Immigrant: noun (im·mi·grant \ˈi-mə-grənt)
refugee: noun (ref·u·gee \ˌre-fyu̇-ˈjē)
I am an immigrant. I have been an immigrant for the past 8 years. I know that makes some of you nervous. You think of me as a missionary or as an expat, but I’m an immigrant in the eyes of the rest of the world.
I first occupied the definition of immigrant status when I moved to Costa Rica. I was a newcomer, a new arrival, a biological being in a new place surrounded by a new habitat, an outsider. I later immigrated to Peru, where I became a legal, card carrying resident for 5 years. But I never gained status as a citizen or as a native of Peru…no, I would always be thought of as an immigrant, an outsider, different. Now, I have immigrated again. I now live in Spain as a permanent resident. We’ve been here for two years so far. I came here speaking the language. I look like everyone else. I’m not as easily distinguished by my appearance. But, I will forever be an immigrant. It is a label that never goes away for me.
It is tough to be an immigrant. Yes, it is something that I chose to do. I’m here because I want to be here to do the work that I am called to do. But that doesn’t make being an immigrant any easier. Immigrants, aliens in a foreign land. Outside of our home culture, away from our native language, separated from family and friends and all of our emotional support systems. Nothing seemed familiar, everything seemed strange and different when we moved here. Away from home. Away from community. Away from any sense of belonging. Lost.
It’s hard living in a new world and trying to adapt and fit in and find people who will stand beside you.
All of this brings on heightened stress, transition shock, culture shock, financial struggles, family stressors, marriage and relational stress, frequent misunderstandings and conflicts. Loneliness. Exhaustion. Depression. Yes, we’ve been through all of that. And we still fight some of it, even after being immigrants for many years.
I want to show you some other immigrants. (see below)
These are the people that we work with, that we love, that we share life with here. We are all immigrants. Some of my friends, by definition, are also refugees. They fled persecution or danger in their home country. Some ran from physically abusive situations. Some of them are not legal, due to their fears of eventually being found and sent back to the situation that sent them here in the first place. These are people who left behind family, who left their culture and their language, who left all of their belongings.
The current issue of mass migration in Europe is astounding. The refugee population is clamoring for hope, leaving behind all that they know. Immigration touches every age group and every socio-economic status. It isn’t choosy… it doesn’t elect whom to touch… it touches us all. When hundreds of thousands of souls decide that life is worth risking it all and striking out on epic voyages that have costs thousands and thousands of lives already, we should sit up and take notice. As followers of Christ – disciples of Him – we should fall back on what we know to be Truth:
Matthew 2:14 - And he (Joseph) rose and took the child (Jesus) and his mother (Mary) by night and departed to Egypt. Jesus was an immigrant. Jesus was a refugee fleeing a murderous king and tyranic government.
Exodus 22:21 - “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. The Israelites were a nation of immigrants and refugees, fleeing from Egypt and the oppression of an unjust government.
Leviticus 25:35 - “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Deuteronomy 10:18 - He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Original law of the old testament was highly in favor of hospitality, especially to strangers and those traveling through your land in search of a new life.
Hebrews 13:2 - Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. The new church is warned to remember who they are, remember hospitality, and remember Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25:40 ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
I leave you with two more:
Philippians 3:20 - But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
Mark 12:30-31 - And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
We minister to the least, the lost, and the left out. We love them, because we are one of them. We are immigrants. That’s who we are.
This is a sampling of our immigrant friends. Many of our friends are NOT pictured here. Over 80% of our work is with immigrants and people living outside of their home culture.
In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!