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Nov17ThuOnce refugees relying on a Salvation Army food bank, Fabio and Angelica Correa are now using their experiences to help others November 17, 2011 by Julia Hosking
“When I see the people coming to the food bank, I remember having to do the same,” says Fabio Correa, who was a CEO and part owner of a pharmaceutical company in Colombia. “I had a great standard of living in Colombia, but here I had to put my hand out. I've learned the most important lesson—humility. I understand it's not easy to say, 'I need help.' ”
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After Colombian guerrillas threatened their lives, Fabio and his wife, Angelica, sought refuge in Atlanta, Georgia.
“We had no family in the United States and I was lonely because my wife was working,” continues Fabio. “When a friend invited me and my children to a Salvation Army church, I accepted.”
Fabio discovered the people there to be kind and warm and he and the children—Daniela, now 15, and David, 13—happily settled into life at the church, making Angelica eager to attend as well, despite her busy work schedule.
“Finally, one Thursday night I attended a church event,” says Angelica. “I liked it and the pastor asked me why I didn't come to church with my family. I told him it was because I was working, and he replied, 'I'm going to pray you get another job so you can have your Sundays free.'
“I laughed, but that next week, three people offered me a job! No one had ever done that before! I became an assistant manager with a media company, where I received better pay and had my Sundays free. So I started to go to church and immediately fell in love with the Army.”
The Correas soon knew they wanted to serve God as pastors. As it was too difficult to change their political status in the United States, they started the process of becoming Canadian citizens. Given their existing connections to The Salvation Army, they sought out a church as soon as they arrived in Toronto in October 2004 and began attending Yorkminster Citadel.
“The pastor there immediately took us under his wing,” Angelica goes on. “He drove our kids to music lessons and gave us the sermon a few days ahead of the service so I could read it, learn new words and know what he said on Sunday.”
Slowly, Angelica's English improved as the Spanish-speaking population in the Yorkminster congregation increased.
“My husband can't pass people by without telling them about God,” smiles Angelica. “We started bringing a lot of Hispanic people to Yorkminster, and they were staying. Seeing what was happening, the pastor of our church said to Fabio and me, 'You have a calling and you're going to be shepherds of your people.' ”
Among other contributions to the church, such as leading a Thursday night Spanish church service, Angelica is using her new understanding of the English language to translate the sermon into Spanish every Sunday.
“I know in my heart that God brought me here to help other newcomers to Canada,” says Fabio. “Immigrants come from different countries, but many speak Spanish and they go to The Salvation Army asking for help.”
Fabio is the family services director and associate pastor for Yorkminster Citadel while Angelica is program co-ordinator for the Army's immigrant and refugee services.
Both their positions involve ministering to people who are new to Canada and in need of social-service support.
“We know how they feel,” says Fabio. “After all, we've been there, and now I feel compassion and mercy.”
“Knowing that we could count on the Army was an advantage for us as newcomers to Canada,” adds Angelica. “And because everybody I help is a newcomer to Canada, too, I can identify with them and help them because I understand their situation and know what they need. It's a beautiful opportunity for me.”