The Danger of Putting America before God


09-06 - daca

I haven’t blogged in a while but considering recent events, I thought I should come out of hiding. As many of you know, I’ve written a Christian fiction book, Vivir el Dream, about undocumented immigrants trying to live “the American dream.” With the recent end of DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals), which used to be known as “The Dream Act,” I have seen a lot of hurtful posts about “illegals” and “criminals” and “getting what they deserve” etc. Seeing that kind of hate, always brings me back to the Bible and remembering what Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31 were the most important commandments:

  1. Love the Lord your God with all heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Considering this, I think about immigration and what that means in terms of loving God and loving our neighbors. Here are some verses that stick out to me:

  1. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. (1 John 4:20)
  2. “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)
  3. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:10)
  4. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34)
  5. You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 24:22)
  6. The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord (Numbers 15:15)
  7. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:18)
  8. Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. (Deuteronomy 24:17)
  9. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, (Ephesians 2:19)
  10. I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. (Matthew 25:43)
  11. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

I found all these verses easily on biblegateway.com by searching for the keywords foreigner and stranger. Sure, there were other verses that contextually spoke about foreigners overtaking things (generally in the context of the Israelites), but the majority were about treating them fairly.

Now, people are going to say, “What about all the verses about following laws?” And I agree, it is important to follow the laws. But, do are the laws of a country above the laws of God? Those very laws that tell us to love our God and our neighbor? No. It calls us to stand up against the laws that do harm and injustice.

The main issue is that Americans are so used to feeling comfortable with what we have, we forget that God doesn’t want us to be comfortable, He wants us to love. We as Americans can more easily place blame on someone rather than looking at the Greater Law that God put forth, the law to love God and our neighbors (which, by the way, means anybody – no exceptions!) And there’s a verse about that, too, in Luke 10:25-37 when Jesus shares the parable of the Good Samaritan. The final result:

Jesus asks: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:35-37)

Nowhere I am aware of (and feel free to correct me) in the Bible does it talk about pieces of paper and setting borders to keep people out and to deny help to those who need it, to turn people away because they are different or immigrated one way instead of the other. No, those are our laws we made up to keep control, to keep comfortable.

But that isn’t God’s law. God’s law is love. Love, kindness, mercy.

Go and do likewise.

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Vivir el Dream

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Vivir el Dream FB cover

Hello, everyone,

In case you hadn’t realized, I wrote a book and published it on May 19th! It is called Vivir el Dream and is a Latino Christian fiction book about an undocumented college student trying to make her way in the world.

You can find it on Amazon for $16.99 in paperback, $3.99 in ebook. Also signed copies are available for $15 (plus $3 shipping if you’re not local).

I was inspired by my friends, family, church family, and community who haven’t given up even when they’ve been through unimaginably difficult circumstances. I wanted to give a glimpse into the life of undocumented people in the U.S.: why they come here, what they have to go through to get here, and what things are like for them once they arrive.

It is also rich with descriptions of authentic Mexican cuisine and culture and has elements of inspiration, light romance, and humor.

You can also find out more information on my Facebook author page and on the Facebook book page.

Here’s a little more about the book:

The fates of an undocumented college student and her mother intertwine with a suicidal businessman’s. As circumstances worsen, will their faith carry them through or will their fears drag them down?

Linda Palacios crossed the border at age three with her mother, Juanita, to escape their traumatic life in Mexico and to pursue the American dream. Years later, Linda nears college graduation. With little hope for the future as an undocumented immigrant, Linda wonders where her life is going.

 

Tim Draker, a long-unemployed businessman, has wondered the same thing. Overcome with despair, he decides to take his own life. Before he can carry out his plan, he changes course when he finds a job as a mechanic. Embarrassed about working at a garage in the barrio, he lies to his wife in hopes of finding something better.

 

After Juanita’s coworker gets deported, she takes in her friend’s son, Hector, whom her daughter Linda can’t stand, While Juanita deals with nightmares of her traumatic past, she loses her job and decides to go into business for herself.

 

Will the three of them allow God to guide them through the challenges to come, or will they let their own desires and goals get in the way of His path?

