Yesterday, I sent in my application to become a US citizen, so this seemed like a good time to begin a new occasional series of reflections about the whole being-an-immigrant thing.
When our children learned about immigration and immigrants in elementary school, the focus was on refugees, political or economic; or pilgrims, seeking the promised land of milk and honey. Neither really seemed to fit. In a flight of fancy, I could make a case for a figurative Exile scenario, with global corporations as the colonial powers who whisked talent away to their central cities to further their own power and profit. But we’re not exiles. We could have walked away, stayed put, stayed home; and we’ve been well received, accepted, taken care of as we’ve transitioned from one world to another; and we have always been free to go back.
But when I was recently on vacation in my country of origin, and my father asked me, “Do you feel like this is home, or are you a visitor?” I had to respond that although I could find my way around and blend in where I wanted to, I no longer had a home there.
Instead, my home is here, west of Cleveland, Ohio, where my children have grown up and go to school, where we have friends and neighbours upon whom we can call and who call on us when we need a friend or a neighbour. My community of faith is here, those people whose faith and faithfulness keep me grounded and rooted in love.
Recently, I was ordained a deacon in Christ’s one, holy, apostolic church – which sounds big, and is bigger than our imaginations – but the specific and immediate context of that ordination, of the call to service, gospel proclamation, prayer and love, was the Episcopal Church in the USA, and even more particularly its expression in the Diocese of Ohio. I am bound to the people here by a promise of service and love, and by their prayers.
And I am grateful, so grateful, to have ended up among them.
But how can I serve them if I will not make my home with them?
The prophet sent the word of God to the people:
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. … Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you …, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29: 5, 7)