I have a recurring nightmare about the final exam on which my college graduation depends. Thinking I am prepared, I open a blue booklet only to discover that I am being tested in a language I do not know. I try to explain that there has been a terrible mistake, but the proctor is unforgiving. I am sent back to my chair to take a test that I have no hope of understanding, let alone passing.
North Americans are fond of saying, almost reverentially, that the United States is an immigrant nation. And indeed it is. But therein is a long and complicated tale, fraught with ambiguity, heated debates and major shifts.
One of the lesser-known calamities of the Iraq war is the flood of refugees it has produced. According to United Nations officials, about 2 million Iraqis have fled the country since the start of the war—mostly to Jordan and Syria—and almost as many Iraqis have been displaced inside their own country.
As I write this, the kitchen table is shaking. If our table is shaking, I worry that the church’s beautiful stained-glass windows, desperately in need of repair, are also shaking. The parsonage is attached to the church and shares the same foundation. Seven feet away all hell is breaking loose. Several blocks of businesses that have served this neighborhood are being knocked down by giant backhoes and inflated real estate prices to make way for towering apartments.
A few years ago, after government officials decided to return some unearthed Indian artifacts to the present-day descendants of their original owners rather than ship them to a museum, a Saturday Night Live spoof put this act of generosity in perspective: “As for the rest of North America, we’ll be keeping that.”
In 1994, things began to look up for Milan, Missouri, a remote, rural community of 2,000 that had been struggling for years with a declining farm economy and weak job market. Premium Standard Farms (PSF), the second-largest pork production company in the U.S., opened a state-of-the-art packing plant in Milan’s rural enterprise zone.
Breaking rank with leading evangelical groups that have chosen to stay out of current immigration debates, a new coalition has formed to represent more than 20 million Hispanic evangelicals and to denounce Congress’s handling of immigration issues.
By 2050 Latinos and Latinas will constitute at least one fourth of the U.S. population. They are increasingly part of Protestant as well as Roman Catholic churches, though they often live in this country without legal status.
A funny thing happened to a pastor friend of mine. His congregation was baptizing a family in a river that ran not far from the Hispanic church that he served. As the newly baptized members came out of the water he handed them their baptismal certificates. Afterward, in true Latino fashion, they celebrated a fiesta.