Immigrants or Pioneers Part 2

 

Matthew 13:44 The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field

The myth that the streets were paved with gold clashed harshly with the reality that my grandparents faced as they found themselves in the cold confines of Ellis Island waiting for approval to enter the city of New York. Yet despite the struggles they faced in a new and strange land they came with determination to begin a new life. These weren’t the classic “Pioneers” with covered wagons, but they were none the less bravely facing the same kinds of challenges.

Though my grandfather could have decided to live in an Italian neighborhood insulated from the culture around him, he chose his own path. America was his new home and he was determined to put down roots here and to begin a new kind of life. Over his entire life Grampa returned only once to Italy. He raised my Dad in a mixed neighborhood in Far Rockaway Queens. He did just like the man in the parable, he sold everything he had to gain the treasure he saw, even if no one else agreed.

Today as his grandchild I look back in amazement at the sacrifice he made and hard work it took. He came on the boat at 16 years of age with his older 17 year old brother. He worked with some of his brothers in the barber business till he had his own shop, married and provided a home for their six children. More importantly he taught my Dad that family life meant everybody working together cheerfully because was how life should be lived. Grampa was never at all ashamedSCAN0062 of his humble Italian roots from Calabria, but over the barbershop door waved a new flag. The flag of his new country. He gave us an example of how success isn’t about being like everyone else.  Lasting success is about being true to your dream, grateful for your opportunities and willing to give your all for your family. What a blessing our family has today because Grampa was not only an immigrant he was a pioneer!

The Other Side of the Window

applying for a real jobor entering into college so she cleaned houses and prayed for God to help her find a way to reach a legal status. Maria struggled with all the same issues that other teens struggle with here in America but always behind the smiles lived the fear of what might happen if she were to be found out. For a time Maria began to come only rarely to church then it seemed something slowly began to change. Step by step she began to commit her life back to the Lord and with halting steps to find a new path.

 

But one afternoon shortly after, as she drove home from house cleaning Maria was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. One of her turn signals was not working and when she looked into her mirror she saw a police car. All the things she had feared came crashing down into her life that day. Her father called our pastor and asked him to pray because his little girl was now locked away behind the doors of the County prison.

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One day not long after I sat in the visiting room of the prison. I still could not

believe that Maria was really there. At the time for the visits to begin a guard called everyone to line up and pass through a metal detector and then into a long narrow room with tiny cubicles, each facing a window. On the other side of the windows were the prisoners waiting next to a telephone receiver. As I sat in my assigned place I saw Maria sitting on the other side. “How are youMaria?” I asked in Portuguese. “I am good Pastor how are you?”

“Not good at all Maria.” I answered and tears began to roll down my cheeks. This isn’t the right place for you!”  “Don’t cry Pastor!” She said. Then Maria began to encourage me that God was taking good care of her there. had few options but inside that prison she began to pray also. Her first prayer was just a simple request. She prayed, “Lord Jesus it is so cold here and the clothing is so thin, please help me to stay warm!” Then she explained how she felt the warmth of God’s presence around there in her cell and fell fast asleep that night and each night afterward.

We joined together as a church to pray for Maria. She was alone, afraid and vulnerable. She had no money and no lawyer. So we had a special offering and a fund-raising dinner to raise the $1500 needed for legal counsel. So we prayed, we cooked, we sold meals and soon we were able to present her family and friends with the money needed to get an immigration lawyer. On the day of Maria’s hearing about ten of us drove the 2 1/2 hour trip to the hearing. Yet in spite of our hopes and prayers the answer was 42 days to gather her things together to go back to Brazil.

For those who have not never had a friend or family member pass through this the matter may seem simple.

Maria came without the documents – she was an “illegal” and she got caught. Logically she should go home (at her own expense). But real life is never as simple as it seems. As a young girl could she have stayed behind alone in Brazil? Had she been asked her opinion about leaving her friends and family behind to go to a far away country? Did she have any means by which to get the paperwork she needed at any point along the way? Add to the mix of official problems, all the normal average growing up teenage problems such as boyfriends, a desire for independence, and hoping and dreaming for things beyond your grasp. Maria’s story is just the first I will share. All the incidents are exactly as they happened with only names being changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

I will end this first installment with the thought that Jesus left us, because one day it may our own face on the other side of a window!

