Sunday, July 21 2024 - 6:03 AM
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Immigrants and Community

I grew up on a farm in Southwestern Michigan. I vaguely remember the hired hand that helped my dad when I was very young. “Lou” was African-American as were about three other families in our immediate community. During high school, we had several exchange students — one from Japan, and a guy from Germany. Otherwise, we were pretty White Bread America.

The community where I attended college and later lived for years, was rich with multi-cultural families. My own children lived in a neighborhood and attended school with children from around the world. Now their in-laws are people who were born on vastly different continents from our family.

Little did I realize when I took my graduate course in multiculturalism, that I would later live in a place where a majority of my counseling clients would be first or second-generation immigrants to the United States. And again, many of my neighbors are from far away countries. My best friend across the street is from the Philippines, another acquaintance is from Peru, several doors down is an Indian family (I love the smells coming from their kitchen), and on around the circle. One of my writing friends was born in Southeast Asia. Our church has had a group of Filipino worshippers, as well as Russians. I got a new client this week from another Caribbean island.

I am always amazed at the challenges the immigrant families have endured and their tenacity to transplant in a new country. By faith they have traveled great distances with very little money, to find better lives, or to minister to other people. Many were still living by faith for their descendants when they died. I remind myself that my own heritage is just a few generations removed from other lands. I probably could not communicate with some of my own great-grandparents if they were alive. Several of my grandparents could hardly read or write, yet some of their grandchildren have master’s degrees. We have changed and accomplished so much in very few years.

We live in a delicious stew of faces and cultures. However, we all have similarities, but language and custom differences can create barriers. Sometimes, I really don’t feel at home. I have been reading the book of Hebrews and the faith of “aliens and strangers on earth,” is the theme of chapter 11 — all the spiritual ancestors who were looking for a country of their own. Current politics, problems and practices remind me that I belong to God first and that creates an inclusive community.

I have a door hanger that states: “Home is where the dog is.” I think it really should read, “Home is where God is.” That is where my heart can really find peace and I don’t have to go anywhere.

Questions for personal journaling and group discussion:

1. Respond to the verses in Rev. 3:20 and John 14: 23.

2. How could you reach out to an immigrant and welcome them to your community?

Written by Karen Spruill

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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