Ali Amegin’s brown eyes became earnest as she remembered the difficult course her childhood took after her family left Mexico to settle in the United States years ago.
Not speaking English and new in California, Amegin’s mother had to find creative ways to keep her family afloat while building a community for herself.
“My mom wouldn’t know anybody. So when she became pregnant, she went to the church a lot, and the Catholic Church helped her,” Amegin recalled.
So, earlier this year, when Amegin met Nefy — pregnant, speaking no English and alone after her boyfriend gave her the ultimatum to have an abortion or split up — she felt a deep empathy for the young expectant mother.
“It was interesting because I thought, ‘Ohhh, is this what my mom would go through?’” Amegin said. “I think immediately we bonded.”
Called to help
Amegin, who has a family of her own, realized a few years ago that she was tired of a life not focused on faith. She wanted to reignite her love for God and his Church and give back. So, when Amegin decided to become Nefy’s Gabriel Angel through connections with Gabriel Project in Arlington, Va., she felt a deep commitment to her new call.
“It was very touching from the beginning, because it immediately made me think of my mom,” Amegin told Our Sunday Visitor. “I wanted to be that person for Nefy, that person for my mom.”
Amegin became aware of the volunteer opportunity with the Gabriel Project in 2012 when her pastor announced an information session for interested volunteers. On fire with her newly reignited faith, Amegin saw a tangible opportunity to serve God by becoming a Gabriel Angel.
Amegin is one of eight volunteers at Holy Trinity Parish in Gainesville, Va., and Nefy was the first mother entrusted to her care. Nefy gave birth this summer to a healthy baby boy named Andry Sebastian.
“I learned of Gabriel Project through a friend of mine that I met where I used to live. When she learned that I was pregnant she gave me the number,” said Nefy, with Amegin providing translation. “The strange thing was that after that encounter I never saw that friend again, and I have had no way to contact her.”
Amegin offered encouragement to Nefy every step of the way, from taking the young woman to her doctor’s appointments to trying to find jobs for her when pregnancy complications made Nefy’s job at a car wash difficult to maintain.
When the expectant mother became worried by the lack of necessities, such as a crib and car seat, Amegin counseled her, “Don’t worry about the material, the material will come.”
Around Nefy’s seven-month mark, Amegin realized, “we need to do something about this material stuff because I said it would come, so it needs to come,” she told OSV with a laugh.
So she threw Nefy a baby shower, where the young mom received the help she needed from friends eager to assist — the gifts given were more than enough to take the young mother through six months with an infant.
In telling the story, Amegin beamed with pride at Nefy’s financial prudence during her pregnancy. After separating from her boyfriend, Nefy was able to find an affordable room and frugally managed her finances so she would be caught up on bills for the first two months after Andry’s birth.
From her own experience with her mother at the Catholic church, Amegin knew how important relationships are when you are struggling.
“I remember these people, these good people, we were always blessed to have good people coming, and they just befriended my mom and befriended us,” Amegin said. “They were always very active in our lives from the minute we met even until their death. They always stayed close to our family.”
Amegin and others have now become those “good people” for Nefy.
“The relationship with my Angels has been excellent,” said Nefy. “I consider them my family and friends.”
Amegin noted that she is far from being the only person helping Nefy and that there exists a thriving network of volunteers who are ready to pitch in whenever they can.
“I think [it’s] really key to really form a solid network around them to where if I can’t be there one week I don’t want her to have that moment be her moment of ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t do this anymore,’” said Amegin. “She can easily make a phone call to here or there and we can all, as a team, cover the situation.”
For someone considering taking a role with Gabriel Project, Amegin offered this assurance: “Focus on what your mission is and be a good Angel to these moms. Anybody could serve; [and don’t] forget who you’re doing this for.”
Even though there can be tough situations to tackle as an Angel, Amegin counsels prayer and gentleness in those times.
“You have to always keep peace in your heart because once you lose your peace, you can’t help her,” she said. “I would go to adoration, I would just pray about it, and I’d walk out and I’d know what to do.”
It is clear these prayers have born great fruit.
“Becoming a mother has been the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced,” said Nefy of her son. “Absolutely the most beautiful thing.”
Mariann Hughes writes from Maryland.