COVER REVEAL: Vivir el Dream


Vivir el Dream Kindle cover.png

Vivir el Dream, my Latino Christian fiction novel, is set to release on Amazon in book print and ebook on May 20th.

It’s been over five years and literally thousands of hours of work to get it ready for this moment. And it’s starting to feel real! I got the cover, I’m picking out dingbats and fonts for formatting, and I’m only six chapters away from the end of the final edit. One day soon I will hold the completed book in my hand (I’m sure there will be a post for that day as well!)

I am thankful for my husband for painting the picture for my cover. He did an awesome job! 🙂

If you want to follow what’s going on with my book more closely and find the buy links, head over to my Facebook author page.

An Important Visualization


Today I would like to you in a guided visualization, one that I hope will help broaden your understanding and increase your empathy.

I would like you to remember a younger you, living in your hometown. If you lived several places, pick the place that felt most like home, where your family and friends lived. If that is where you live now, just picture that.

I want you to picture your favorite places there: your favorite restaurant, your favorite park, your home, your place of worship, your local supermarket, your school. I want you picture your family and friends. I want you to picture your time with them: the laughs you had together, the vacations you took, meals together, how you spent summers or your free time, even the fights you had and the tough times. Picture it in detail…the sound of their voices, their laughter, the way they held themselves, what they wore. Use as many senses as possible.

Once you have a vivid picture in your mind, think about how you felt back then. How much like home it feels. Perhaps you even still dream of these people and places. They are an essential part of you. You cannot remove these things from you. They feel like home, no matter if they were challenging times or not.

Now I want you to imagine that things went a bit different. I’d like you to imagine that that place that you call your hometown was going through a rough time, that there were no jobs available or the jobs there couldn’t pay the bills. Imagine that your family had to make tough choices…sell the family car(s), get rid of cable/internet/phones, live somewhere less expensive (and most likely more dangerous), never go to your favorite restaurant again, never go on vacations, never participate in your favorite hobbies due to lack of funds and transportation, leave school to work at an early age to support the family, not be able to go to your place of worship because you had to work extra overtime to put food on the table, having to decide whether to cut off water or electric or both in order to feed your family. Really think about it, what it would feel like to live, not just paycheck to paycheck, but going to bed hungry and worrying that you wouldn’t make enough to save your family. If you really want to go the extra mile, picture a huge increase in violence in the area, maybe even war, due to the extreme poverty.

Now imagine that you’ve heard of a place, where a lot of other people from your hometown were moving. A place where people lived comfortably, where they had food to eat and safe places to live, where you could send your future children to school, where you could make enough money to send back to your family so that they would have food on the table and a safe place to live. Think about how strong your desire would be to move to this place, how desperate you might feel to go there.

Imagine this place was hard to visit, not to mention move to. Imagine the system was corrupt and all the official were corrupt, that your family and friends have tried to pay the little money they had, only to be rejected a visit and not returned their “filing fees.” Think about how it would be to decide to hitch a ride with someone who knew a way to get you in. You might make that choice even if you had to scrounge all the money you could to get there, in risk of your own life, just on the offchance that you could save your family from poverty. Imagine you make it, while others around you have died in the desert that separates your hometown and that place. Imagine how scared you would still feel that you could get caught at any time but how glad you would be to be able to send money to your family. You wouldn’t be able to go home and visit your family but you could speak with them on the phone and send them money so they would be safe.

Let’s say you didn’t want to take that chance and somehow, through a modern miracle, you were able to legally get a pass to live in that better place. This way you are able to travel when you can save enough money and go back and visit your family. They are living, still poor, but safe and fed.

Either way, imagine you have been living this way for years. Imagine you have established a life in the better place. Imagine you have family and friends there, a home, a favorite restaurant/grocery store, maybe even a hobby or two. Picture it well, with all your senses. You miss your hometown but you also have a life in this new place.

