I attend Central Church of God in Charlotte, NC. A couple of weeks ago Pastor Loran Livingston spoke about Romans 13 and his sermon kept lingering in my mind. I bought the CD and have been listening to it in my car almost every day. Among the topics covered by him was thankfulness. And miraculously he ended the sermon with Psalm 121, the chapter God spoke to me the day of my salvation!
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.5 The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.7 The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (NIV)
I teach high school ESL (English as a Second Language) to teenagers from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, and Vietnam. Some of them are refugees; some others came with the sea of children from Central America whose parents sent to escape violence. Another group is here because their parents came looking to better their lives and their children’s. God spoke to me again by putting in my heart to talk about thankfulness with my students. Among many other things, my students are thankful for:
New words, music, one more day of life, family, friends, my dog, my sister, coming to this country, being able to go to school, technology, God, the shoes, my teacher…
They also wrote, “Some people don’t have food to eat, but thank to God and my parents I have enough food.” “I’m thankful that I can come to school to study because I want to be better tomorrow and never go back.” “I’m thankful because all these things [girlfriend, Kurt Cobain, my friends, my parents…] make my life happy and I feel complete.”
This “simple” task however presented itself difficult for some of them who couldn’t think about anything to be thankful for. I wonder if they really have nothing to appreciate or if their lives have been so hard they are still in survival mode.
In any case, life has its ways to interconnect us. We are part of this ginormous web in which if one suffers all of us feel affected. I didn’t come to the United States as a refugee… I was unaware of the meaning of that word until I was an adult. I just suffered in silence for if I asked for help I was afraid of punishment or rejection.
It is all in the past now. I grew up strong and somewhat wise. Like these minds I teach every day I am thankful for God, who makes all things possible. The food, my clothes, Zumba classes, friends… oh boy, what would I do without my friends, my spiritual parents (I even called them Mom and Dad ☺ ), my apartment, my car, my job, my students, my dog…
People are beautiful, even with all their nuances. God created us with a heart to love and be loved. Looking at my students’ papers I remember my dreams about America and how America came to our lives to feed us with hope… which always could be found behind that line in the horizon.
AMERICA SEEN BY A GIRL
By Kurma Murrain
America touched everything with her white stars and red stripes
My childhood woke up to the music with unrecognizable words that spiced the heart to make us forget our stomachs were empty
America, with her golden roads and running hot water
Yellow flowers turning to salute God, magic houses where each person had their own room and a bed with linens
America, with her missionaries talking about a man who died to save the world
How could somebody die to save us?
How could somebody die and save… me?
America, her fire was the one that killed Pablo* and stopped the car-bombs taking with him the constant panic, the interrupted dreams
America, her embrace came at night and left in the morning leaving a sweet smell of roses in the air
America, with her coca-cola to quench the thirst, paper-mate® pens to write in our new notebooks, only if we had a neat handwriting
America and her Levi’s that were hand-me-downs from my brother
Because nothing was new for this little girl, except her old hope, and a heart of ice cream, gummy bears, and pain.
*Pablo Escobar; famous leader of the Colombian drug cartel during the 80's and 90's.