By Michael Guzman
Our families were pioneers. The earliest settlers to this area saw a fertile valley and dreamed of cities and industry where there were none. Later immigrants were drawn by the promise of work and a better life in the thriving agricultural industry. More recent newcomers are attracted to our city’s small town charm and quaint community. Our families all have an immigrant story. Some of us are multiple generations removed from the original immigrant, while many of us are only one or two generations removed. But, we are all immigrants.
Do you know your family’s immigrant story? I’ve been digging into mine lately. My grandmother crossed the US- Mexico border in the 50’s to work in the lush fields of Central California. She settled in Exeter, had my father in Tulare, and put down roots. Only two generations ago, my father’s side of the family arrived in the United States. The dreams my grandmother had of work and a better future are the reality I have inherited because of her sacrifices.
As I have been talking with others about their own immigrant stories, I have been surprised to find how many around me are also not that many generations removed from the original settler in their family.
The larger story of the Bible is about an immigrant people group. The Israelites migrated to Egypt during Jacob’s later years because of a famine. Through the sovereignty of God, Israel’s son, Joseph had been placed as second in command in Egypt. This position of power and influence allowed the family of Israelites to move into a new land with the hope of a better future.
Over time, the favor that the growing family once held in Egypt waned. A new leader in Egypt arose who didn’t know Joseph’s family. The family’s new land of provision became the land of their slavery. After hundreds of years of this kind of existence, God raised up a deliverer in Moses. Moses led the whole family (now a nation of people) out of Egypt into the promised land. The slaves once again found themselves as immigrants to a new land.
As they wandered in the desert for 40 years before they inhabited the new land God was giving them, He reminded them of how they should posture themselves. Leviticus records God’s voice.
“Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”
God instructs His people to remember where they came from— to remember their immigrant story. Their remembering should then inform their response to new foreigners who live among them. Because they were once foreigners, they should love the immigrants around them as they loved themselves. Their position, power, and influence should be used to liberate and empower the foreigners among them.
Do you know your immigrant story? How many generations ago did your family arrive in California or in the United States? I wonder what your ancestors sacrificed in order to allow you to experience the inheritance you now enjoy? Are you using the power, position, and influence you have received in order to liberate and empower others who aren’t as far along on the journey as you?
Remember, we are all immigrants here. Don’t take advantage of foreigners living among us in our land. Treat them like family, and love them as you love yourself.
Michael Guzman is pastor of the Church of God of Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-592-2631.
Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.