WE ARE A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS.
Many, including my grandfather have been able to call this land home. In 1900 he legally came to America, at 16 years old, speaking no English but needing to earn money to send back to his mother and younger siblings. A few years after he arrived, the doors closed to Italian immigrants.
According to an article I read on the Immigration Act of 1921 the prevailing opinion was “that individuals from southern and eastern Europe could not be assimilated properly into the culture of the United States. Their languages, customs, and religions were thought to be too different from those of preceding generations of immigrants for full-scale integration into American culture.” They were also thought to be ignorant, unskilled, and of inferior stock. Sounds like words we hear today as well.
FRIENDSHIPS WITH IMMIGRANTS CAN GROW OUR FAITH
My husband’s job took us to the Middle East for eleven and a half years to a country that had numerous refugees. Some of them were economic refugees and some were fleeing torture and persecution. Many came with a visa but when it expired, they did not leave. They knew if they got caught, they would go to jail and that the only way out was to have enough money to purchase a one-way ticket back to their home country. My faith was challenged and grew through the many encounters I had while living overseas.
We encountered many refugees that were imprisoned. They relied on the kindness of others to have meals brought to them in prison and they made items that were sold to expatriates to raise the funds they needed to survive. Many of those who were sent back to their home country returned again, knowing what they would face, because things were so dire at home. Many hoped their plight was horrific enough to get them accepted into the UN Refugee program. I typed up one man’s story and he told of being tortured and abused. I cried as I typed.
WE NEED EACH OTHER
Our church was made up of many expatriates and refugees. We both had something that the other needed. The expats had financial resources to help the refugees to be able to live, and the refugees had a faith that had been tested in the fire and could tell us of ways that God had provided and protected them.
One friend who overstayed his visa had gotten married and had several children. While he was praying one day, he felt the Lord was telling him he needed to go register with the police. He knew that if he did and that if they did not give him a visa he would be forced to leave the country. He went to the officials and they refused him the visa. He went back to the church to ask for prayer. A week later when he went to the officials again, he miraculously got his visa.
He also felt God calling him to be a missionary to Ireland. Then he felt impressed to google the name of a ministry group in Ireland. He had never heard of them, but he sent them a note telling them that God told him he was to go to Ireland to minister. Today he and his family live in Ireland and are missionaries there.
OUR RESOURCES ARE MEANT TO BE SHARED
One of the refugees I knew was accepted into the UN refugee program and was relocated to the U.S. He and his family paid back all the money they were lent in very quick order by moving into a smaller apartment than the one provided for them when they arrived, and today they are U.S. citizens. Their children have opportunities here that were not possible in their homeland. He continues to send gifts back to the people in his home country even though he works a minimum wage job. He says he is so blessed here and has so much, how can he not share it.
I have seen God work in miraculous ways and I am so much more aware that to whom much is given much is required. The resources He blesses us with are meant to be shared. I continue to pray that He will open my eyes to what He wants me to do so I can be His hands and feet here.
Story by Mary Kay, a member of the Women of Welcome community.