Daniel’s story/3 months/5 kids/1 hope
3 Months/5 Kids/1 Hope
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
On Christmas Eve (2023), God put a lump in Kevin Walker’s throat to talk to the man standing next to him outside of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
In the fall of 2023, Daniel, his wife (Anji) and their five children (four boys and one girl, ages 2-9) made the difficult decision to leave their homeland — Venezuela. They were hoping for a new start and better future in the United States. Since 2014, Venezuela has been marked by a worsening economic crisis (one of the world’s highest rates of inflation), poverty (90% of the country lives in poverty), health crisis (60% of the population does not have sufficient resources to access food), violence (considered an epidemic in 88% of Venezuela).
For eight days, Daniel’s family lived on top of a train as it made its way through Central America. For three months, they walked. And walked. Often without access to food or water. Eventually, they made their way to the U.S. border and were eventually placed on one of 600+ busses to date that have made its way to the Chicagoland area. Daniel and his family were dropped off at O’Hare International Airport and joined an estimated 300 other refugees waiting patiently for placement at one of the city’s overwhelmed emergency shelters.
Kevin had seen this before. As a Christian business owner opening new restaurants in different parts of the country, Kevin had made multiple trips through O’Hare since the migrant crisis began. He would continually walk through the airport and see the refugees sleeping on makeshift beds. Kevin wished he could do something.
And that’s when God put the lump in his throat. On Christmas Eve while Kevin was standing next to Daniel. By God’s grace, Kevin, his wife Tammy, and their three daughters speak fluent Spanish. So, when Daniel shared his story, Kevin understood every word.
Kevin also owns five restaurants in the Chicagoland area. So, Kevin offered Daniel a job.
“I can give you work. And I’ll pay your wages in advance to help you get started. I’ll even pay for an Uber to get you,” Kevin said as Tammy arrived to pick him up for Christmas Eve services at their church. “But I’ll need to know by 9 am tomorrow morning.”
At 6 a.m. on Christmas Day, Ken got a text from Daniel. “I’m ready.” Kevin sent the Uber, and Daniel started work at one of Kevin’s restaurants.
It was Christmas week. Kevin felt a prompting to do more. So, he made arrangements for Daniel, Angi and their five children to stay at a hotel near the restaurant. In addition, Kevin and his family took Daniel’s family to the store to supply them with groceries and fresh clothes. Kevin and Tammy also drove Daniel and Angi to a store, walked them inside and encouraged them to pick out Christmas gifts for their five children. Then the Walker family took Daniel’s family to a local restaurant and treated them to a Christmas feast.
Things have been changing at the Walker household these last few weeks. Kevin’s family — and his extended family, friends and neighbors — have been watching this radical act of generosity. And they’ve been replicating it.
After getting to know Daniels’ family for about two weeks. God put a lump in Tammy’s throat. Tammy was prompted to invite Daniel’s family to stay with the Walkers and live temporarily in the Walker home. The Walker girls have become quick friends and playmates with Daniel’s five kids. Plus, they can converse fluently in Spanish to make them feel accepted and understood. One of Kevin’s daughters voluntarily donated some of her clothes to the only girl in Daniel’s family. Kevin’s brother gave what little money he had in his wallet to Daniel’s family. A family friend from Timothy Christian School in Elmhurst, IL has given free haircuts to Daniel, Anji and each of their children. Kevin’s employees from his restaurants are donating clothes from their own homes. One of Kevin’s Convene peers, who leads a Christian not-for-profit, has mobilized her team and clients to assemble care packages for Daniel, Angi and each of their children.
And the Walkers also have started to take Daniel’s family to their church — Wheaton Bible Church — where they attend the Spanish speaking service together.
Short-term, the Walkers are praying that other families will walk alongside them and help offset ongoing costs to offset food, clothing and medical expenses while Daniel and Angi begin to gradually establish their independence. Tammy Walker has walked alongside Daniel and Angi to get their children enrolled in a local school with Spanish-speaking faculty. Long-Term, the Walkers are partnering with others to identify affordable housing.
Long-term, the Walker family is committed to help Daniels’ family establish independence while maintaining their personal dignity. Daniel continues to work in one of Kevin’s restaurants, and the Walkers are helping Angi to find work, too.
“God only knows,” Kevin said. “How this might change the lives of one of those kids and the impact they’ll have one day on God’s kingdom.
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