Claudia Salazar wears multiple hats as she serves her community of Lincoln Heights in East Los Angeles. By day she is a full-time case manager/addictions counselor at a crisis shelter for victims of domestic violence. By night she's a youth leader at New Life Community Church, working with youth from the ages of seven through the early college years. Between them, she sees the full spectrum of family struggles.
"The teenagers I work with [in church], they grow up in the city like I did. They see a lot of domestic violence, fighting, drug abuse." Salazar said. "On the flip side, I also work in a shelter, so I also see where, if these kids don't get help now, they could be the people who end up in a shelter later on."
Claudia came to East Los Angeles College as a survivor of an abusive childhood and without much church background. She joined an InterVarsity Bible study, where she gave her life to Christ and spent the next several years growing in her new faith.
In 2009 Claudia’s InterVarsity staff member encouraged her to attend Urbana. "Urbana was a switch for me," Claudia said. "It made me realize that not only do I want to do missionary work in the inner city in my home, but eventually I want to work overseas."
The theme of Urbana 09 was 'the word became flesh', a theme that resonated with Claudia. "I remember one speaker said, basically, 'We can't love people at a distance.' For me that meant that I couldn't just sit on the sidelines and watch. God was calling me to something more. If I want to follow Jesus I have to be in the hard stuff with people."
Claudia was also struck by the words of a missionary whose husband had been killed in the country they worked in. "[She said that] she stayed in that place because 'my husband may have died, but my calling is still to this place.' I realized that following Jesus is costly in ways that I might not even realize, but it's also worth it because Jesus did it. If we as Christians don't go out there, then who will?"
Claudia returned from Urbana energized to serve Jesus with her life. She returned to east Los Angeles and the community of Lincoln Heights, committed to a life of incarnational service. “I’m serving the places that I come from, working with people and kids that have gone through what I’ve gone through,” Claudia said. “You have to be a part of the community if you want to make a change. You won’t know the struggle, won’t know their problems, if you don’t choose to go to that place. People [who we serve] want to know that if we don’t get it, that we want to get it.”
For Claudia, Urbana ’09 catalyzed her life of service. “If I hadn’t gone to Urbana, I don’t know if I would have made the same choices. The students that are there right now, they’re going to have the same experience I did. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s worth it.”