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Diocesan employees earn immigration certification

Offering legal aid to immigrants is a growing service provided by the diocesan Office of Social Ministry.

Recently, two employees in the immigration offices earned their Board of Immigration Appeals certification, which allows them to do even more for those in need.

Blenda Suarez, from the Berea office in Greenville, and Mily Choy from Hilton Head, are both thrilled with their new status.

Having the certification allows the immigration specialists to offer legal representation to immigrants and represent clients in front of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Emily Guerrero, diocesan immigration services supervisor. Only people working for non-profits qualify for BIA status, she said, which allows non-attorneys to practice a certain level of immigration law.

For example, they help legal, permanent residents apply for green cards or citizenship for their family members. They also help victims of certain crimes find asylum, and aid those who have been victims of trafficking.

Before, Guerrero would have to review and sign all documents. Now, Suarez and Choy have authority to sign.

“It gives them a lot more independence to represent clients,” Guerrero said. “They’re both really excited and proud that they can practice immigration on their own now.”

Choy moved to the United States six years ago, she said. She earned her law degree in her homecountry of Lima, Peru, and worked for an international organization protecting human rights and democracy.

Suarez said she worked in mortgage before, but was offered the opportunity to move into immigration services in 2012. She is thrilled with the transfer and the opportunity to help people.

Andrea Penafiel, an immigration specialist in the Mount Pleasant office, received her BIA certification in 2010 and is in the process of renewing it.

Currently, there are immigration offices in Greenville, Charleston and Hilton Head, which just welcomed Alyson Beinert as its new immigration attorney.

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LARCUM message calls all to accept God’s challenge

COLUMBIA—Life constantly confronts followers of Christ with one crucial decision: will they accept or reject the Gospel message of love and forgiveness?

Bishop J. Jonathan Holston of the S.C. Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church posed the question to about 100 people at the LARCUM prayer service Jan. 26 at Columbia’s Ebenezer Lutheran Church.

The service is an annual tradition that brings together Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Anglicans and United Methodists in an effort to increase dialogue and understanding. In attendance were Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop Herman R. Yoos of the South Carolina Synod for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.

For the first time, regional leaders from the African Methodist Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal Zion denominations also took part in the service.

Bishop Holston’s sermon reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, Mt 4:12-23, which tells the story of Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave behind their lives a
fishermen and follow him.

He said all Christians are united through their baptism in Jesus Christ and their faith in God, but there will be neither Christian unity nor more justice in the world if believers don’t have the courage to make life-changing decisions like the disciples did.

“What are you going to do with your one and only life?” he asked. “What difference will be made because you are in existence? We have to remember we are called to be the very mouthpiece of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to ask ourselves what God is calling for me to do in my life, and then be willing to do it.”

He told a story about a clergyman he knew who saw a new drugstore that had been built in his small town. The minister tried and tried to remember what had been on the site before, and then finally was saddened and shocked when he realized it had been a church.

“We had to ask how could a church be in the community and leave and no one ever knew it was gone.” Bishop Holston said. “That’s what will happen to our churches if we forget the God of our fathers and mothers, the Gospel and the good news it can bring.”

Repentance and acceptance of God’s love helps people at all levels make a positive difference in the world, he said.

“The light of Christ shines when we help the less fortunate, when we collaborate to make education better for our children, when we work for sufficient health care for all people,” he said. “We’re here because Christ needed someone to be the reflection of his love in the world. God each and every day gives us an offer we can’t refuse. The question is, will we accept the challenge?”

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Rachel Neubauer joins Office of Youth and Young Adults Ministry

CHARLESTONƒ—Rachel Neubauer recently took the helm as the new associate director of young adult ministry for the diocese.

Prior to coming to Charleston, she worked as the stewardship and ministry coordinator at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville for two years. Neubauer, 28, said she became actively involved with the young adult community while in the Upstate, noting that the group shares a strong camaraderie from walking the same path and asking the same questions.

“There’s such a wonderful group of young adults in the state,” she said. “It’s so encouraging for the Church.”

When Valerie Soop, former associate director, mentioned that she was leaving, Neubauer prayed about the path God wanted her to take.

Born and raised in the Diocese of Peoria in Illinois, Neubauer said her entire family still lives there, save one uncle in Atlanta. While she misses her parents, her three sisters, and especially her young nieces and nephews, she said this is where she felt called.

“I’m happy to serve and be here,” she said. “There’s a sense of peace that comes from following God’s will.”

Neubauer moved south over the holidays, and said she’s finally settling in and recently joined Sacred Heart Church.

A graduate of Western Illinois University, she started as a music major, has a love for theater and orchestra, and plays several instruments, including guitar.

Her first big project will be the Lenten Days of Recollection, which will be held on Fridays in four deaneries. She is also helping new groups in Seneca and Fort Mill become established, and continues collaboration with the vocations department.

“We’re called to have hope, we’re called to be joyful,” she said. “I see this happening all over the world.”

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