For the last several weeks, OCO organizer Emma Paulino has been traveling every other week down to Bakersfield to help build the capacity of PICO’s Campaign for Citizenship in the Central Valley. In this post, she shares her experience so far.

As an organizer, it has been very tough time. Last week, I experienced some of my darkest times. Without congregations on board and with the culture we have at OCO, being in Bakersfield is another world. Still, I want to focus on the good side of my journey.

I have been pushing leaders to bring congregations on board. We are planning for a vigil on Saturday, May 11.

The goal of the vigil is to highlight the moral dilemma around the immigration issue, lift up the pain our communities are going through and pray for Senator Feinstein and Congressman McCarthy so God could give them the wisdom to take the lead in supporting just legislation that will keep our families together.

On Monday, April 29, I led a training about the PICO organizing model and the citizenship campaign to 20 people. Lorena Lara, one of the youth organizers, stressed the importance of get people to show up for the vigil. Daniel Landeros, another youth leader, helped with a report about voter registration strategies.

On Sunday, Gina Martinez, Leonel Teran, Lorena, Javier Martinez, Juan Lopez and I visited three churches to invite people to the vigil this Saturday. We hope to have a turnout of about 300 people on Saturday, but we will see.

This week, we have been using the number seven as a way to look at this struggle from the Christian perspective (the number seven represents completion). Seven people started calling McCarthy’s office and ask for a meeting with him. They have been starting with a personal prayer and have been doing it for seven days in preparation for the vigil. We will see what happens.

Honestly, the wind has been crazy in Bakersfield, which has not made things any easier. We have been eating dust all day long and will continue to do so because the weather is just incredible down here. We’re in the middle of a storm, my head aches like crazy, my eyes are red, and we must have the lights on all day if we want to see where we are driving.

I went to church on a recent morning one hour away from Bakersfield and, thanks be to God, people responded well–at least, compared with some of the experiences I’ve been hearing out there.

We have long way to go, but I have the faith that we will get there.