Maria Acuña was seven years old when she and her family immigrated to NYC from Ecuador. She was raised in the Muslim religion but as a young teen she understood the need for the gospel and accepted Christ as her savior.
While at TBC, Maria got involved with the Laundry Project as a Freshman. Little did she know that this service project would continue to be a major part of her life after graduation.
Maria has a soft spot for two large cities: Jacksonville, Florida and New York City, New York.
“I started with the Laundry Project in school and then took it back home to NYC. But I end up flying back here often to do the project in Jacksonville because I’ve known these people for years.”
She frequents Jacksonville at least twice a year and recruits TBC student volunteers.
While they don’t handle the laundry, they help manage the supplies, strike up conversations, pray with people, and entertain the kids who tag along with their families.
“It’s the perfect opportunity to share the love of Christ and the gospel. A lot of people ask why we do this. It’s such a simple question, but it opens up a big door to talk about Christ. And even if you don’t get a chance to get into a deep conversation, you can show compassion and love. The way you approach them is so telling. Not many people are willing to go into places like that unless they have to.”
Back home in NYC, Maria has teamed up with churches.
“Since COVID, we’ve organized a project once or twice every month. It [COVID] has affected so many people in a negative way but also in a positive way because we’ve been able to get out there and help. The churches fundraise and supply volunteers.”
It takes at least $1000 to fund a Laundry Project; that covers all the laundry supplies as well as coffee, donuts, and activity pages for the kids.
Maria is very strategic when selecting locations.
“Every neighborhood has a low-income area, and I always pick areas that have a solid church nearby. Because if you get saved and don’t have a place to go to church… that’s kind of hard. I want to be able to point them to a church right away.”
Maria also works with Urban Nations Outreach, a missions organization focused on reaching the unreached people groups of New York City. They do inner-city mission work, host mission teams, and minister to people with disabilities. One of their main outreach programs is teaching English to immigrants. They use that opportunity to plant seeds of the gospel into the lives of people who otherwise may never hear it.
“Once they reach a certain level of fluency in English, we start teaching them to read with the Bible. All sorts of religions are represented: Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Catholicism, you name it. We also host a lot of teams from the south who come up to do ministry here. A lot of people think of NYC as Manhattan… which, that is obviously part of it, but it’s so much more than that. They don’t realize the outer neighborhoods are huge.”
Maria also teaches Spanish and attends All Nations Baptist Church with pastor Danny Shafer (’95 undergraduate/’09 graduate)
The Laundry Project is a non-profit event by Current Initiatives founded by Jason Sowell (’01) that supplies the quarters, laundry detergent, softener or dryer sheets for underprivileged families and individuals.