My name is Awilda Vega and I am from Puerto Rico. I am a mother of 5; 3 girls and two boys. One of my boys is not my biological son, but I love him as much I do my other kids. My biological son, Juan, was the one that made me cry the most. Juan was a smart kid, very talented and loveable. As a single mother, provider, and Christian, I had my hands full with all of them. I was very responsible with my kids, and I knew that the most important role as a mother was to expose my kids to God, and to reinforce what the Bible says. That is why I involved my family in all church activities, read the Bible and had a daily devotional with them. Raising my family with a salary of $975.00 a month was not enough, so on 1989 I made the decision to move to Connecticut to work as a bilingual teacher. Juan Orlando was 12 years old by that time, and for him it was a drastic change. He was a loner, and it was not easy for him to make new friends.
I found a church where I raised them, and everything was fine until Juan reached adolescence. He started acting up, and turned into a class clown. I was a teacher, so everyone knew my son. For Juan, being the son of a teacher was very frustrating – my name followed him everywhere he went. At church I was leader too; so, everyone expected excellent behavior from Juan just because he was my son. He started to smoke cigarettes in high school and thought he was hiding it from me. Even though I knew he was doing it, I pretended I didn’t. When he was 19 years old he quit college and started to work, then he asked me for his independence, and I agreed to it. I helped him with his apartment, and he fell in love with the pastor’s daughter; a relationship that I liked.
One day I received an anonymous tip that he was using drugs. The same day, the mother of one of my students came to my classroom to tell me that she had seen him buying drugs with the pastor’s daughter. I went home and I confronted him with the truth. I knew that I had to take him away from everyone that was facilitating his addiction, and that included his girlfriend. I went through an emotional crisis because I had to face the fact that “I had a drug addict in my home.” My Lord, that was very painful. My self-esteem as a mother went down the drain. I started to blame myself. I was always asking myself, “What did I do wrong”.
I sent Juan to live with his older sister in Seattle, Washington. He stayed in Seattle about a year. My daughters’ husband was in the Coast Guard, and they transferred him from Seattle, so she and Juan moved back to Connecticut with me. Juan met with his old girlfriend again and got back into drugs. Then I sent him to live for another year with my other daughter, in Colorado. Then she moved to back to Connecticut, so Juan returned too. But this time he had a girlfriend he had met in Colorado, and she came with him, and they had a baby boy.
One morning my daughter came to my house and told me that Juan had been arrested. At this moment I was so shocked I couldn’t feel the ground under my feet. I felt so lonely, desperate, frustrated, and confused. I started asking God, “why is this is happening to me?” I didn’t raised him to be in jail. “Where are Gods’ promises? Why he didn’t answer my prayers?” My emotions were like a roller coaster, up and down.
I always thought that it was my responsibility to take my son out of his addiction. Juan had six years on parole, and I turned into his bodyguard. I wanted to be sure that he didn’t get in trouble so he would stay out of prison. But what I got from him was hate, embarrassment, and verbal abuse. My daughter Zeidy told me, “mom don’t bother dealing with him, I’ll do it.” Since that moment she was the advocate between us. Juan respected his sister then, and still does. Every time I had a conversation with Juan, it ended in an argument. He couldn’t respect me, and that hurt me the most. My son never missed an opportunity to blame me for his troubled life, and I did that to myself too.
One summer I decided to retreat, because my soul was very weak. I was so exhausted that I knew that the only thing to do was to get way with God. I went Colorado to be with Miryam Regla, a good friend. I fasted, prayed and read Christian books. One day I was crying myself out, and I asked God, “Why you are not answering my prayers? Where is the promise you gave me, “You and your house will be saved”? God didn’t delay His answer, when He said to me, “I can’t do it because you don’t let me, you are in my way, leave him to me and stop trying to help me.”
WOW! That was a slap in my face. I saw myself doing things for God. I thought I was doing the right thing being my son guardian. I asked God for forgiveness, and since then, I didn’t lift a finger for Juan. Even my way of praying for my son changed. I began to thank God for what he did to him, what he was doing, and what he will do. I decided to occupy myself with improving my relationship with God. I even told God that I was giving my son to Him, for better or worse, do save or to perish, as He willed. I just asked God to let me witness what He had in store for my son before I died. By this time I had been diagnosed with lupus, and my health was not good. For my other kids, this diagnose was terrifying, because my sister Carmen died of lupus on 2002.
Juan decided to enroll in a program (as he had so many times before) “Helping Hands,” an induction center feeding graduates to the Teen Challenge program in Rehrersburg, PA. When he completed the program he began working with Teen Challenge in Baltimore, to give back to others what he got from God. My kids learned to put the pain behind, and learned to trust Him. My faith got stronger, and I learned that no matter how smart I am, only God can do the miracles He does to change a life for good.