Our family of six has immigrated out of and into the United States many times. We have immigrated to Japan, Thailand, and the Czech Republic. We’ve immigrated my Thai daughter to the United States. No matter the country, it has never been easy. In order to gain entry as long-term residents in other nations we have gone through months (sometimes years) of providing background checks, financial statements, proof of education, promises of support from local nationals, health checks, and more. We’ve wrung our hands and begged God to deliver us our visas before flights scheduled to depart within hours.
Immigrating our adopted daughter was extremely difficult. For starters, though our adoption was complete, the Thai government would not issue her a passport. We were her legal parents, but living in Japan without a way to bring her home. My husband, my three young kids, and I put everything on hold and moved to Thailand to hound the government ourselves. They finally issued her a passport—incidentally in the middle of a coup.
Because of the unique circumstances surrounding her adoption, we could not immediately immigrate her to the US as an adopted orphan. We had to immigrate her as a family member, requiring us to live overseas with her for three years. We were not permitted to move back to the US during that time. My husband’s mother was diagnosed with ALS at the beginning of that three years and we labored to get permission to cut the wait so that we could be with her.
We joined the unspeakably long line of people all over the world trying to immigrate to the US. No matter what we did, we could not convince the US government to let us come home. We called the Department of Homeland Security, we pled our case at the US Embassy in Japan, we cried on the phone to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. We simply had to wait our turn in line—and we are Americans.
My mother-in-law went to heaven just days before USCIS issued our daughter a visa. The timing was heartbreaking.
But that’s immigration. It’s often heartbreaking. It just is. And compared to others, our story is nothing.
I know very few Americans who have pursued a long-term or permanent stay in another country. I get the sense that most Americans think that immigrating into and out of an autonomous nation-state is no big deal. I know I did before we tried it ourselves and found out the hard way. And that was with American passports, which are coveted and welcome all over the world.
Here’s a thought for those with valuable passports—those with nationalities that are broadly welcomed—if your heart is breaking over the plight of the refugee, if your soul is aching because of images of people in war-torn nations languishing in refugee camps—maybe you should go. Really. Maybe you should consider a long-term stay overseas. Because you immigrating there is probably easier than them immigrating here.
Not only are your passports invaluable, but so are your skills, education, English language, occupation, and can-do attitude that could be used to alleviate suffering in any number of situations. I don’t mean to be terse, but maybe you should go. Many nations would welcome your partnership in serving their people. Think about it.
The Lord God has determined the times and places in which we should live (Acts 17:26). He may be inviting you to provide food, drink, clothes, and more in His name (Matthew 25:35-40). Immigrating is hard. But it is easier for you than it is for them. So think about it.
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