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Jesus and the Immigrant
http://agapepartners.org/articles/47/1/Jesus-and-the-Immigrant/Page1.html
Cathy Douglas

Cathy Douglass is Director of Naya Jeevan Project, Campus Crusade’s ministry to South Asians in North America.  She has been working among Indians since 1993, in Kenya, California, and Florida.

 
By Cathy Douglas
Published on 01/12/2009
 
A story circulating on the Internet reached my inbox recently.  Written by an anonymous Indian software engineer, it describes the high hopes and dreams he had in immigrating to the United States.  He lands a good job, hurriedly returns to India to marry, jets back to the U.S. with his bride and starts a family.  He plans to go back home so his parents can see their grandchildren, but one thing or another prevents that.  Finally word reaches him that his parents have passed on and only the neighbors were there to take care of them.

A story circulating on the Internet reached my inbox recently.  Written by an anonymous Indian software engineer, it describes the high hopes and dreams he had in immigrating to the United States.  He lands a good job, hurriedly returns to India to marry, jets back to the U.S. with his bride and starts a family.  He plans to go back home so his parents can see their grandchildren, but one thing or another prevents that.  Finally word reaches him that his parents have passed on and only the neighbors were there to take care of them. 

The young family eventually makes it back to India thinking to settle, but the American-born children don’t like it.  What to do?  The wife won’t return to the U.S. and the children won’t stay in India.  The husband reluctantly goes back to the U.S. with the kids, promising his wife he’ll come back to be with her in couple years.  The kids grow older and settle happily in America, so at last the husband returns to India to join his wife – but soon his faithful wife passes on.  His life’s savings, not amounting to nearly what he dreamed of in his youth, allow for only a two-bedroom flat – one bedroom more than what his father had.

A lifetime of work, family uprooted, relationships weakened by distance and cultural differences, missing the important life-passages of family – for what?  One extra bedroom?  The author of the little story (whether fiction or truth I don’t know), asks at the end of his life, “Was all this worth it?  I am still searching for an answer……….!!!”

Answers
Without a doubt, I would say, “Search no more.”  There is someone who has answers for you.  His name is Jesus.  In his life there are life principles to guide the immigrant, whether the lost and lonely soul adrift, or the successful and satisfied career-driven family man or woman.  Better even than wise principles, Jesus offers purpose for living and power to overcome adversity and sin, to put knowledge and beliefs into practice, and to gain assurance of a meaningful relationship with God.  All these translate into a true and lasting peace that will not leave one feeling empty at the end of life.

All religions respect Jesus.  They may accord him different status as good teacher, holy man, prophet, god (a deity) or even God (the only one).  It is worth taking a good look at the life of one so widely revered.  What does Jesus have to say to the twenty-first century immigrant?

Greatest Immigrant
First, we can say that Jesus himself was the greatest immigrant.  According to his own words, recorded by his disciples, Jesus left heaven to be born on earth.1 He left the perfection and glory of heaven, with unnumbered angels at his command, to take birth in a poor but devout Jewish family, in a land occupied by conquering Romans.  Now there’s a cultural, political, and economic gap that has no comparison in our day and age!  But notice that Jesus went from glory to poverty, the opposite of most immigrants’ dreams in coming to America.  Rather than looking for greater opportunities and wealth, Jesus “immigrated” to earth to serve mankind.  He had a purpose beyond himself.

Handling Rejection
Not only did Jesus experience economic hardship, the common lot of almost every new immigrant, he also experienced rejection from the people of the land he came to.  A sinless being in a sinful world is a square peg in a round hole.  No matter how good he was to others and how clearly he proclaimed his message, Jesus was misunderstood and abused.  He was followed by fickle crowds who wanted to use him for their own worldly purposes, and he was betrayed by one of his own disciples to whom he had shown love.  Religious and political leaders alike were threatened by his very innocence. 

Surely Jesus knows the stresses felt by immigrants, who may not fit in enough with the adopted culture, but who fear to depart too much from the home culture.  Family back home cry “Don’t forget us,” but the children cry “That’s a foreign country!”  The immigrant is caught in the middle and oftentimes can only sacrifice himself or herself trying to please both sides.  Jesus sacrificed himself to reconcile mankind with God.

Power of Perfection
So Jesus can empathize with our struggles – but mere empathy can only comfort.  We need more than comfort to help us live, we need power.

Take the power of a sinless life.  Jesus once challenged his enemies, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”2 When a totally sinless man teaches principles that he says are from God, we should stand up and take notice.  Jesus not only preached, he practiced what he preached.  Jesus’ teachings have the power of perfection. 

Jesus taught on subjects that every immigrant struggles with daily: the lure of materialism, family respect, the sanctity of marriage, moral purity, honesty and integrity in the workplace, racism, love, forgiveness, faith, understanding, anger and patience…. The list goes on.

Power of New Life
Jesus reaches out not only from heaven to earth, but across the centuries, to us today.  These teachings and the power of his life hold meaning for us in a most remarkable way.  Jesus died at the hands of his enemies 2,000 years ago, but he didn’t stay dead.  Three days after his death and burial, he got up alive again in the same body!  This is called his resurrection – he came back to life and appeared to his disciples in bodily form.  Now that’s what I call power.  Unique in human history, Jesus’ resurrection was a victory of love over hate, of light over darkness, of truth over illusion.  The resurrection means Jesus is alive today and forevermore and his power and peace are available to us.3

The immigrant seeks a new life by moving to a new country.  Most manage to achieve personal gain through education or economic opportunity.  Along with that “new life” come great stresses, temptations, and challenges that make the immigrant question, “Was all this worth it?”  Some immigrants, after reaching their financial goals, return to the home country seeking the comfort of the old familiar surroundings.  Do they find what they are looking for?  Or have things changed while they were gone, so that they wonder whether they really belong anywhere?

Jesus offers new life of a spiritual nature that is far greater than anything any country, degree, career, philosophy, or human relationship can offer.  Whether you move, stay, or move back, consider Jesus and the new life of power, purpose, and peace he offers.

A strong spirituality and close relationship with God can help you through the challenges of life in a new country.  To read more about knowing God, and cultural adjustment, visit www.nayajeevan.org or email admin@nayajeevan.org.  To request a free New Testament, call 877-677-2614.

Naya Jeevan means New Life in Hindi.

1 John 17:1-11; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:5-8, Holy Bible

2 John 8:46

3  John 14:27