BY MICHAEL REISIG –
When we are faced with challenges in life, some of us try to dodge them, and some of us surrender to them, but there is a small portion who refuse to give up, who strive to overcome, using all the elements at their disposal. Chi Chi Harris is one of the over-comers and using faith and determination, she has become a survivor.
Harris was born in Panama (her mother was born in Cuba), and her father was in the military. In 1964, the family moved to Mena, because her father had spent time here and considered it a great place for the family – “a place where no one locked their doors and everyone felt safe.”
When Chi Chi Harris arrived here, she spoke very little English and it was a bit of a challenge starting school in Acorn.
“I remember I used a lot of sign language at first, but I quickly fell in love with this place and this country and strived to learn the language quickly,” she recalled. “I actually learned a lot of my English watching Captain Kangaroo,” she added with a smile.”
In 1977, Harris graduated from high school and went on to Arkansas Tech, studying Business Administration, Harris continued her education at Rich Mountain while going to work at The Union Bank Of Mena and in the process, in 1980, she met her husband, David.
“I feel as if God set David aside for me,” she added with a smile. “And I’m very thankful.”
For a short interim the couple moved to Texas, but when they returned to Mena in 1988, Harris came back to work at The Union Bank in the loan department and went on to receive an associates degree in General Banking in 1993.
In the interim, a number of things had taken place in her life that led her to become involved with “The Heartwalk,” sponsored by The American Cancer Society.
“My husband’s family suffered with heart disease, and I liked getting involved with the community so I became involved with the organization through my bank,” she explained. “I’ve worked with them for a number of years, serving as chairman for the local fundraising event for two years.
“I lost my mother and my father to cancer, and with my husband’s family suffering with heart disease, it just seemed like there was a great need for education and awareness, and money, to combat these devastating elements.”
In an almost impossible coincidence, Harris was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. Fortunately, she caught the disease in its early stages and survived, but Harris will tell you that it was her faith that took her through the ordeal.
“Sometimes in life you come to a situation that you can’t combat, you can’t fix, and you have to turn yourself over to God Almighty, and I did that, and I found my strength through Him,” she explained. “My favorite scripture is Philippians 4:13 – ‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.’ It was He who got me through this, and each day I strive to be more like Him.
“I feel he has a purpose for me, a greater plan,” Harris added. “I work for a children’s ministry – WAM (Worship Art Ministries) – and my part is a puppet ministry for children, which I really enjoy. There’s nothing more wonderful than experiencing that affirmation when a child comes up and hugs you.
“It was a blessing for me to return to Mena, a place where everyone helps each other and the community always comes together in time of need,” she continued. “This is a place where we are all brothers and sisters, and like The Union Bank, where I work, we’re a family.”