Gifts
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Over The River and Through the Wood

Foreigners in Your Land

Let Us Be Thankfull“Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:33-34, NLT

There is a lot of concern over the immigration crisis in America these days. However you may feel about illegal immigration, I think we can all agree it’s a human tragedy. Migration is never easy – it entails leaving your home, country, language, culture and family behind to face an uncertain future.

In Sunday School we’re learning about the Israelites and their trek through the desert. As former slaves they had few skills to help them survive, much less to form a new nation. God provided their daily bread and gave them a new set of commandments to set them apart as a holy people following the One Lord. They were not well received by the other people groups already inhabiting that Wilderness – the Amalekites and Canaanites. Without God’s mighty outstretched arm of protection, it’s safe to say they would never have made it to the Promised Land.

As Thanksgiving approaches, consider another set of immigrants. These people were fleeing religious persecution. Called “Separatists,” they wished to start new, separate, ‘pure’ church congregations that more closely resembled those of the early Christians. In England in the 1600s, it was illegal to be part of any church other than the Church of England. They were harassed, fined and sent to jail. They sailed across an ocean landing north of their intended destination in the Virginia Colony. Again, without God’s Providence, these religious pilgrims would never have made it to the New World, nor lasted past the first, difficult years of hardship. (for more, see https://plimoth.org/for-students/homework-help/who-were-the-pilgrims)

And as my family prepares to gather around the table for Thanksgiving, I know basmati rice will be on the menu because many family members immigrated to the U.S. from Iran. Some came on education visas, some came as refugees, most fled for their lives with little preparation and even fewer belongings. Their stories of escape are filled with Divine intervention and the hand of Providence. They became doctors, nurses, professors, teachers, chemists, foreign service officers, soldiers, law enforcement professionals and CEOs of tech companies – even ran for Congress. All are proud Americans. All are thankful to be in a country that allows them to freely speak, gather and worship. It wasn’t easy. When they arrived, they didn’t speak the language. They didn’t know how the system worked. They had little money. Despite their college degrees, they babysat, flipped burgers and changed bedpans until they could get established in America.

Their story is not unique. It’s the story of many of today’s immigrants. It’s the story of your parents or grandparents. Human migration is the story of humanity. Even our Native Americans came across a land bridge from Asia some unknown millennia ago. With every war, climatic disaster or economic upheaval our news programs are filled with images of people packing up as much as they can carry and heading off into an unknown land with an unknown future.

As part of God’s chosen family, we too are foreigners in a foreign land. We live as people of spirit in a world of fleshly desires and temptations. “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Like the Israelites and the Pilgrims, we live by the blessing of God’s love and provision and guidance. Our citizenship is in Heaven. Here on earth, we are Jesus’ ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). As ambassadors, we can make love and hospitality our calling card. We have been blessed in order to bless others – with our talents and gifts, our charity, our loving attitudes, and the good works prepared for us to do from the beginning. What a wonderful thing to be thankful for!

PRAYER: Lord, help me to see past all that seeks to divide us and see each person I encounter with Your eyes, as a brother or sister. Keep me mindful that I am just a foreigner here. Help me to be Your ambassador, bringing a taste of my Heavenly home down to earth.

Blessings,

Jen

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