Through an Immigrant’s Eyes

August 13, 2012

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As the debate rages on immigration in many nations, I had an up close and personal look at the issue the other day.

My family and I serve as missionaries in South Africa. It was time to renew our visas. The trek to Home Affairs brings dread to the heart of all.

As I entered, I could see a long line of refugees from war-torn and politically unstable African nations. They were seeking asylum and a change of status from illegal to legal.

They are weary. Lines in their faces show a life of hardship and difficulty. They’ve been mistreated in a land supposedly better than home. They are desperate to receive even a hint of grace.

I’m a stranger in a land which is not my own. Intimidation is often a goal in these offices, being both confusing and frustrating. It seems the staff receive training in unfriendliness.

There is only one reason for people to go through this.

Hope.

As you search the internet or read many popular blogs, the following admonitions come forth:

Follow your dreams.
You can make a difference.
The future is bright.
Pursue a new and better path.

Are these promises only true for financially stable people with the internet connections?

We all want these things ourselves, the same as any immigrant.

I’ve been on the other side of the issue as well.

I’ve felt a sense of pride as I strode into my own nation’s embassy. It’s a glimpse of home on foreign soil. I receive the utmost respect here, even moving to the head of the line. When we pursued our adopted son’s immigration to the United States, this was our experience.

A country should treat its own citizens well.

But there is nothing which says to treat foreigners poorly.

After each positive experience I would walk past foreigners who had the same look of fear and trepidation in their eyes. They were hoping from a favorable outcome from the United States.

I know immigration reform is a hot topic. The Bible always shows God’s heart for the foreigner, the alien, and the refugee.

“Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”(Exodus 22:21 KJV)

Does the church have this heart? Do we remember we were all strangers and aliens, both to our native land and the kingdom of God?

Or are immigrants somehow less valuable?
Are they unable to have the same hopes and dreams of a better life which you and I share?

Immigrants are people. They have hopes and dreams just like you and I.

Remember this in the political debate which can depersonalize in an attempt to focus on the issues.

I’m not attempting to make a political statement.

I am attempting to challenge our hearts to avoid stereotypes. Let’s have grace in our hearts for the immigrant.

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God