I got emotional this morning as I picked up a new 2nd or 3rd grade passenger, a smiling chap named Wilfredo.
Just yesterday afternoon, the second day of school, I was introduced to this young immigrant from Guatemala who speaks not a word of English! Apparently, the previous day he had accidentally gotten on the wrong bus and had no clue how to communicate anything, never-mind his new address, etc to the new bus driver. After he wound up at the bus office with frantic parents and school officials trying to sort the situation, you can imagine why yesterday the whole family was standing in front of the house, visibly relieved, when I dropped him off at the right place and time. Smiles, waving and the littlest children leaping for joy. Wilfredo was home!!!
I was an immigrant once. Growing up as the eldest son of missionaries in the jungles of South America, I remember not knowing anyone, the language, culture, etc. I learned, but it took time and I never felt like I fit in. Even today, being a ‘third culture kid,’ I never feel quite like I fit in, so my heart really went out to Wilfredo as he boarded my bus. Brave!
“Buenos dias, Como le va?” I greeted and he replied, amazed as are a few other Hispanics on my bus that I speak semi-fluent Spanish with a correct accent. I am so glad that I can help him adjust and feel safe and secure in this transition.
After I dropped him off, as we began rolling I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion recalling the difficulty of my life in transitioning to living in Colombia, S.A. as a little tyke, then later a much more challenging readjustment to the United States as a fourth grader. It was a transition that took years, and in essence, determined a huge part of who I am today and why.
Suddenly our recent discussions on this blog about the ‘ger,’ grafting in and the place of the ‘alien/sojourner’ within Israel came into sharp focus and clarity!! I ‘get it’ like never before, and I want to share some thoughts and parallels using the example of Wilfredo, the ‘alien/sojourner.’
Wilfredo is new to so much, but seems simply excited to be here. He has language, culture, and ethnic obstacles to meet and deal with. I can so totally relate! There will be those who lend him a hand and welcome him to our country, that though it has ‘issues,’ is still arguably a great place to grow-up. Others will ignore him or give him the short end of the stick simply because he is an outsider and in their eyes a threat. And then, some will tell him either through actions, attitude or direct statement that he ‘does not belong here, go home.’
Wilfredo’s in a tough spot, but I trust he’ll overcome. It builds character, though he’ll have hidden scars that will tease at the corners of his mind. Scars largely inflicted by the ignorant who don’t take enough interest in him to understand that there are dialect, culinary and cultural differences between Guatemalans and a hundred other Hispanic sub-groups. Rather, in most people’s minds, he is just another Hispanic, a ‘stranger’ in the land.
His parents will have it harder. Being older, they will have significantly greater challenges to overcome and will always stick out as outsiders. Life will be better than where they came from, but poverty will be their lot as they struggle to make a way in this nation for their children. Society will only marginally accept them and usually talk around or over them. Only a few will ever accept them as equals.
And, the parallels to the ‘alien/sojourner’ debate and how they are to be received, treated, taught, etc comes screaming into focus!!
In a perfect, or completely redeemed world, one would expect everyone around Wilfredo to welcome him and reach out in every way possible to encourage and improve his lot. But, this isn’t a perfect world. Selfish and sinful motives cloud the vision of many and they miss a blessing; the blessing of sharing with him the wonders of this new place, people, culture and language. They miss the joy of hearing about other cultures and what can be gleaned. And, sadly, fewer than one in a thousand will remember that their own parents were immigrants at some point!
How closely this all parallels the Gentile ‘ger’ coming to be grafted into Israel. Non-Jews coming to Torah, at the bidding of the Spirit, are met with a broad spectrum of responses, most of which are identical to the ambivalent or negative attitudes Wilfredo will meet. Even some non-Jews who have been on the walk for a while can be ambivalent or forget the wonder of it all. Only a very rare few Jews reach out their hands and with great honor, love and joy say, ‘Here, let me show you around! Let me help you with the language, culture and challenges. I’m so glad you are part of us now!!’
Most Americans around me have forgotten the immortalized poem of Emma Lazarus as she put words on the lips of the Statue of Liberty,
“….Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Rather, they now have a sense of ownership and entitlement that seeks to bar the door to freedom from daring intruders, both young and old. Funny how a number of generations removed from our own immigration, we somehow think nobody else has the right to join the party. Such is the plight of human traditions.