Imagine that things haven’t been as easy as you expected in the new place. There is a lot of hatred towards people from your hometown and people give you looks when you walk down the street, hold their purses closer/lock their car doors as you walk past them, keep an eye on you as you shop. You’re used to it but it seems to be getting worse because a new leader has come on the scene, and he has called people from your hometown rapists, murderers, criminals, “bad people”, and has promised to build a giant wall to keep out the people from your hometown. Imagine this new leader has promised to deport people back to their hometowns, even ones that have passes, even ones that have never lived there. Imagine he has said that he will deport your son or daughter who was born in the new place. This new leader has encouraged anger and violence against your hometown and other towns outside of the region. Imagine that more than half the people you thought were friends and family and community voted for this man to be the leader of the new place. Now you don’t know who to trust anymore. It no longer feels safe here and it starts to feel less like home, but you have a family here, a life. There is nothing you can do. You are only a regular, working class person, trying to survive and keep your family safe and fed.

Imagine how this feels. Really feel it. REALLY feel it.

Because this is how immigrants are feeling right this second.

And this is how I, the wife of an immigrant and the mother of the child of an immigrant, am feeling right as I finish this blog post.

miguelsaysbyebye

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: Entrevista con Nínive


Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: Entrevista con Nínive

  1. Dime un poco acerca de ti.

Mi nombre es Nínive, estoy casada con un americano y tengo dos hijos. Hasta hace 3 años, mi familia y yo vivimos en mi país trabajando con CRU (Cruzada Estudiantil y Profesional para Cristo).

  1. ¿Por qué decidiste tener esta entrevista?

Porque me gustaría que más gente sea expuesta a la historia detrás de cada inmigrante.

  1. ¿De dónde eres y por qué decidiste venir a los Estados Unidos?

Soy de Venezuela, y decidí, junto a mi esposo, venir a vivir a los Estados Unidos en busca de mejores oportunidades para mis hijos, quienes tienen necesidades especiales.

  1. ¿Cómo era la vida para ti donde creciste?

Mi vida fue difícil. Mi familia es grande y por esa razón llena de muchos secretos e historias de las que casi no se habla. Cuando tenía 5 años mi madre adoptiva falleció y desde entonces, mi hermanito y yo, fuimos a vivir con una tía. Con ella sufrimos muchos maltratos. Años más tarde fuimos a vivir con mi abuelita y las cosas mejoraron un poco. Crecí con mucha escasez, pero dentro de todo mi vida fue mejor que la de mis hermanos biológicos. Todas mis hermanas biológicas fueron madres adolescentes y ni siquiera terminaron la preparatoria.

  1. ¿Cómo es la vida para tus paisanos ahora? ¿Todavía tienes familiares y amigos allá?

Toda mi familia sigue en Venezuela, soy la única aquí. La vida para ellos es aún más difícil ahora. En estos momentos Venezuela vive uno de los períodos más difíciles de su historia. No hay comida, y la poca que hay está siendo racionada. La delincuencia y el índice de criminalidad se han elevado en extremo. Tenemos una inflación del 62%. No hay trabajos y los salarios son muy bajos.

  1. ¿Qué tuviste que hacer para llegar aquí (como documentos, dinero, etc.)?

Porque mi esposo es ciudadano americano, aplique por una visa de inmigrante. Era la única manera de venir a este país. El año anterior, me fue negada la visa de turista, aún cuando demostré que mi intención no era la de inmigrar. El proceso fue largo, costoso y agotador. Mi experiencia con inmigración no fue buena. Todos mis papeles se perdieron por más de un año. Ni siquiera aparecía en el sistema. Después de un año de estar en el país, me dijeron que yo no existía, era como si nunca vine a los Estados Unidos. Finalmente, después de involucrar a un Senador del estado recibí mi Green card y podia trabajar.

    7. Ya estando en Estados Unidos, ¿cómo fue tu vida?

Muchas cosas han cambiado, lo más difícil ha sido adaptarme a la cultura sin perder mi identidad como venezolana y tratar de mantener un balance de las dos culturas en casa. Otra cosa difícil ha sido el idioma y las expectativas que otros tienen sobre eso. Soy muy directa y por eso tengo mucha dificultad en expresar mis pensamientos sin ofender a otros. Mi vida aquí es más tranquila, no voy caminando por la calle con miedo y sé que mi familia tiene lo necesario para vivir y alimentarse.

    8. ¿Qué te ha ayudado llegar a dónde estás hoy?

Primeramente Dios, Él me ha fortalecido en el proceso de adaptación, en buscar ayuda para nuestros hijos. También el apoyo de mi esposo y de la Iglesia. 

