio Cristiano Monte Sion includes the responsibilities of coordinating mission events in their neighborhood, gathering resources and organizing and delegating tasks to volunteers. He’s had a direct hand in food distributions to vulnerable people in the Miami and Homestead, Florida areas.

Cardboard boxes of basic food supplies, including eggs, sliced bread and bottled water, await delivery by Dmarcos Ramos and his team in Miami, FL. In the background, a Guatemalan migrant family waits to receive a box of food. The food was distributed to vulnerable immigrant families in the Homestead, FL area, an approximate 45-minute drive from Ministerio Cristiano Monte Sion.Photo courtesy of Dmarcos Ramos

For Ramos, summer service has been a fulfilling experience. He says, “I have been blessed in countless ways and I feel it is my responsibility to help those [in need]. The joys of my assignment come from knowing that the work we do will impact and help others in our community.”

A volunteer at Ministerio Cristiano Monte Sion prepares to deliver cardboard boxes full of food to immigrant members of their community during a time when healthy foods are more difficult to access.Photo courtesy of Dmarcos Ramos

At the same time, service is not without hardship. Current events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread unrest in the U.S. sparked by the May 25th murder of George Floyd, have impacted communities everywhere in some way. But these events have disproportionately affected churches and communities of color across the U.S., including those who partner with MCC through the Summer Service Program.

"The impact [of COVID-19] on our partners is huge...The unrest due to racism has added another layer of stress and challenges to already struggling churches and organizations of color."

- Shankar Rai, Summer Service program national coordinator for MCC U.S.

Shankar Rai, Summer Service program national coordinator for MCC U.S., says, “The impact on our [church] partners is huge. Because of the pandemic, the churches are not meeting physically, and the online giving system is not in place. Also, many church members are without a job. The unrest due to racism has added another layer of stress and challenges to already struggling churches and organizations of color.”

According to Rai, MCC’s Summer Service program is especially needed this summer because it provides job opportunities to young adults of color, allows churches and organizations of color to hire an additional staff person for the summer and supports young adults in developing leadership skills while serving their community.

Ramos, his supervisor Youth Pastor Paola Villa, and the team at Ministerio Cristiano Monte Sion have directly seen and experienced the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Their team modified their summer programming according to local health guidelines. Pastor Villa says, “As with many local churches in our area, we have been forced to innovate in the vehicles we use to spread the message of salvation.”

Several mission events were adjusted to take place virtually due to COVID-19 precautions. He says, “We were able to work around these challenges by taking advantage of social media platforms and live video conference for one of our events.” Increased precautions like masks and gloves were also incorporated into their outreach plans in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their area.

Samuel Ramos, lead pastor of Ministerio Cristiano Monte Sion BIC and father of Dmarcos, wears gloves and a mask to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as he carries food to a small group of people experiencing homelessness.Photo courtesy of Dmarcos Ramos

Amidst these challenging times, young leaders like Ramos bring fresh perspectives, energy and flexibility that are valuable assets to their communities. Pastor Villa says of Ramos, “He has the gift of deescalating stressful situations by finding practical solutions to the problems at hand.”

Ramos is soon finishing his bachelor’s degree and will pursue an accelerated master’s degree in Construction and Project Management at Florida International University. He plans to use his degrees to work in the construction field. This summer, he hopes to gain leadership experience that will help him gain financial freedom in the future through owning his own construction company or pursuing property development.

"I am certain that our collaboration with MCC's program has positively impacted the lives of others..."

- Dmarcos Ramos

With the Summer Service program, Ramos says, “Working with others to carry out a unified goal…helped me learn more about team work and group communication.” He adds, “It has been a blessing for me personally. I am certain that our collaboration with MCC’s program has positively impacted the lives of others, while also spreading the word and love of God with them in hopes that they may come closer to Him.”

Pastor Villa echoes, “I think that this partnership is vital, because it creates a great opportunity of developing young leaders who will contribute to the wellbeing and betterment of our communities.”


MCC’s Summer Service program is a 10-week program for young adults of color in the U.S. that nurtures and equips young adults of color for leadership in the name of Christ. For more information and to apply for the Summer Service program (applications are accepted January through March), please visit mcc.org/summer-service.