e’s from the Voskamps, from the Netherlands, from the neighborhood of VanderHoefs and Van Veens and Van Den Boogards and VandeKemps, and he has older brothers and sisters who only learned to speak English when they slid into a desk at school.
Me, I’m from the Murphys and the Kehoes and the Kennedys, the starving Irish Catholics who about died in the potato famine and found themselves in “largest-single population movement of the 19th century.”
My great-great grandpa William and his slip of a wife, Mary, were one of almost a quarter of the entire nation of Ireland that washed up as desperate refugees on the shores of North America in what was known as “coffin ships.” Newspaper advertisements for jobs regularly read in bold: “No Irish Need Apply.”
And our youngest daughter, she’s from China where more than nearly one million ethnic minorities are currently being tortured in concentration camps across the Chinese province of Xinjiang as this sentence is read, and she’s from crass cheap shots about being made in China and people constantly expressing surprise over how well she speaks English, and the very first who reviewed the medical file of her congenital heart defect looked me in the eye and said,
“Who let a child like this into this country?”
I looked that doctor right back in the eye:
“Love let her in.”
We all came from somewhere else and we are all going to be like no one else and we all get to belong above all else.
We are all the same in that every single one of us is different — and that doesn’t effect our value any differently.
Where you’re from should never determine how anyone’s going to treat you.
(And just because we are all from somewhere else doesn’t mean that we don’t get to have a voice now about how to make here better.)
Where we come from makes where we are now richer.
Where we come from isn’t one place on a map; where we come from is constellation of dreams and places and stars.
Where we come from is more than countries — we come from stories.
We come from narratives of hope and biographies of courage and we are more than the lands we come from and the languages we speak: we all come from fields of dreams.
No matter what words anyone uses, hear the hope between the lines and believe the best in people because a house divided against itself crushes the whole community.
As a family, we spent months filling out a ream of paperwork to sponsor first a Middle Eastern family of 6 from the war-torn apocalypse that is Allepo, Syria, and then, an African family of 5 from the tangled bloodshed that has been the Congo.
And when our baby girl turned 4 we invited only family to the party — and our Chinese-born daughter blew out her candles between our Syrian girls and our Congolese boys, because nationality doesn’t determine family: all of humanity is family.
We are from farmers and we are from dirt and we are from mechanics and grease up to your elbows and we are from women who cut flowers from the garden to bring to Sunday morning services at Chapel.
We are from boterkoek with your afternoon coffee and oliebollen rolled in icing sugar for New Years and fried rice for breakfast and steamed dumplings from the Chinese grocery store as a weekend treat.
We’re from finding housing for newcomer refugees, and enrolling minority, non-English speaking children in a country-town school, and morning ESL classes with newcomers from Namibia and Turkey and Iraq and Burundi, we’re from Swahili music with heaping plates of mandazi and Syrian tea with second helpings of baklava and we are from Dutch Reformed and Irish Catholics and the storied history of ancient China.
And last week, my Irish-descent Mama, she volunteered at Vacation Bible School hosted by Dutch immigrants, and every day she picked up her Chinese-born granddaughter and our Syrian-born Muslim refugee newcomers, and when they all memorized the Beatitudes together?
And I witnessed those Muslim girls who once lived under searing bombs dropping on their roofs of their whole town now stand safe before me and recite the words of Jesus: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy”?
The dirt under me about felt like holy glory and there is a mercy that meets us from somewhere else.
Evil may come from somewhere else, bombs falling from the skies over their heads — but love of mercy had let them in. Hasn’t His mercy invited us all in?
When I reached out and hugged those girls like the family that they are, it felt like, wherever we’ve come from, we can even now come a bit more into the Kingdom of God.
Outreach can change the world like outrage never will.
They, and he, and she, and we — we could all come from a place of grace and head Home with every nation, tribe, and tongue with love.
“Did you know that the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes now exceeds 70 million —including nearly 26 million refugees?
Choose welcome at a time where there are more refugees than ever before and Canada has the opportunity to respond – and a fund willing to cover most of the expenses! Learn how to sponsor a refugee family today!
Canadians have the opportunity to resettle refugees from crisis into community through the Blended Visa Office Referral (BVOR) Program! This program is designed to match private sponsors in Canada to vulnerable refugees who have been selected and screened by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Canadian government – there are currently 1000 refugees on the list awaiting sponsors.
There is a unique opportunity currently available through the BVOR Fund. This fund is being managed by MCC’s partner, The Refugee Hub and will be open between May 2 – Aug 31 (or until it runs out)! With BVOR sponsorships, the government provides 6 months of financial support, this fund would match the remaining 6 months, and sponsors would be responsible to cover the start up costs (much of which can be donated in kind – see here).