Developing Leaders Who Impact Costa Mesa: Belen

Belen (right) holding her son Gabriel, with her mother Doña Theresa and her daughter Citlali

Belen (right) holding her son Gabriel, with her mother Doña Theresa and her daughter Citlali

In our last post, we shared the story of Mika leader, Doña Theresa. Part of that story involved moving from the countryside of Mexico to Costa Mesa, California. And the journey wasn’t hers alone. This week, we share the story of someone very close to Doña Theresa—her daughter, Belen.

Like her mother, Belen was born in the State of Mexico. When Doña Tere and her husband Carlos decided to move the family to Costa Mesa, Belen (along with her brother) went along for the ride. She was only ten years old at the time, but she remembers it being a tough time for her family. Imagine leaving all you’ve ever known—friends, family, and community—and moving to a foreign country.

It was hard to learn English,” she reflects. “…most of the parents don’t speak [it].”

And that made her education, from middle school all the way through high school, a struggle.  Belen empathizes with the kids growing up in her community today and for their parents, who often feel helpless. Homework, messages from teachers, and navigating the cultural norms of the complex school system weigh heavily on many families in Costa Mesa. And it’s something many of us take for granted.

But, like her mother, Belen hasn’t taken a back seat. Instead, she has become a community leader just like Doña Tere before her. She now serves with Mika as a teacher in our You & Me kindergarten readiness program and on the Parent Committee, a group of parents who help other parents navigate the school system. God is using Belen’s experience, passion, and abilities to nurture and equip her own children, other local kids, and the parents within her community.

“What word comes to mind when you think of the Hope Center?” I ask.

Dreams,” she says. “…you have dreams for your kids. You want your kid to have a career. To have a better life than you did… Hope. That’s a perfect name for the center.”

“What’s your vision for your community and for this city?”

I want to see more kids going to college, graduating, and making an impact in their city.

What does this all mean for Citlali and Gabriel, Belen’s children? They’re growing up with the Hope Center only two doors down from their home, and they have been blessed with two God-fearing, interested, involved, and motivated leaders as role models. It’s normal for them to be bi-lingual, to start education at a young age, and to be involved in their community. It’s normal because Doña Theresa and Belen have worked hard to make it normal.

Citlali and Gabriel are being taught to love God and their neighbors, make an impact, and excel in school. This year, Citlali finished kindergarten. She’s at grade level (and the first in her family to accomplish that) and doing very well thanks to the hard work Doña Tere and Belen have put in.  

Why do we tell this story? Because it inspires us! Three generations of leaders, all in one family, all still developing, and all pursuing community leadership alongside God. It’s a pursuit that lasts a life time, but it’s something Mika believes in wholeheartedly. In the past few years, Mika has witnessed, firsthand, the fruit that has been produced through this family. Their character and community involvement impacts the kingdom. 

Sarah GoodmanComment