Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Emigration Issue

President Obama will speak on Emigration today, an issue I have stayed away from. I don’t know what he thinks about it; not exactly sure what I think...

I hear all kinds of political rhetoric against illegal immigrants … against free borders … against non Caucasians. Some want to fence us in. Keep us huddled behind a high protective barrier. I remember when we were but 6% of the world’s population enjoying the most cars and highways, the cheapest gas, the most telephones and gadgets--biggest and sweetest slice of the Apple Pie. But, that is changing … slowly. It does make one wonder …

There has never been a time in my life when I did not live among emigrants--European, German and Dutch. As a child we had that German family that came to church; they made beer in their basement although we were a teetotaler church--old custom with them. When I visit with those (old) children today at church camp, we are all Americans, but yes, they were emigrants.

While at Anderson College, I attended classes with German emigrants like the future Dr. Ewald Wolfram, and children of Greek emigrants from our Greek-speaking churches. Later, in Oregon, Danny just as well have been an emigrant; he was a Lapwai Indian (native American).

My first year in Portland, my pastor was Dr. Albert Kempin, never thought of that learned man as an emigrant, but he spoke German and emigrated to Philadelphia from Lithuania. As a young pastor in West Texas, one of my older associates in the early and mid-fifties was a man who came out of Hungary with the clothes he wore, a rolled-up Comforter on his back, and perhaps $9.00 (if memory does not fail me); John Kolar was a neighbor pastor and good friend.

While pastor Fort Worth’s Ridglea Church and attending the Baptist Seminary Oscar preached for me; he was a doctoral student from Canada. Sitting next to me in Dr. Churchill’s Journalism class at Southwestern was Molly Wong, who fled mainland China for Hong Kong, after learning to pray with her eyes open and escaping the Communists.

During that same time, Luz, pronounced Loose, became my friend--one of many Hispanic friends. To this day, Luz likes hot peppers like I like ice cream, but that friendship is almost fifty years old now.

For that past fifteen years, one of my most cherished friends has been just plain Bill … Bill K … the rest of it is a mouth full: Konstantopoulos (better known autobiographically as Vasilis). This bright boy came to America speaking Greek (we jestingly accuse him of still speaking Greek--broken English). He learned the language, graduated from college, and has now served the global church with distinction--an emigrant!

And I’m still encountering them! Recently at a recent church conference, I met Nabil (pronounced Nabeel). He and his wife Myrna came from Beirut, Lebanon. They live near Cincinnati, study at Anderson Univ. School of Theology, and partner with Ohio Ministries of the Church of God. Their linquistic skills and their Middle East heritage makes them valuable in working among Muslims. They are the tip of a rather large iceberg that includes others like Nassar and Marilyn Farag--Egyptians.

Dr. Farag translated a book he sent me for review titled THE VIRGIN MARY IN THE LIGHT OF THE WORD OF GOD by Dr. Labib Mikhail. They remind me that in my more than eighty years, I have never lived outside of the influence and benefit of--you guessed it--emigrants.

They are numerous German nationals and Europeans who have always been part of my life. They are Chinese--Suwan owns and operates the Chinese Buffet where we like to eat locally. They are the two Chinese young men I met a few years back who swam several miles out of China, risking their very lives to escape to my country. They are Indonesians, men I met one day while out walking, who constitute much of our downtown First Baptist Church. They are Michelle and her husband, a Vietnamese couple; she is a banker; he is a police dispatcher

Now my German-Norwegian Minnesota grandsons graduate from a Twin City High School where they bused in black African emigrant children--Sudanese et al. Although they were good students, their grades are downscaled because the school is accused of dumbing down to meet the needs of emigrant children and that devalues my graduating grandsons good grades for college.

Whatever one may think of such situations, I find it impossible to talk about “them” without discussing “us”. We have some heart issues with which we must deal:
What is our attitude toward “foreigners”?
Do we fear them? Do we see them as threats to our jobs?
Do we react with prejudice and racism?
Or, do you see “them” as an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus with?
Using a couple of examples from the Bible, did you know God expressed concern for foreigners and aliens? Moses instructed ancient Israel to love the aliens in their midst (Deuteronomy 10:19) and to treat them as if they were citizens (Leviticus 19:34).

I was stunned at the bluntness of the instructions when recently re-reading the book of Deuteronomy. The purpose of such treatment was that ”they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God (Deut. 31:12).

The words of Jesus, however, dull my ability to hear the political correctness that prevails around me. Jesus reminds me, “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me’” (Matthew 25:45)

From Warner’s World, I am walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com

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