    9. ¿Cómo experimentan las generaciones diferentes en tu familia los Estados Unidos (como los que nacieron en su país comparado con los que nacieron en los Estados Unidos)?

Esa ha sido la parte más difícil con mi familia. Especialmente mi hija, aunque nació aquí, vivió en Venezuela hasta los 5 años. Ella ha olvidado el español y ha perdido mucho de su identidad como venezolana. Es difícil mantener un balance cuando dentro de la misma casa tienes las dos culturas. Mi esposo abraza mi cultura y tradiciones y hasta el idioma, pero es difícil pasar eso a nuestros hijos cuando el resto de sus familiares, amigos y maestros no tienen esa identidad.

     10. ¿Has preservado algunas tradiciones, comidas, idiomas, o costumbres de tu país natal?

Sí, usualmente cocino comida venezolana, que a mi familia le gusta. Mi esposo y yo hablamos español casi todo el tiempo. Tratamos de hablar y exponer a nuestros hijos a sus raíces hispanas mostrándoles fotos, videos, escuchando música. Incluso vamos al servicio en español de nuestra iglesia y así mantener el compañerismo con otros hispanos. Para mi es importante que mis hijos sepan de donde vienen.

     11. ¿Cómo afecta tu herencia cultural tus ideas sobre la inmigración?

Definitivamente está afectada. Es imposible ser inmigrante y no ver el es tema desde tu perspectiva cultural. Venir de una cultura donde todos son aceptados sin importar su color de piel, su nacionalidad, su acento o su región, hace difícil no tener una posición radical hacia la injusticia del sistema migratorio. Pero creo que se hace más fuerte, a causa de las opiniones y críticas infundadas de ciudadanos americanos, que parecieran olvidar la historia de su país. Esta es una nación fundada en la inmigración, que buscaba la igualdad de su gente, la libertad y la justicia, tristemente para muchos, América es de ellos y no hay cabida para otros, especialmente si se ven diferente y hablan otro idioma.

Esto entristece mi corazón porque mi propia familia es una mezcla de las dos culturas y es como si una parte de ella debería ser anulada. Aunque mi situación migratoria es diferente a la de muchos, debo incluirme cuando digo que no hemos venido a quitarle nada a nadie. Venimos a trabajar, a buscar un futro mejor. Muchos vienen huyendo del crimen, de la pobreza, de la falta de comida, no vienen a pedir vienen a dar. Ponen sus manos, su sudor para que otros tengamos comodidades que muchos de ellos no tienen.

 Debo dejar claro, que si bien es cierto que muchos piensan todas esas cosas de los inmigrantes, Dios me ha dado la bendición de conocer gente que abraza y apoya a quienes vienen de otros lugares y sus culturas!

Gracias, Nínive, por compartir tan abiertamente su historia con nosotros.

Y aquí comparte unas fotos chéveres de su país y familia:

Ninive La otra realidad

una foto del barrio en el que crecí! Allí vive mi abuela y otros familiares!

.NiniveAbuela 2

Una foto de mi abuelita, si Dios quiere este año cumplirá 90 años.ninivefamilymi familianinivecaracasCaracasNinive Tiempo Libreuniversitariosniniveselvala selva en Venezuelaninivelosandes Los Andesninivelaplaya  una playa venezolananiniveeldesierto   el desierto

 

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: Interview with Nínive


Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: Interview with Nínive

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

 My name is Nínive, I’m married to an American and have two kids. Until 3 years ago, my family and I lived in my home country, where we worked with CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ)

  1. What made you decide to do this interview? 

Because I would like more people to be exposed to the story behind every immigrant.

  1. Where are you from and why did you decide to come to America? 

 I’m from Venezuela, and decided, with my husband, to come to the USA looking for better opportunities for our kids, who have special needs.

  1. What was life like for you where you grew up? 

 My life was difficult. My family is HUGE, and for that reason it is full of secrets and stories that nobody talks about. When I was 5 years old my adoptive mom died and my little brother and I went to live with an aunt. We suffered abuse. Years later we went to live with my grandma and things started getting a little bit better. We didn’t have much, but I can say that even with all the bad stuff in it, my life was a lot better than my biological siblings. All my sisters were teen moms and they didn’t even finish High School.

