Coming Full Circle

Coming Full Circle

June 3, 2020

“Every story begins inside a story that’s already begun by others. Long before we take our first breath, there’s a plot underway, with characters and a setting we did not choose, but which were chosen for us.” – Richard Blanco, poet

For Ruben and Alina Esquivel, TMF investors, that setting began in Cuba, a country torn apart by political upheaval. The story is a tale of two families who endured the repressive Batista regime and shared in the excitement when Fidel Castro toppled his rule on January 1, 1959, only to experience disillusionment and betrayal. When it became evident that the much-anticipated democratic government was instead another form of autocratic dictatorship, like many other disaffected Cubans, they wanted no part of it. As Ruben lamented, “The country that was promised would not happen.”

The failure of the Bay of Pigs in 1961 further shattered hopes and dreams that Castro’s march toward totalitarian communism could be reversed. Alarming rumors that children may be relocated throughout the country to attend schools of indoctrination cemented Ruben’s and Alina’s parents’ decision to emigrate to the United States. “They wanted us to be where we could freely speak, worship, learn and live in liberty,” said Ruben.

They took a leap of faith to provide a better life for their loved ones.

The families attended Central Methodist Church in the heart of Havana where Ruben and Alina met in the youth group. The pastor of the church also served as principal of the Methodist school where Ruben and his younger sister were students. “My mother fervently believed in the power of education as a way to a better life. She was a single mother raising two children as a seamstress, but she found the Methodist school just a few blocks from our apartment and their sliding scale tuition enabled us to be educated there,” Ruben explained. “They taught English and that was important to my mother and made a profound difference in our immigration experience.”

Ruben and his sister followed a couple of weeks later. “We were so apprehensive about leaving our parents. There was no guarantee that we would see them again. But they believed that if we could get to America, we could have a future.”

“The most valuable lesson I learned from that experience,” Ruben shared, “was that the most important things in life are not the material things we were unable to bring in our one suitcase but what we carried in our minds and hearts. The education that my mother was so insistent that we take advantage of and the faith and hope that were instilled in our hearts in the Methodist church and school were the most valuable assets we had,” he continued.

Coming Full Circle

That faith and hope were affirmed time and again in their journey. “When we arrived in Jamaica, people we didn’t know were there just waiting for us to arrive to help us with food and shelter. They took us to the U.S. Consulate to apply for visas. Unlike Alina, we had no family in the U.S. but were able to stay with friends in New Jersey. I went to work, and my sister went to school and, fortunately, six months later our parents were able to join us.”

Alina was living in Miami when her parents arrived. They moved to the same city in New Jersey where Ruben and his family were living.

“Ruben says I followed him,” she laughed. “I started college, and the summer after my freshman year, we married.”

Through hard work and determination, Ruben’s mother’s dream for her children to achieve an education was realized. While working as an assembler with Multi-Amp Corp. (AVO), Ruben attended college at night to earn a degree in electrical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Years later he rose to become President and CEO of the company. Since his retirement from AVO, he has been Vice President for Community and Corporate Relations of UT Southwestern Medical Center and has served on numerous hospital, foundation, and non-profit boards in the Dallas area.

Ruben compares his refugee experience to the man walking the treacherous 18-mile path from Jerusalem to Jericho who was assaulted and robbed. Unlike the two religious leaders who walked on the other side of the road to avoid him, the Samaritan, the outsider and enemy of the Jews, was moved by compassion to take a risk and help the man. Ruben and Alina’s story, like the Good Samaritan, is a story of relationships, of connections. They were treated not as outcasts but as neighbors, and they have been living out the command at the end of the parable to “go and do likewise” ever since.

“Being grateful is the motivation for our giving. So many people in small ways and big ways helped us along the way. Apportionments that fund the Church World Service are a prime example – when we tell our story at churches, we tell them, ‘If you paid your apportionments in 1961, then we are the faces of your giving.’”

“The Methodist church in New Jersey – founded by German immigrants – helped us find used furniture,” added Alina. “Our parents had to relinquish all of their personal property. My father was a pharmacist but couldn’t practice his profession here. My mother was a teacher and eventually found work as a high school Spanish teacher. We started with nothing.”

John Wesley’s view of money distilled “love thy neighbor” into a straightforward approach to Christian life – earn, save and give so our communities are strengthened and our neighbors can know the healing love of Christ as we do.

The Esquivels see the compelling actions of earning, saving, and giving incorporated into TMF’s Methodist Loan Fund investment, open to individuals, churches, and other non-profit organizations. Their investment provides good returns and is immediately put to good use as the seed money for loans to churches.

“Investing in the Methodist Loan Fund enables Alina and me to bring hope and help to our neighbors – who we will probably never meet in ways we cannot even imagine – in the same way we were helped by so many Good Samaritans who extended God’s love to us. It’s an investment that reaches beyond traditional saving and earning to giving,” observed Ruben.

Ruben and Alina’s journey came full circle when they returned to Cuba with their children and grandchildren last summer, over 55 years after they left.

Like all of us, Ruben and Alina were born into someone else’s story, against a backdrop of world events that led to their parents’ brave decision to leave their homeland and to their experience as immigrants. The “deep heart’s core” of their story, however, is the story that defines them as Christians – the Good News of the Gospels. A story of risk, revisioning, and hope, it called them to refuse to adjust to what is and constantly work toward what could be. By remaining connected to the larger story of their faith, to God's never-ending, life-altering activity in the world, they forged a new story that they have passed on to their children.

They became an integral part of a world in which God’s love is experienced and shared and made real, where family, friends, and strangers embraced them and gave them a sense of belonging, where they pursued their God-given potential through education, excelled in their professions, achieved positions of influence and leadership, and continue to give back to others.

Are you looking for a secure investment that also supports ministries like Open Arms Health Clinic? TMF's Methodist Loan Fund, open to both individuals and churches, offers a competitive rate of return and is backed by TMF's financial strength and impeccable track record. Find out more about how you can grow your investment while growing ministry. Enjoy TMF's individualized service by starting a conversation with Sara Beltran: 800-933-5502 | 512-331-9971 | sbeltran@tmf-fdn.org