 Do to others as you would like them to do to you Luke 6:31

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Standing with the newcomers in Your World

Proclaim Liberty thro’ all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof.-Levit. XXV. 10

Liberty Bell with praise

     Every year it seems that the debate over immigration reform has gotten harsher and more shrill. Every year some politician on the right or the lft has chosen to capitalize on the emotions running rampant in order to further their own career. For years I have sat quietly on the sidelines hoping and praying that things would just get better. I have worried that anything I say would only add fuel to the fire of raging emotions. But this last year the volume has grown to the level that for once I have decided that I must do the best I can to get involved. Because of our deep invovlement with the communities of various immigrants here in our city my wife and I have had a front row seat to the realities and struggles of many of our friends.

I hope answer to anger with friendship and confusion with facts gleaned from our own personal experience. I love America and my hope and earnest prayer for my country is that she continue to be a beacon of hope. In a discussion with a family member some years back I remembered that my own Grandfather had sailed into New York harbor past the Statue of Liberty to be registered at Elliss Island. “Do you know what is written on the statue?” I asked. No they did not remember. This is part of the very foundation of what America means.

. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”   Emma Lazarus

Here we are in 2014 with mass shootings happening weekly, family foundations being challenged everywhere, the continuing spead of gambling casinos and a drumbeat of demands for the legalization of more drugs. As one radio announcer quipped last year over the debate here in Pennsylvania over deregulating the liquor industry here, “I don’t think our biggest problem is a shortage of beer and alchohol!”

In the same way people have somehow come to believe that somehow their lives will be immeasurably improved if we could just deport 10 or 11 million illegal immigrants back to their home lands. We who call ourselves Christians must never give in to that mindset. Just becasue I find a bad apple in the basket doesn’t make me want to throw the whole bushel to the hogs. There are many good apples and in the posts to come I will be sharing true stories, pictures and an up close and personal look at the lives of our newest neighbors. IMG_3926_crop

All even tempered debate is as welcome as are new ideas and challenges to action! More to come so stay tuned…

Standing with the newcomers in Your World

Proclaim Liberty thro’ all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof.-Levit. XXV. 10

Liberty Bell with praise

     Every year it seems that the debate over immigration reform has gotten harsher and more shrill. Every year some politician on the right or the lft has chosen to capitalize on the emotions running rampant in order to further their own career. For years I have sat quietly on the sidelines hoping and praying that things would just get better. I have worried that anything I say would only add fuel to the fire of raging emotions. But this last year the volume has grown to the level that for once I have decided that I must do the best I can to get involved. Because of our deep invovlement with the communities of various immigrants here in our city my wife and I have had a front row seat to the realities and struggles of many of our friends.

I hope answer to anger with friendship and confusion with facts gleaned from our own personal experience. I love America and my hope and earnest prayer for my country is that she continue to be a beacon of hope. In a discussion with a family member some years back I remembered that my own Grandfather had sailed into New York harbor past the Statue of Liberty to be registered at Elliss Island. “Do you know what is written on the statue?” I asked. No they did not remember. This is part of the very foundation of what America means.

. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”   Emma Lazarus

Here we are in 2014 with mass shootings happening weekly, family foundations being challenged everywhere, the continuing spead of gambling casinos and a drumbeat of demands for the legalization of more drugs. As one radio announcer quipped last year over the debate here in Pennsylvania over deregulating the liquor industry here, “I don’t think our biggest problem is a shortage of beer and alchohol!”

In the same way people have somehow come to believe that somehow their lives will be immeasurably improved if we could just deport 10 or 11 million illegal immigrants back to their home lands. We who call ourselves Christians must never give in to that mindset. Just becasue I find a bad apple in the basket doesn’t make me want to throw the whole bushel to the hogs. There are many good apples and in the posts to come I will be sharing true stories, pictures and an up close and personal look at the lives of our newest neighbors. IMG_3926_crop

All even tempered debate is as welcome as are new ideas and challenges to action! More to come so stay tuned…