  1. What is life like for people in your country now? Do you still have family and friends there?

 All my family is still there. I’m the only one here. Life for them is even harder now. Venezuela is experiencing the toughest times of its history. There are food shortages, and the little one can find is being rationed. Crime and delinquency have increased sharply. Inflation this past year just reached 62%. There are no jobs and salaries are very low.

  1. What did you have to do to get here (i.e. paperwork, money, etc.)?

Because my husband is an American citizen, I applied for an immigrant visa. It was the only way to come to this country again. The year before I was denied a tourist visa, even when I demonstrated that it wasn’t my intention to immigrate. The process was long, expensive and exhausting. My experience with immigration wasn’t good. All my papers were lost for more than a year, I wasn’t even registered in the system. After spending more than a year in the country I was told I didn’t exist; it was like I never came to the USA. Finally, after getting a Senator from Virginia involved, I got my green card and was able to work.

    7. Once you came to America, what was life like?

Many things have changed; the biggest challenge has been adapting to this culture without losing my identity as a Venezuelan and trying to balance two cultures in our home. Another difficult thing has been the language and the expectations of others concerning this. I am very direct and as a result it is hard to express my thoughts without offending others. My life here is more tranquil, I have no fear walking outside, and I know my family has what we need to live and eat.

    8. What helped you get to where you are today?

First of all, God. He has strengthened me during the process of adapting, as we have sought help for our children. Also the support of my husband and the Church.

    9. How do different generations in your family experience America (i.e. immigrant-born vs. American-born generations)?

That has been the most difficult part for my family. Especially with my daughter, who was born here but lived in Venezuela until she was 5 years old. She has forgotten her Spanish, and has also lost much of her identity as a Venezuelan. It is difficult to maintain a balance when there are two cultures in the same house. My husband embraces my culture and traditions, even my language, but it is difficult to pass that on to our kids when the rest of their relatives, friends and teachers don’t have that identity.

    10. Have you preserved any traditions, foods, languages, or customs from your native country?

Yes, I often cook Venezuelan food that my family enjoys. My husband and I speak Spanish almost all the time. We try to talk with and expose our kids to their Hispanic roots by showing them pictures, videos and listening to music. We even go to the Spanish service in our church and keep the fellowship with other Hispanics. For me, it is very important that my kids know where they come from.

    11. How does your cultural heritage affect your views on immigration? 

 Definitely it is affected. It’s impossible, as an Immigrant, to not see this issue from your cultural perspective. When you come from a culture where everybody is accepted without looking at the color of their skin, their nationalities, their accents, or the region that they came from; it makes it difficult not to have a radical position about the injustice of the immigration system. But I think that what makes it even more difficult are the critical and unfounded opinions of many Americans, who seem to forget the history of their Nation. This is a Nation founded on immigration, seeking for its people equality, liberty and justice. Sadly, for many America it’s theirs and there is no place for others, especially if they look different and speak a different language.

This makes me sad because my own family is a mix of both cultures, and it seems to me, like one of those parts needs to be annulled. Even when my immigration status is different, I have to include myself when I say that we didn’t come here to take anything from anybody. We came here to work, to seek a better future. Many come here escaping from crime and violence in their countries, escaping from poverty, because they don’t have money to feed their families. We come here not to ask for a handout but to give. They offer their hands, their sweat, so we can have things that they themselves cannot even afford.

I also need to clarify, that even when it is true that many people in America think this way, God has given me the blessing of allowing me to meet many people who embrace and support those who come from other places and other cultures.

Nínive, thank you so much for openly sharing your story with us!

And here are some pictures she has shared with us, too!

Ninive La otra realidad

(the barrio where I grew up and a lot of my family, including my grandmother still live)

 

NiniveAbuela 2 (A photo of my grandma. God willing, she will turn 90 this year)

Ninive Tiempo Libre(college students)

 ninivecaracas (Caracas)ninivefamily(my family)niniveeldesierto  (the desert in Venezuela)ninivelaplaya (Venezuelan beach)ninivelosandes(the Andes mountains) niniveselva (the jungle)