Marcella and Yvette
My name is Marcella Coto-Leon. I was born in El Salvador, a small country in Central America. Our family was very poor. There was a civil war going on and violence was everywhere. At eighteen months old, God spared my life. I was walking and my mother told me to stop. Amazingly, I stopped still. A bomb went off and a large piece of shrapnel landed where my next foot fall would have been.
Our family fled El Salvador on a nine day journey that was full of danger and risk. But we made it and found sanctuary in this country. Like many families, there was laughter and fun but this was mixed in with chaos and problems. While my childhood memories have some dark places, one of the bright spots was when my mother and I would volunteer at Living Hope Women's Centers. I was ten and loved helping mom sort baby clothes and make the mommy store beautiful. I also loved the women there. They were kind and took the time to talk to me. After a few years I had to quit. Between work and school I had no time. But those memories of that wonderful place stayed with me.
I entered into the next stage of my life thinking I had all my ducks in a row. But the ducks didn't cooperate and my life spun out of control. The seeds of anger, sown in my childhood blossomed. At 18 I was pregnant and in crisis. Even knowing what I did about abortion, I wanted to have one. My first instinct was to run back to Living Hope Women's Center. Of course, the ladies at the center loved me through my confusion while speaking truth about abortion. My father was rightfully very angry about my pregnancy. They even sat down with our family and helped my dad come to acceptance. They were there for my labor and delivery and lessons on parenting, something I knew nothing about, afterwards. I earned enough mommy money for all of my baby furniture and supplies.
My boyfriend and I moved to California with our growing family of two daughters. Away from my support system, things again spun out of control. I became pregnant and with a chaotic life, I reached bottom. Guess where I turned to? They offered me refuge and hope through Hope House Maternity home. Though the girls and I were only there nine months, it was the turning point of my life. Intensive counseling and Christ's love, lavished on me by everyone in the ministry finally brought down my walls and released my anger and my hurt.
I began to trust in God. I also witnessed a healthy marriage in our houseparents, Ken and Peggie, and healthy families as homes and hearts were open to me and my girls. During that time, they even helped me become a citizen - something I am very proud of! While I was at Hope House, God was also working on my boyfriend, Miguel's heart. He came to visit and we met at the clinic. He was afraid he would not be treated well. What he found was the same kindness and acceptance and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This brought our family back together, me at the Hope House and Miguel with his family. We didn't want to make the same mistakes we had made. We wanted a new beginning doing things God's way.
Miguel and I stood before a pastor in a beautiful ceremony put together by the staff of Living Hope, with our three children, pledging our love and commitment before God and our friends and family.
If you knew me as a toddler in El Salvador you would have said, "there is no hope." If you saw me as a rebellious and angry teen you would have said, "there is no hope." If you had seen Miguel's and my life in California, you would have said "there is no hope." But I am here transformed by hope - Living Hope. They have seen me through my darkest times, have loved me in spite of my mistakes and because of them have something I never dreamed possible - a loving marriage, a truly happy family, a sense of belonging and a knowledge that I am loved. And because of them, Miguel and I have the greatest hope of all, eternal life through Jesus Christ. I love this ministry.