Immigration issues and God’s government
Having lived as an immigrant in a foreign country, I’ve found it’s inspiring to think about how biblical figures adjusted to life in foreign lands. For example, from the Bible’s book of Ruth, I love thinking about Ruth’s extraordinary expression of love and care for her mother-in-law, Naomi, and how this was a key factor in the warm welcome Ruth received in her move from Moab to Judah.
When Boaz first met her in his fields, he urged her to gather grain just in his fields and assured her that she would be safe there. Humbled by his kindness, Ruth asked, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” Boaz spoke admiringly of the favorable report he had already received of her devotion and unselfishness, and confidently affirmed that God would reward her fully. And indeed she was rewarded, including that she became his wife (see Ruth 1:6–18 ; 2:4–12 ; 4:9–13 ).
We do not know exactly how Ruth prayed as she prepared to migrate, but we do know that she was motivated by an unselfish desire to bless. These spiritual qualities are not restricted to certain nationalities, but are inherent in man’s identity as a child of God. This applies to each of us. So, like Ruth, we can know that when our motive is to love and benefit others, we can confidently rely on divine Love’s shepherding presence to guide us as we adjust to life in a foreign land.
My real citizenship was in divine Mind as God’s perfect spiritual idea, where only good prevailed.
Many years ago, I taught overseas on an island, and I was required to renew my work permit annually. I really enjoyed working at a particular school because there were always various opportunities to contribute my talents and abilities and to serve unselfishly. Because my employers were happy with the work I was doing, the renewal process for the permit was straightforward and harmonious. So one year when the department of immigration denied my work permit without explanation, it took us all by surprise, and I felt somewhat shaken. It came to me to study this passage in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “Citizens of the world, accept the ‘glorious liberty of the children of God,’ and be free! This is your divine right” (p. 227 ). As I pondered these spiritual truths, I began to see that my real citizenship was in divine Mind as God’s perfect spiritual idea, where only good prevailed.
The school board appealed the decision, and the work permit was renewed. I later learned that foul play was probably involved, possibly due to jealousy. Unfortunately, the denial caused a delay in getting the permit stamped in my passport before I left the country for summer vacation. As an accommodation, the authorities issued me a travel letter that would allow me to reenter legally as a teacher.
Forget self in laboring for mankind; then will you woo the weary wanderer to your door, win the pilgrim and stranger to your church, and find access to the heart of humanity. While pressing meekly on, be faithful, be valiant in the Christian’s warfare, and peace will crown your joy.
—Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 155
Toward the end of the summer, as I was preparing to return, I was feeling uneasy and afraid because a rumor on the island claimed that immigration procedures could get complicated if expatriate workers had not had their passports stamped for reentry before leaving the country. Yearning to find a sense of peace, I reached out in prayer to God, divine Love, to feel His tender, loving presence and the assurance that all was well. I knew that “perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18 ), and so I prayed to know that everyone involved was actually governed by divine Love.
Yet I still felt uncertain, so I asked a Christian Science practitioner (someone who is engaged full time in the healing ministry of Christian Science) to help me pray about the situation. The practitioner and I discussed the 23rd Psalm and the spiritual sense of it found on page 578 of Science and Health. The first line reads, “[DIVINE LOVE] is my shepherd; I shall not want.” I loved the idea that God, my Shepherd, is a wise and intelligent presence governing all creation harmoniously, and that God, divine Love, meets the human need. The practitioner and I discussed the last verse, which says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [LOVE] for ever.” He pointed out that because divine Love is the only consciousness, and includes the whole universe, then the consciousness of Love is all that I could expect when I arrived at the immigration kiosk.
I continued praying on my own, and held fast to the idea that the consciousness of Love is all that “awaited” me. As I became more and more convinced that this spiritual fact was all that was real, the fear that once dominated my thought lessened until it disappeared.
On the day of my flight, I joyfully acknowledged that the consciousness of Love was truly awaiting me. When it was my turn to have my documents processed, the officer welcomed me, and the entry procedure was harmonious. I was so grateful for this wonderful proof that God’s mighty love and power are indeed present to govern every moment.
God’s mighty love and power are indeed present to govern every moment.
This experience happened early in my study of Christian Science, and it taught me the importance of relying on divine Love to direct and guide me through the details of daily living.
This work arrangement lasted five years. During that time, I was asked to serve as head of a department, which gave me the opportunity to make a more in-depth contribution to the school’s educational program. I later worked for another school system and applied to the immigration department for permanent resident status, which was granted within two years. In my case, the process now felt complete, because as a resident I enjoyed work and travel freedoms that I hadn’t had before. In a sense, I felt that I was indeed a “citizen of the world.”
I love these words from the Christian Science Hymnal, which give such assurance of God’s dear love for all His children:
O perfect Life, in Thy completeness held,
None can beyond Thy omnipresence stray;
Safe in Thy Love, we live and sing alway
(No. 66 , Violet Hay, ©CSBD)