At thirteen, I sensed God’s calling to ministry and began serving at a very young age. Whenever I witnessed injustices, I could not keep quiet. I felt compelled to speak up and advocate. As I grew in my faith, I began to focus solely on what I saw as “ministry,” assuming that advocacy had nothing to do with ministry. I learned to see both as two separate callings.

Nevertheless, I continued to find myself speaking out against injustices affecting immigrants. I accompanied families to court hearings. I marched at rallies, went to schools to translate and demand that students and parents be granted their rights. I spoke to leaders in government, faith, circles and non-profits about the needs of our community and challenged them to help change systems. Many times, I thought I was stepping “outside” of God’s calling.

In 2015, I worked alongside of CBF in Texas, bringing awareness to faith communities about the dangers of payday loans and teaching them how to advocate against these practices. It was during that time that I realized I didn’t have to choose “one calling” over the other, that doing advocacy is also ministry.

For the past over 11+ years, I have served an immigrant community, one composed of all types of immigrants. A community that is faced with the fear of family separation, that works intensely to provide the basic needs of their families, and one that struggles to understand and navigate systems to help raise their children.

Just as much as I want my community to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, I also desire for them to have a shalom-filled life. As a minister of the Gospel, it is my responsibility to not only minister to the spiritual needs of my community but to advocate for their well-being.

As a Hispanic minister, I am often asked about ways to help minister to Latin@ communities. My response is, if you want to minister to Latin@s, you need to be ready to also care about their immigration issues, because their life depends on it.

One day as I attended a PTA meeting at a local school, I shared about our church’s immigration ministry. While I spoke, a mother broke out crying desperately, saying, “I am so afraid, every morning when I drop off my daughter, I am afraid that no one will pick her up after school, because I might have been deported. All ever wanted is to work and provide a safe place for my daughter to thrive.”

Everyone in the room, including myself, sat with her and just cried. Ministry was happening; I was able to pray for her and assure her that our church would continue to advocate alongside of her family. 

The stories of the immigrant mother and the hundreds of others I know are what inspire me to use my voice.

Being the wife, daughter, sister, friend of, and minister to immigrants, and my faith in Christ’s mission, compels me to lift my voice and welcome Jesus, the stranger among us.

Anyra Cano is coordinator of Texas Baptist Women in Ministry, academic coordinator of Christian Latina Leadership Institute, and youth minister at Iglesia Bautista Victoria en Cristo in Fort Worth, Texas.