When I was little, my family was involved in an organization called World Relief. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it is an organization that assists victims of persecution, war, disasters and poverty. Through World Relief, we hosted a family of Sudanese refugees for about a month. It is an experience that still shapes how I see the world more than ten years later.
When Mary, Karbino and baby Marina came into our lives, we were very much the all-american family, at least in my young eyes. My dad worked, my mom stayed home and my brother and I went to a private Lutheran elementary school. My best friend lived next door. I knew nothing about religious persecution, going without or fearing for my life as this young family did.
During the month they stayed with us, they learned English, how to drive and things we take for granted like how to use the dishwasher. But looking back, I think I may have learned more.
I’ll never forget my confusion when they would sweep up leftover chip crumbs from dinner plates and put them back into the bag instead of into the trash, or how afraid Mary was when her baby got sick. I learned that she’d had babies get sick before, but in Sudan, they’d died.
Refugees do not leave their countries in search of a better life. Refugees leave their countries for a chance at life itself.
I feel closer to God outside in my garden than in a pew, it’s another reason I long for springtime.
Maybe it’s the way seemingly dead things bring new life after they’ve been composted and returned to the soil, or maybe it’s pouring love and care into each tiny seed. Sometimes there’s a frost or what feels like a plague of slugs, and despite all your careful planning your little seedlings die.
Sometimes you have to start over, and sometimes you get to reap the harvest of what you’ve sowed, and it’s beautiful.
This past week, I’ve been thinking about my garden a lot and I’ve been thinking about God more, too.
I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been to church, and I can’t list the books of the Bible in order anymore, either…but I know that the Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself, and I know that banning refugees from our country is doing the exact opposite.
Many of my Christian friends see this too, but I’m shocked at the number that do not.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt in my mind that this block that Donald Trump has signed is NOT God’s will, nor is it what our country stands for.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
This is a piece of the sonnet, “The New Colossus,” which is engraved on a plaque at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.
Whether the cited motivation for supporting this block be for God or country, as someone who loves both, I’m not buying it.
It always seems to come back to this: Fear feeds on what it does not understand.
This is a huge reason I think a comprehensive education is so very, very important. I’m so thankful that I got to know the family from Sudan who lived with me for a short time, and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to learn so much about the hispanic people and culture through class and through friends made while pursuing a Spanish degree at ISU.
Learning about other people and cultures reminds me that different doesn’t mean wrong or threatening.
How many people rallying behind the idea of banning Muslims actually knows someone who practices Islam? How many people saying we should focus completely on ourselves instead of helping refugees from war-stricken countries have had a family of frightened refugees come into their home?
These genuinely good people looking for an opportunity to survive are not the exception, they’re the rule.
It’s easy to be afraid of something you know nothing about, but instead of deciding to stay afraid, I ask that you instead try to learn a little bit about it instead.
Take a class on Middle Eastern culture. Get involved with an organization that works with refugees or immigrants and get to know a few of them.
I ask you to learn about their beliefs, their stories, their hearts, and then ask yourself why the president of this country thinks it’s not our responsibility if people just like them die because we closed our gates on them.