She has spent 38 years fighting for a better future for children and Hispanics in the United States, but Eve Nunez hopes she's just getting started—her grandmothers lived to be 115 and 118. A grandmother herself, Nunez has founded two organizations to support her vision: the Arizona Latino Commission connects faith-based organizations with Hispanic communities, and Help4Kidz ministers to needy, mostly Hispanic children in Phoenix, Arizona, providing them with food, clothes, school supplies, tutoring, health care, and the Word of God.
Nunez is always exploring new channels to support her goals. In 2008,she ran for a seat in the Arizona House, and plans to run again. And as a vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, she educates constituents "not only to speak about making the change but about being the change. I would like the public to see that Hispanics are an asset instead of a problem to our community."
All of her work centers on the call of Proverbs 31:88-9, to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves … [to] defend the rights of the poor and needy." As one of 18 siblings, Nunez remembers going to sleep hungry many times and asking God, "When I grow up, bless me so I can help the children of the world." Her prayers continue to be answered.
Question & Answer
What led you, as a children's minister, into advocacy work?
When I was 17, my pastor told me, "One day God's going to use you as an instrument to speak to government." I said, "I don't want to do that—I just want to take care of children." But now I see that God has taken me to a place where I can be a voice to government officials and tell them about the needs of children and advocate for children's rights.
What is the issue that most engages your work?
Immigration reform. Because a large percentage of the children we work with have immigrant parents, every immigration law impacts them directly. Arizona's state workers are required to report undocumented clients who apply for assistance for their U.S.-born children. Many children don't receive the benefits they are entitled to as U.S. citizens because their parents won't come in to apply. As a result, Help4Kidz has seen an increase in calls for assistance.
How does this reality shape your work and ministry?
I have sensed resentment and anger in the children due to the unjust treatment of their parents, so I now place a stronger emphasis on teaching the children of immigrants about U.S. history. It helps when I teach that early Hispanics had to work with Native Americans through many struggles.
I also teach them about the Pilgrims, who came and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in America. I tell them that Jesus was the answer then and is still the answer today.
What to you is the church's role?
To embrace these children [regardless of] where their parents come from or if they are legal.
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