My husband was a pastor and when he died, I took over his church in Georgia. I found the Lord when I was seven after my mama and I got out of Cuba.
My daddy was from Cuba, but lived in Key West. He met my mama when he went back to Cuba to visit his parents. They got married, but his mama did not like my mother because she thought my dad could have done better. He could not have done better, but his mother did everything to break them up. The last straw was when I was born. She had five boys and my mother had me. I was a girl and that was a disgrace. They didn’t have a name for me because I was expected to be a boy.
My mama was in labor for 72 hours because my dad’s mom wouldn’t let her go to a doctor. She had five boys at home and thought my mom could have one at home. After 72 hours, my dad found a country doctor who used forceps and tore my mom from the uterus to the rectum. Infection set in and she was in the hospital for two months. During that two months, my grandmother made sure my dad found another woman and he left my mom. He came back later and asked for forgiveness but she couldn’t forgive him.
My dad went back to Key West and my mom, grandfather, and uncle raised me the first years of my life. We were very poor and I grew up with stories filled with hatred. My grandmother took me to my grandmama’s house once a month. I would have to give the old woman a hug and tell her I love her and she gave me a 20-cent piece. Enough money to buy milk. The rest of the time I drank sugar water. I knew my mom hated her and she hated us.
My grandaddy died and my aunts started doing the paperwork to get my mama and me to the states. My daddy refused to sign the papers because he thought we would give him trouble.
We were living with my aunt. Her husband was an alcoholic and he would chase my mama around the house. It was bad. One night we were hiding on the bed. A bright light appeared in the corner of the room. It scared me, but mama told me not to be scared because God was taking care of us. My mama didn’t know the Lord, but she said the Lord told her he was getting us out of Cuba.
Soon after that, the town doctor, who was friends with my mama, had a plan to help us. I needed a tonsillectomy and the doctor told my dad to come to Cuba and sign the papers or I would die. My dad came and signed the papers, but in those papers were also the papers for me to get to the U.S. My dad had no idea, but that is how I got here.
For my name, everyone in the room wrote a name on a piece of paper and put it in in a paper bag. My mom drew out Niurka, the name of a Russian heroine in a book that may aunt had read. It means daughter. God is my father and I am his daughter. He taught me how to forgive and let go of the hatred in my past.