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When Rosie Delgado first heard about Puente del Pueblo, it made her angry. At the time, she was working for the West Chicago Police Department, in its Neighborhood Resource Center (NRC) in the Timber Lake apartment complex (then called Westwood).
When Wheaton Bible Church, Iglesia del Pueblo, and Outreach Community Ministries announced they were opening Puente del Pueblo in the same apartment complex as the NRC, Rosie could think of Puente only as competition.
“I couldn’t stand that,” she recalls. “And even though Puente made attempts to work with us, I had a lot of negative energy toward the new organization coming in.”
A Heart for Kids
Rosie was born and raised in West Chicago, a member of a hardworking immigrant family. As a teenager she felt the pull from kids who were joining gangs, but she found extracurricular activities that led her on a healthier path.
Motivated by her love of West Chicago and a desire to give kids the same chances she had, she started working for the NRC at Timber Lake right out of high school. Her positive experience working with the kids there confirmed her desire for a career in social work, so she enrolled at the College of DuPage to pursue a degree.
Back then, Rosie wasn’t a believer in Christ. So when Puente started growing, she couldn’t imagine what their motivation was—outside of being a competitive threat to her own work at the NRC. She felt intimidated and resentful.
Who are these people? What do they want to do with the kids? Is this a competition? she wondered.
When the Police Chief closed the NRC, where Rosie had worked for five years, and transitioned the program and building to Puente del Pueblo, Rosie felt Puente had defeated them.
“I was very upset,” she said. “It was like they won. I honestly couldn’t stand Wheaton Bible Church and Iglesia del Pueblo.”
Each time she passed the church campus on North Avenue, she felt bitter and angry.
Rosie was going through a hard season in other respects as well. Since childhood she had sought a foundation for her identity and self-confidence. Dieting and relationships had promised her a new and better life but ultimately failed to deliver. At the end of a downward spiral, she was desperate for something to make her feel okay and believe she was of value.
To her added frustration—in the middle of all her struggles—two of her friends announced their upcoming wedding, which would be held at Iglesia del Pueblo.
When she saw the invitation and recognized the venue, she couldn’t believe her bad luck.
She attended the wedding in the fall of 2011 and was disgusted to see that Hanibal Rodriguez was preaching the sermon. Since he was an Iglesia del Pueblo pastor, Rosie had seen him around the Timber Lake complex and associated him with Puente del Pueblo.
Not this guy again! she grumbled to herself. But the sermon he preached caught her attention. She heard the text of 1 Corinthians 13 for the first time in her life, as Hanibal explained what love was meant to be.
“It hit me that only God could love that way,” she said. “It was exactly what I needed at that moment, as I recognized that God is the source of what I had been looking for.”
Her newly married friends began inviting her to attend Iglesia with them, and after five months of declining, she decided to give it a try.
In the summer of 2012, after attending for just two months, Rosie gave her life to Christ.
Shortly thereafter, she was in church when the “Cultivate” video, a documentary on the birth and growth of Puente del Pueblo, was shown in the worship service.
The story and images immediately caught her attention. “I didn’t even understand what a ministry was, but on the video I saw the kids I knew. They were so big!
“It hurt to see them so big,” she adds, “and to think that I was missing out, just from pride, because I didn’t want to know more about the organization that took the place of the Neighborhood Resource Center.”
She asked someone at the church how she could volunteer and was put in touch with Rachelle Wistrand, Puente’s volunteer coordinator.
A New and Different Experience
As much as she had loved serving the Timber Lake kids and community in her previous position, Rosie found that volunteering as a service to the Lord was entirely different. So when a new job opening was announced, she was certain this was where God wanted her: the place her entire journey had been leading.
As she considered applying for the job, she consulted several people who knew her and her past relationship with the NRC, including the West Chicago Chief of Police. He told her, “I don’t know anyone else who could do it like you. Go for it!” Others concurred.
“God had truly blessed me,” Rosie says, “bringing me back here to work with these kids again.”
On May 1, 2013, Rosie ended her time as a volunteer and started as a full-time employee with Puente del Pueblo, coordinating programs at the new Puente site in the Main Park Apartments.
Looking back on the path that brought her here, she is amazed by God’s faithfulness and His timing. Remembering how broken she felt at her friends’ wedding, she is convinced the journey cannot have been merely a string of coincidences.
Now she finds that her service to the community is fueled by a deep sense of gratitude for Christ’s work in her life.
“You walk into situations here where young people are struggling with so many identity issues. To be able to approach them and share Christ is awesome. I wish someone had done that for me.
“In all my work with the kids, I have had to be the authority and keep them in check—and we still do that. But now we have this piece of amazing news to share.”
Rosie finds that instead of approaching each day as merely work, she has a constant hope: Maybe today will be the day a kid sees Christ in me.
Her bitterness towards Puente quickly dissipated as she saw firsthand its role in bringing Christ to the community. She now expresses a deep love for the Puente ministry. “This is the church coming out of the building,” she says, “serving and sharing together.”
The change in Rosie has reached far beyond just her professional life.
“After finding my identity in Christ, lots of things that once defeated me don’t faze me anymore,” she said. “Yeah, you have hard times, but then you can go back to Him. Life can be hard, but it’s OK. Those things really help you appreciate that we will be with God forever.
“I love it!” Rosie says, enthusiastic about her new role at Puente. “God has blessed me by bringing me back to this place and these families.”