One Pastor's Journey to America

By Ismael Ruiz Millan 05-09-2011

[Editors' Note: This month, Sojourners and Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform will be featuring "The Stories of Immigration" blog series. We will highlight stories, songs, and interviews with immigrants and immigrant advocates as a way to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of immigrants and the broken immigration system here in the United States.]

1100509-ismaelI came to the United States to pursue the so-called "American dream." My own American dream was to learn how to speak English, save money, and go back to Mexico to get a better job so I could get married -- it was a temporary situation. However, here I found God's dream for my life -- God's call to ministry.

Although I had taken English classes while growing up in Mexico, when I arrived in the United States I could neither communicate nor understand any English. Thus, I immediately started taking ESL classes in a local community college. At the same time, I became very involved in a local Spanish-speaking United Methodist congregation, which was pastored by my uncle. While serving in this church I realized that God was calling me to ministry. Eventually, I went back to Mexico to get married and came back to the United States with my wife. Both of us took some training offered by the denomination and became lay missioners. Later, I received an invitation to pastor my first congregation, a Spanish-speaking congregation in Grimesland, North Carolina.

At the same time, I started the candidacy process to become an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, which led me to pursue a master of divinity degree at Duke Divinity School. I graduated in 2010, and now I am a provisional elder of the United Methodist Church, currently serving in Roxboro, North Carolina.

It has not been an easy journey, but God has been with me all the way. Also, I am convinced that in order to see your dreams come true, you need to be willing to make some sacrifices. Hear more about my journey to the United States by watching the video below, filmed by Uniting NC, an immigration advocacy group based in North Carolina.

Ismael Ruiz Millan is pastor of Unidos Por Cristo UMC in Grimesland, North Carolina.

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