Monday, August 29, 2011

The Gift of Immigration

I have been pondering the gift of sacrifice that a family can either bestow on the next generation or receive from past generations. I feel incredibly gratitude for my family heritage of faith in the Lord, and I know many trials were encountered along the way, with challenges and doubts. I realize many families are not as fortunate, and there have been little – or no– examples of Godly faith in daily living. Each upcoming Christian has an opportunity to be the heritage they are seeking!
My maternal family immigrated to the United States just one generation ago, when my mother was a fifth-grader, and the family was sponsored by an American company, and they were personally sponsored by friends who'd already made the long journey across the world, settling in Los Angeles. Realizing the love and care my grandparents held for their children and for future generations has been humbling and a blessing, a legacy worth noting.
Many years ago, in early 1942, during the Second World War, my grandmother (who was raised in Jakarta, Indonesia) and her family were enroute to the Netherlands for a season of furlough. Her father was the Police Chief Commissioner of Jakarta and the family had been awarded a routine holiday. They planned to stay for six months, and were forced to remain for six years, through the rigors of war and life away from the land –  and family – they loved. She stayed in the Netherlands through the War, was married by-proxy to my grandfather, who'd already traveled back to Indonesia with the promise of a wonderful career, and journeyed there alone via a boat, into a new life. They had four children together, and eventually, Indonesia went through a war of its own, and my family again moved from that land they loved, to the Netherlands, and finally immigrated and remained in America.
In that season of life, my grandmother undoubtedly faced many trials while raising small children and seeking to support her husband's career and ambitions. I imagine a seasoned, yet calm woman standing at the edge of grace, peering past circumstance of present or any viewable obstacle, to step forward and boldly accept the gifts of: freedom, time, opportunity, faith. What was sacrificed? Extended family, familiar comforts were no longer possible – they could not return to Indonesia, their desire and love. The Netherlands was a familiar place, yet their dreams explored beyond those borders, to distant shores and other promises, where they would be gathered by dear friends, whose embrace they would know for a lifetime. How appropriate, then for their arms to extend to others in time of need, to welcome similar-minded friends amidst a fresh landscape. Los Angeles did not beckon them any more than the general appeal of America – the romantic idealism of a city with opportunity – as simply stated as this. Not even anything save the connections of other friends who’d pioneered the move, also banished from a beloved adopted country, to step into another possibility-loved location.
For any selfish endeavor their relocating may have nurtured, the immense possibilities for their children – and future generations – certainly abounded. If only for those who would benefit, for grandchildren and beyond. The magnitude of the event would be considered immediately. The necessary gratitude might not be expressed until a generation-removed, for those fully benefiting would stand beside, clutch a hand, and with warm tears, feel amazement and inexpressible respect.
Unable to truly fathom such a transfer of one’s affections from one country to another unvisited landscape, I can only relay from experience these last five years of ministry have entailed: moving far from extended family, with three tiny babies, to set forth and support my husband’s career of ministry and love. Much prepared me for such adventure, particularly my own outreach through college, to other countries and within my own time of singleness, as well as other experiences, such as my season of independent outreach while working for Wycliffe in a new-yet-familiar area of the Netherlands, England, and France. While in the Netherlands, I felt welcomed, the language a soothing and seasoned friend. The culture felt vibrant and I wondered at my family’s fortunate chance in America, wondering what their prospects in the Netherlands would have developed or changed. Yet those mysteries will not hold importance, as the land is a heritage, a bloodline, but not a requirement. A place breeding hope, for which I am also thankful to inherit.
I wonder at the lethargy even the most spirited immigrants might sometime experience, usually several generations removed from the initial event. That growing sense of entitlement or fortune; a removed sense of real genuinity of faith – to believe – and sincerely travel in that element. When one has not experienced the ultimate depravity of circumstance or influence, the marvelous grace-filled testimony of parents or grandparents may lose their sense of place, urgency, or extremity.
Even my dear older brother Tim, following his miraculous aortic repair surgery and recovery eight years ago, would note that time and length from the miracle can lessen the efficacy of the miracle. One can truly recall the anxiety, fear, complete dependence upon God’s strength – for daily measure. Yet most of us, following a near-auto accident or medical disaster – can just as easily trample over those we love, in a self-absorbed manner, overcome by unimportant details.
I recently experienced a surreal moment of my car spinning in rain-turned-sudden-slush and nearing a steep drop-off while driving in a mid-May journey through the Colorado Rockies. Just over the Eisenhower Tunnel, on an impossibly steep down slope, the pouring rain turned to snow and ice within the time frame of just a few minutes. What truly amazed me in that moment while driving alone near dusk: was blessing of being alone, blessing of not hitting another vehicle, blessing of my car spinning in circles and – despite the lack of a guardrail – not falling off the cliff.
I was able to pray – and think – in an instant, as though time slowed and my mind focused. My car finally stopped and I facing forward, ahead, inches from a signpost, and I was able to settle my anxiety and drive back on to the Interstate and continue my journey. When I arrived at my dear friend Erin’s house in Denver three hours later, she welcomed me kindly and ushered me to a warm shower and a delicious dinner. I felt the terror of near-death, and then the affection of friendship that provided compassion and encouragement. God’s grace, and a friend’s love, brought great comfort. The next day, Erin drove me to the airport and I flew on a plane to Virginia, where I was able to spend a week celebrating my brother Daryl in his monumental milestone of his PhD. 
Ironically, several weeks later – and even now, three months after this event – I still struggled to remember that gift of life that night. Each time I drive past that steep hill on Interstate 70, I am thankful for the Lord’s goodness, and I strive to not forget: to set a milestone at that marker, of a moment when He gave me another opportunity to serve Him.
By recalling these grace-laden events, recognizing the loving direction of God’s able hands, these forthcoming generations may be set apart, their thankful inheritors may know their lives were purposeful, their intentions were wholesome, and spirit fully devoted to serving the Lord. The ultimate testimony of their expression would offer open hands and eager hearts, forging their dreams by God’s design and in unassuming humility, directing Glory to the Lord.

1 comment:

  1. I am noting that you wrote this beautiful piece at 11:13pm, my night owl friend! I am grateful because your writing is always inspiring and I am reminded of my own families heritage and to not let it go forgotten. Rembering is a spiritual practice we often ignore in the craziness of life?? Love you!

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