It was a year ago this month that we began the greatest migration in my life. We were not being forced to move because of a war, we were not fleeing persecution or extreme poverty, but like many migrants we were seeking the best for our family.
My son and his wife had wanted to buy the house where we have lived for 26 years. And so last summer Janeen and I began the process of looking for a new home. We knew what we were looking for; not too far away, one level, still in Minneapolis, and with space for family and friends where we could entertain. But as the time drew near for Jared and Angela to close on our property we have still not found what we were looking for in Minneapolis and so we were forced to expand our search into Golden Valley and Robbinsdale.
Eventually we found a great home in Robbinsdale with wonderful Neighbors in a beautiful neighborhood. It really wasn’t what I wanted, but it was what we needed to do for our family and for our future. At times, I cried like an inconsolable baby with colic, I tried to keep a stiff upper lip. But it wasn’t what I had imagined, I was not in control. I was leaving a place full of memories, where all our children grew from babes to adults. To a place not exactly of my choosing.
The morning that we were to close on the house in Robbinsdale we went for our final walk-through. I was in the passenger seat looking out the window as we drove up Victory Parkway, Janeen was driving, she looked at me and asked “What are you thinking?”
I dryly said, “You really want to know?” She shrugged, “sure.”
I looked at her and shared with her the words that Jesus had spoken to Peter, “When you were a young man you went where you wanted to go, but when you become old others will bind you,” I pulled on my seat belt. “…and take you where you do not want to go.”
She paled, “That’s awful, hon”
I bit my lip to keep the colic from returning, “Sorry, but you asked”
In the midst of my personal-pity-party, I felt extreme guilt. I was migrating to a beautiful house, in a lovely neighborhood, with no fear of loosing my life on the journey. On the news each day were the images of people who also were migrating with only the clothes on their back. I could return to my old home to visit my children, most of these migrants had little hope of seeing their home, or even the family and friends, they were leaving behind.
Over the past year migrants have been blamed for problems that existed long before they packed up and moved. Politicians blame immigrants for destabilizing countries that are rolling in wealth.
Immigrants cause crime? But crime is on the decline.
Immigrants steal jobs? But unemployment is down.
Immigrants threaten our culture? But migrants strengthen our communities.
I cannot fathom the trauma that must accompany a migration forced by war or poverty. I cannot fathom the fear, the risk the sorrow. I cannot fathom leaving all you have known for the hope of finding something that might be better.
I had to move to a wonderful, and safe place, and felt the effect. I lost some of my creative edge, I found it hard to focus and write. I left a place and a city I love, and felt slightly disoriented, out of place, even though I had only migrated 3 miles to the next village. If such a small move affected me to such a great degree, how much would a forced migration impact you at every level?
Maybe I’m different, maybe I’m weak, maybe that’s why I lost some creativity and focus by living outside my small comfort zone. But it is a reminder to me of how extremely difficult migration is. Most people don’t just leave home and family unless there is no other option. So to see thousands fleeing in unsafe boats, or clinging to the top of a raging freight train, I know they are not just wanting to get more hot dogs and apple pie. No, they are wanting to just survive.
In our migration there was one thing that made it all better. A welcome. Neighbors around us came to say hi, helped us get settled, and made a place for us in their community. Had we not been surrounded by welcome and hospitality it would have been even more difficult. Can you imagine the feeling of having to flee war or extreme poverty only to find the place you had hoped to be safe, was not safe nor welcoming?
Migration is hard, it is not the easy way out, yet it is a normal part of life. Both the monarch butterfly and the Syrian refugee migrate to try to survive. God the creator is the maker of all the earth, the creator welcomes us wherever we may be. It is man who creates the lines to keep some in and others out. Can we learn to welcome as well?
NOTE: We migrated again; back to Minneapolis. Unexpected opportunity knocked and we answered. We only were able to get this home, exactly what we wanted, by first going where we needed to spend a season. We are so thankful to everyone who made it possible. And yes, being back in my “zone” I feel more energized and creative. Migration is no joke.