Doesn’t the Torah admonish the same thing in multiple places? One such:
Deu. 10:19 So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
I’m going to get off the soap-box before I get rolling. But, first…
I have been reading Tim Hegg’s Fellow Heirs; Jews and Gentiles Together in the Family of God, and my head is swimming with deeper understanding and more detailed thought regarding the whole issue. Expect some thought-provoking posts in the coming weeks. I’ll close with a quote from page 33-34,
But that the ger is considered a covenant member, receiving both the privileges and responsibilities of the covenant, is clear from the activities in which he engages, and the covenant consequences assigned to him. He participates in the Sabbath and yearly Festivals and is required to observe the statutes of the Torah (Deuteronomy 31:12). The ger brings sacrifices to the Lord (Leviticus 17:8; 22:18; Numbers 9:14; 15:14); is not allowed to eat blood (Leviticus 17:11-13); becomes unclean when eating meat from animals dead or torn (Leviticus 17:15); participates in the ritual of the ashes of the red heifer (Numbers 19:10); receives the death penalty for idolatry or cursing God (Leviticus 20:2; 24:16); participates in corporate forgiveness (Numbers 15:26); and may be cut off from the community for defiance against God (Numbers 15:30). In order to be “cut off,” one must be “part of.”
I loved Wilfredo the minute I met his determined smiling face as I spoke to him in his native tongue. While protocol doesn’t allow, I just wanted to hug the little guy and tell him I would help fight for him as a big brother. He is now part of my ‘family,’ and I’m so glad he is here, despite the challenges he’ll face! In our circumstance, he may be the ger, but as the native-born, I’ll love him as myself.
10 thoughts on “Tales from the Bus. Wilfredo.”
Reblogged this on The Messianic Way and commented:
A beautiful testimony about the struggles of immigration and the Messianic way of life. Being a second generation American Jew and affected by the stigma of inter-marriage I can appreciate Pete’s testimony here very much.
Thank you Shimshon
Pete, I believe this is a perfect analogy. Your experience brought tears to my eyes as I vividly remember a dear friend from school that was 1/4 Japanese. Though it was her grandparents that were immigrants and she knew no other real home besides the U.S., she was often ridiculed and forced to deal with her native roots in the most inhumane ways. Some people would never let her “forget” where she came from. Not that she desired to divest herself from her Japanese family, but that she would always have to deal with not feeling like a true U.S. citizen because of her ancestry. Instead of something she should have been able to take pride in (being partially Japanese), she found herself not really belonging to either culture. How sad.
As Dr. Alewine says, there is BIG difference between having authority and taking ownership. Judah’s authority is not an ownership role. Thankfully, there are many that realize this fully. Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel is one example from the Orthodox community in Israel. (He will be featured on HRN — be looking.) I recently listened to an audio recording of him in Israel speaking to a group of Gentiles with Skip Moen. The message can be found here: http://skipmoen.com/products/lessons-from-israel-2014/ and is titled, “Jeremy Gimpel on Torah for Gentiles”. It was refreshing to say the least.
As I’ve been watching and reading about the debate between OL and BE, there is one question that screams out, but is never addressed. BE continues to fail to offer any real “model” for a Gentile to follow. Even Ruth is stripped away because she lived “among Jews”. (Thus, her lifestyle couldn’t possibly compare to ours.) Every possible biblical role model (such as the ger) is always met with “dis-qualifiers”. I find this perplexing. Like my 1/4 Japanese friend, it seems as though there is no place for us to lay our heads.
I look forward to your upcoming posts!
Great word Brother Pete, May YHWH never let us forget the WONDER of it all !!!
May He also UNITE US ALL IN LOVE !!!
You know….. He does have a plan to do just that…….please consider
Is this not a promise and a warning?
It appears ( to me anyway ) that the violence of the immediately upcoming ordeal is directly
proportional to the degree we fail to participate in the current work of Ruach Kadsh
in restoring His house.
Absolutely the most moving piece you have ever written. I was so touched and if that family ever needs anything, please let me know.
And I am with you…I love him as well. He is a gorgeous little boy with such a beautiful smiled and so blessed to have you as his big brother and a member of your family.
Love & Blessings, Paulette
Bless you, Sis.
Thanks for the note. FYI, due to liabilities, I did not post a pic of Wilfredo. The little boy in the pic above came from online, but is very similar in appearance to the little guy who is our illustration.
Reblogged this on Journey to Messiah and commented:
There has been a conversation going on between several Messianic bloggers lately about whether or not Gentiles should follow God’s Torah. It’s a conversation as old as the Apostolic scriptures.
My friend, Pete Rambo, had an experience this week that perfectly explains how those of us who want to follow God’s Torah look to our Jewish brethren for direction.
Thanks for the reblog, and well stated.
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Pete, it went to the free WordPress blog instead of my domain. I’ll have to repost to my blog with a link instead. Trying to fix it, but not having luck.
I really appreciate this article. On one of James’ articles, this ‘family’ theme also came about. You might find it interesting. My comment about family would be appropriate here as well.
I think this conversation has been an eye-opener for all of us, and a softening of the heart of all concerned. Truly glad to have connected with you!
Indeed, this has been a very beneficial dialog. While many of those involved may not have changed positions significantly, the freedom to discuss without vitriol has been a joy.
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