First Unitarian Church was able to be the hand of God to a Honduras woman, Vicky Chaves, by providing sanctuary for her. Fortunately in recent times, through what I can only believe to be her faith, she was granted a ‘so-called’ stay of removal. What that means is customs have agreed to give her essentially a year of peace. After she heard the news, three years since entering this church, she finally stepped out, free.

On April 15, 2021 Salt Lake City (KUTV) reported the following: 

Thursday, Vicky Chavez left the church where she’s been seeking sanctuary for the past 1,168 days.

Chavez came to the United States from Honduras to flee an abusive relationship. Fearing deportation, she and her daughters have sought sanctuary inside the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City.

Chavez got the news earlier this week that she had been issued a stay of removal from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She says she almost didn’t believe it. All the people that have been a part of her journey inside the church were there to celebrate her stepping out.

“I can officially leave the room that the church decided to be our home,” Chavez said.

It’s the room where Chavez found sanctuary, shed tears, and watched her daughters grow.

I’m leaving the room that I’ve heard myself crying in for many nights, the room where my daughters have spent hours playing, since they could not go out to have fun in a park. Today, I leave the room,” she said.

In front of friends, family, the city and county mayors, Chavez says she’s leaving the room, but not the church and those who have helped her.

“They adopt me without knowing me. They support me without getting tired. I have no words to thank them, for having given me a safe home for more than three years,” Chavez said.

Chavez knows how she and her daughters plan to spend their time now that she’s won a stay of removal.

“My kids are very happy because they want to go to Disneyland,” Chavez said. “They are ready to share more time with the family, and my oldest girl is so happy because she is going to have more friends, for sure.”

Chavez says she planned to spend Thursday with her mom, brothers, and sisters. And in the future, she’ll be staying in Salt Lake City.

She wants to go on to fight for other families like hers.

“Today, we celebrate freedom. But the struggle continues. Thank you to all, and I love you with all my heart. So, now we can fly like a butterfly,” Chavez said.

Chavez’s lawyer, Skyler Anderson, says right now, there isn’t a clear path to permanent legal residency. The stay of removal lasts for one year, and then they will have to apply for an extension, which Anderson says they plan to do.

When she stepped out of the church not only did she have freedom, but also a church full of friends and a grasp of the English language. Who knows what else God has in store for Vicky Chaves, only time will tell. God has given Vicky Chaves an opportunity to take this experience and give it a purpose. The pain and suffering she’s endured can now be used a platform to live out her purpose for the glory of God.

If this is any indication for us, sometimes we need to weather the storm and once we’re through whatever is holding us back we can be set free of. Free from our past we’re trying to run from, or that addiction we can’t shake, but none of it would be possible if we don’t tie ourselves to Jesus Christ and truly submit to Him. It’s like we’re the disciples on the boat when Jesus calms the storm as described in Mathew 8:23-27 and Matthew 14:22-33.

Mathew 8:23-27  Jesus Calms a Storm

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Matthew 14:22-33 Jesus Walks on the Water

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long wayfrom the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Sometimes we’re too focused on the crashing waves when all we need to do is shift our focus back to Jesus Christ. What are your eyes on?

Written by Jay Sea (April 2021)

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