Wednesday, April 19, 2006

American Dream

Here is something I wrote a couple of months ago. At the time, I didn't know that illegal immigration would be the hot-button issue it is now. But my experience with this family has a lot to do with why I support immigration.

I know of some former illegal immigrants. A family came from Taiwan in 1986 on tourist visas and overstayed. They thought that the husband and father in the family had been promised a job by a friend, but that person took the advance money for the business and disappeared. So the family traveled to North Carolina and found a friend formerly from Taiwan who helped them.

The two children went to public school. Their parents worked in a Chinese restaurant, and later bought out the Chinese restaurant. They saved money, paid taxes, and later sent their kids to a private college because they didn't qualify for in-state tuition even though they had lived in that state for over 9 years.

When they finally applied for green cards after being in the US for 10 years, the oldest son was too old to be included on his parents' application. That son married and obtained his green card through his wife. The daughter and the parents got their green cards in 1999--13 years after coming to America.

The son was sworn in as an US citizen in the summer of 2002. The daughter was sworn in as a citizen in January 2005. The father in summer of 2005, and the mother was sworn in on February 8, 2006.

I have asked the father if it was worth it to come to America and live in fear of being discovered and deported. I know that if he had remained in Taiwan, he would have made more money--possibly even been an executive in his uncle's business. He would not be a cook in a Chinese restaurant and work 15-hour days as he does now. That man told me that it was worth it. There is freedom of speech in America that did not exist in the Taiwan he left in the mid-80s. There are opportunities for his children. I guess it must be that American dream that so many immigrants seek.

I can tell you that his family values their US citizenship probably more than I will ever understand or value mine. This father saw his grandchildren become US citizens before he was sworn in. And now, they are all part of the American dream.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Prayer

I was the lay leader for the 11 AM Easter Service. This is the opening prayer I composed.

Our Father,

We come to you on Resurrection Sunday aware of the promise of new life.

It is Jesus, our Risen Savior and Lord, who brings this great hope of new life.

As we gather for worship this morning, let our hearts receive joy in the Risen Christ.

May we draw near to the mystery and marvel of incarnation.

Send your Spirit to stir our hearts to receive your message through our worship so we may proclaim:

He is Risen; yes, He is Risen, indeed.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Teach Me, Little Child

A first grader at my church taught me about the Bible on Tuesday night. Our church has mid-week activities on Tuesday night. One of the classes did not meet, so this first-grader came in the preschool room with us. I allowed the class to talk me into watching a DVD about baby Moses. As we watched it, the first grader said that Pharaoh didn't like the Hebrew baby boys because he wanted the Hebrew girls to marry the Egyptians. I had never heard that before.

I have studied the first chapters of Exodus in divinity school. In fact, it was the first passages of Exodus that I struggled to translate in Hebrew II. In that class, we discussed how Moses' mother probably knew exactly what she was doing as she put that basket near where Pharaoh's daughter would bathe. I marvel that this three month old Moses was not already trying to turn over and that the basket was made so sturdy. And yet I seemed to have missed an element of the story.

Throughout my childhood, I know that I have heard the story of baby Moses at least once a year in Sunday School. I also remember reading about it in a Little Golden Book Old Testament Stories. Pharaoh was afraid of a rebellion because of the number of Hebrews in Egypt. He was right to fear a rebellion because the Hebrews were slaves. I have always seen the slaughter of the baby boys as a way to keep the girls from marrying, period. Yet here is the alternative that I didn't consider--it was to encourage intermarriage with the Egyptians.

When Exodus was written, the Jews were in Babylon. Intermarriage was real to them. It makes perfect sense to read this passage in light of their experience in exile. I had just never seen it that way myself, so I guess a first grader taught me something the other night.

It is exciting to know that old, old stories that I have known for years can still teach me a thing or two. And it is exciting to have a child direct my thoughts about the Bible for a change.