I recently had the opportunity to share a dinner table with a lively bunch of fellow sojourners. The faces, young and old, around the table represented Asia, Europe, North, Central and South America. We were sharing life stories, and as I sat there, I couldn’t help but feel like I was experiencing a glimpse of heaven. No one was thought less of because of history, socioeconomic status, profession, or immigration status. We were simply sharing life together. This is what I imagine heaven to be like and I can’t wait!We are all sojourners in this life together, tarrying the return of Christ. The plain truth is that we are to love our neighbors here on Earth, now. To lovethem not just when it is convenient, easy or even the “right” thing to do, but to love them as we love ourselves. I am challenged to live out this kind of love throughout my own journey because my human nature is inclined to judgment and selfishness. As I grow more aware of immigration issues, my heart aches for those immigrants who are mistreated, judged, and isolated.
I just returned to the United States after living in Nicaragua for almost 12 years. I can now relate to the fear, frustration, miscommunication and joys of many fellow sojourners. Today, even though I speak the same language and by all appearances should “fit in,” I struggle to understand what is happening around me at times. Cultural norms have changed a lot since I’ve been away, and I’m entering a whole new world that is hard to maneuver and even harder to understand.
While the details of my experiences and those of today’s immigrants are not the same, I can relate to their commons frustrations. I have struggled with not being able to effectively communicate with government officials, doctors and my co-workers because of a language barrier. I have experienced judgment from others as I continuously did the wrong thing or didn’t understand over and over again. Yet, in those challenging times there always seemed to be a “neighbor” who patiently helped or befriended me. Because of this experience, I want to choose empathy. I desire further understanding of the journey our neighbors are on today, as they enter this land.
My experiences are informing the way I interact with all those I encounter. I no longer see immigration as just a policy issue. These beautiful people are my friends and my neighbors. I know their names, their stories and play with their children. Now, I have the opportunity to use my voice to speak up for thosewhose voices are misunderstood or not heard.
Today, I walk in solidarity with the many who flee brokenness for hope of a different future. My prayer is that these immigrants would find open arms of love, eager to help them on their journey, just as I have found open arms to help me on my journey. I believe that all it takes is one conversation, smile, or opportunity at a time to allow this kind of love to be transformational.
Samuel Rodriguez stated beautifully, “For at the end of the day, immigration reform does not stem from the agenda of the donkey or the elephant; rather, welcoming the stranger is a conviction that flows from the agenda of the Lamb.
My hope is that El Camino will broaden the conversation about immigration in a way that invites others to love the immigrant as Christ does. My experience of the limitless love of God fills me up to overflowing and allows me to love all others as I am loved. It is through this transformational love that we may learn to see our fellow Sojourners as people of worth, with stories, talents and treasures to share with all those willing to listen.
Carey Franklin is learning to live as a beloved child of God. Education is her passion, whether working with children, parents or seeing the world around me as a classroom filled with learning opportunities. Her heart bursts with love for her Latino brothers and sisters as I recently returned from 12 years of living alongside them in Nicaragua serving in the realm of education. A BIG piece of her heart still resides there. Now, she is learning to use my energy, voice and passions in Greenville, South Carolina.