Missions and Immigrations
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Missions and Immigrations
The God who sees: Immigrants the Bible and the journey to belong by Karen Gonzalez focuses on an immigrant’s journey of seeking safety and belonging in foreign lands. The author tries to show the readers that there is a significant parallelism between the stories of immigrants today and those of biblical heroes such as Ruth, Hagar, Abraham, and Joseph. The book focuses on loss, alienation, the quest to belong, and confusion in faith or religion. Immigrants face many challenges such as the need to assimilate, cultural and language barriers, loneliness, and discrimination. However, in the midst of all the challenges facing the author’s immigration to the United States, she found Christ during a college ministry program, and sought to follow him. Before Karen Gonzalez became an author, she was a victim of the Guatemalan civil war which forced her family to immigrate to the U.S. in search of safety and economic stability. The book is a short and reflective Christian book, published by Herald press in 2019. Gonzalez uses a descriptive or explanatory style of writing to demonstrate the similarities between the stories of immigrants and those of God.
In the first chapter, Gonzalez focuses on the story of Ruth, a Moabite woman who gave up her life to follow Naomi, her mother-in-law, back to Bethlehem. The famous words often uttered in weddings, “Your people shall be my people, and you God shall be my God” originated from Ruth as she pledged to stay with Naomi and follow her religion (Gonzalez, 2019). Ruth’s pledge to follow Naomi was a huge leap of faith. She moved to Bethlehem with Naomi in search of food, despite the knowledge that Israelites despised Moabites. After the move, Ruth would harvest barley for sustenance from Boaz’s farm, as the Bible dictates that farm owners should leave a portion of their reaping in the farm to provide for the needy (Gonzalez, 2019). Although Ruth did not know that Boaz was Naomi’s relative, she treated him with respect and worked harder than others on his land. Ruth eventually gained favor in his eyes, and became his wife. The story of Ruth is crucial to Christianity as her union with Boaz, an Israelite, and birthed Obed, who became the grandfather to King David.
Ruth’s story talks of the uncertainties of moving to a new land with new religions and customs. As compared to most immigrant stories in the U.S. today, hers was triumphant as Boaz practiced Philoxenia, which is respect and love for foreigners and strangers (Gonzalez, 2019). Boaz’s acceptance of Ruth, despite her being a Moabite, opened Bethlehem to immense blessings, as it birthed King David and Jesus. In the U.S., Canada, China, and many developed country’s there are many regulations against immigration. For instance, the U.S. only allowed family-based or temporary work related entry into the country. Considering Ruth was uneducated and thus, not highly skilled and had a distant relationship with Naomi, who was poor, the U.S. government would not have allowed her into the country. Therefore, Gonzalez argues that the strict regulations placed against immigrants may cause countries to block their blessings.
While reading the book’s title, I was curious as to how the author would connect Biblical stories no immigration. However, just by reading the first chapter, I understood the similarities between most people suffering from war, poverty, and life uncertainties to Ruth’s story. Gonzalez tries to bring out the idea that God is faithful and uplifts the most humble people. She also stresses that countries should show the same welcoming nature as Boaz did to receive God’s blessings.
Gonzalez also talks about baptism, and relates it to the Guatemalan culture. As a child, the author had happy memories of Catholic baptism ceremonies as part of her home’s culture. Baptism was also a symbol that signified the beginning of her relationship with God (Gonzalez, 2019). After moving to the United States, Gonzalez learned of other forms of baptism in Protestant churches that were different from Catholic beliefs. While reflecting on Gonzalez’s story and journey in Christianity and immigration, I find that baptism is an opening to new possibilities and a chance of eternal happiness. Although the author was too young to recognize the meaning of baptism at six months, her life events and move to the U.S. in search of safety and belonging must have made her understand the essence of baptism as a quest for renewal.
The book’s third chapter focuses on the story of Abraham, the father of faith. After God’s call, Abraham moved to Egypt. However, just like many illegal immigrants to the U.S., he did not have the permission to reside in Egypt. Nonetheless, he found passage to the country in search for sustenance. Therefore, a critic who lacks information on Abraham’s full story would be quick to judge him and call him a criminal immigrant. Gonzalez also provides a story on Francisco Barrera, an illegal immigrant to the U.S (2019). Barrera was arrested and deported for opting to sleep in his car instead of driving home drunk, and risk people’s lives (Gonzalez, 2019). However, police officers and judges who chose to hear only part his story, ruled him off as a criminal.
Gonzalez helps the reader she the ugliness in Abraham’s behavior when he was desperate, and that God forgives us of our sins. Abraham, in fear of prosecution for illegal entry into Egypt, used Sarah (his beautiful wife) as a bargaining chip. He lied and stated that Sarah was his sister, trafficking her to the Pharaoh in exchange for servants, cattle, and power. Similarly, Gonzalez notes that 60% of female immigrants experience sexual assault in their attempt to cross the border to the U.S. (Gonzalez, 2019). Moreover, 80% of trafficking victims happen to be foreign born and illegal immigrants. Such a comparison shows that people, especially women suffer significantly and make enormous sacrifices in seeking refuge (Gonzalez, 2019). Gonzalez shows from these similarities between Sarah and other female immigrants that moving from one’s home in such conditions can only be as a result of dire need and war.
Thus, immigrants, legal and illegal, only seek sustenance and refuge, and have no intentions of hurting a country’s natives. Additionally, Abraham and Sarah’s story show that they had God’s favor despite Abraham’s misgivings because he acted out of desperation. Just like Abraham gained God’s forgiveness for trafficking his wife, Barrera and other immigrants also require mercy from the U.S. and other governments.

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