In his youth, Paul Kantorski spent eight years preparing to become a Catholic priest within the Maryknoll order; he planned to continue their almost 100-year mission to reach out to those around the world most in need. When his life’s path changed, little did he imagine that God would bring the mission field to him.
Men and women from almost every conceivable tribe and tongue are detained on immigration charges at airports and ports around the country, only to end up here in South Florida at the Broward Transitional Center.
At the weekly service, Arabic, Creole, Romanian, and Spanish phrases rise through the South Florida night air. Some detainees are here seeking truth, while others just want a break in their unending, numbing daily routine. Among the 150 who gather here, each has a story – human dramas played out daily against a drab institutional backdrop.
“I consider this a mission field because these detainees have come from all over the world,” says Paul. We have to get the Word of God to them before they are deported. I have seen miracles, as I have seen God touch generations globally as time after time people are sent back to their own countries, but now they know the Lord and His Word. They are able to share with their families and their children and reach their communities for Jesus,” Paul shares.
One such man was Isaiah: a compact, muscular man with an almost military bearing. A police officer in Lima, Peru, he inspired fear among evil doers. Then his neighborhood was threatened by a gang anxious to prove its power. This time it was Isaiah’s family who were the fearful ones, and Isaiah was the one under siege.
Maybe he was distracted by thoughts of his family and the life he left behind. Maybe something in his policeman’s soul rebelled against the thought of breaking the law. Isaiah didn’t make it out of the Miami airport before he was detained and brought to the Broward Transitional Center.
Days waiting for the wheels of justice to grind slowly to their conclusion had to be filled somehow.
Paul picks up the story:
“Isaiah volunteered to help the pastor, Freddie Guzman, set up for Bible Study and did some translating. Then there was the study where he came forward to surrender his life to Christ.”
Was Isaiah surprised to find himself walking forward? Possibly. No one could have predicted his insatiable hunger for God’s Word as he made a desperate attempt to redeem the lost years. The deportation order seemed only a minor blip on the journey his spirit was taking.
Over a year later, Isaiah invited Freddie to travel to Peru to meet his wife and children. On the surface, it looked like Isaiah had lost everything. But his smile as he told of his leadership role at their local church belied that assumption.
At the Broward Transitional Center this week, few will be debating their views on illegal immigrants. They’re too busy implementing their own immigration reform as they make sure that everyone gets to hear Christ’s message of love, hope and redemption. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.
To learn more about volunteering at the Broward Transitional Center, e-mail [email protected] or call 954-556-4516.