Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life as an Alien and Sojourner

This year I have the privilege of coaching U-8 soccer. I have three Hispanic boys on my team, one of whom barely speaks any English at all. The English of his parents is even worse. I communicate with them in a mix of my terrible Spanish and English. I love these folks, and they seem to genuinely appreciate that I have taken an interest in their children.

I try to imagine what these parents must have gone through to get here, and how difficult life must be from day to day, surviving in a world of white faces. I know what it is like to be a stranger in a strange land. I lived for about three months in Brazil as the only "gringo" around. My Portuguese was fair at best. You cannot imagine how complicated it is to continually calculate dollars to reals. How much is this Coke costing me? The figures are meaningless to you. Is 5 reals for a Coke good or bad? It looks like you are giving them five dollars, but you aren't. And how much change am I owed? What are the coins worth?

You cannot ask the right questions. You don't know if you've received the right change. Everyone is looking at you because you are different; you feel isolated and out of place. You finally muster the courage to speak this strange tongue, and your inquiries are met with blank stares because you misspoke. They cannot understand you. You can't find the bathroom, and you cannot ask where it is. You think you got short-changed, but you can't be certain. If you add to this a general sense of hostility from the locals and the sinking feeling that you aren't wanted there, and you have a recipe for high stress to say the least.

This is how what the Hispanics go through here, every day, whether they are legal or not. If they are illegally here, it is much worse. The paranoia of getting caught must be overwhelming. Why did they come here? To flaunt American laws? Surely not! The vast majority came to find a better life. They came to escape the horrible drug lords and wars that are raging south of the border. Some came to escape a mass grave. Have you read the news about what's happening in Mexico? Would you stay with your family, or would you run for their lives?

This is not simply an economic issue. This isn't about an over-burdened tax system and non-contributors. This issue is about people. It is about children. It is about families. Yes, it does present a challenge to us and to our schools. But our first concern should not be the budget's bottom line. Any decision we make must be seasoned with compassion for a fellow human being, even if that decision is inevitably deportation.

Christian, you ought to have compassion for the alien and sojourner in your midst. You ought to remember that we are all aliens and sojourners here: this is not our home. You ought to remember that you are called to be a servant of the nations. Does this mean that you can't have a strong opinion on deportation of illegals? No, it does not mean that. It does mean, however, that you cannot treat law-breakers as sub-human money sponges.

Show compassion to your neighbor. Have mercy on the alien and sojourner in your midst. Treat them like beings made in the image of God. To do any less is unthinkable. Remember, the Lord your God is the Lord of All, and he loves the aliens and sojourners in your midst, and He is swift to take the side of the poor. We ought to be like Him.

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