August 19th was a big day. Quinten, our youngest, was going to cross over into Canada and begin studying at Columbia Bible College. I had spent most of the previous month reminding Q that he needed to get his paperwork in order. After all he was a US citizen about to study in another country. The most important item he needed to have, after his passport, was proof of payment. Immigration Canada wanted to know that he had enough money to cover all his schooling and living related expenses.
Everything was in order. Ten miles before we crossed I had Rita, Kyle, and Miguel all ride in one car and Q and I rode in his car. As we approached the border Rita was in the lead car. After a few minutes they let Rita go and we proceeded forward to be processed. We handed the immigration official our passports. He looked at my Canadian passport, then looked at Q’s American passport. After a few minutes he asked if my wife was driving the car that just passed through. I said yes. The he asked what to me seemed like a rhetorical question, “your wife is a Canadian as well?” I nodded. He went on, “your son is planning on attending college in Canada?” We both said, “Yes.” Our passports were handed back and we were directed to the immigration office for further processing. I asked if there was a problem. His response was an unexpected. He said, “Well your paperwork isn’t correct.” I started panicking. Before I could get into a full-blown panic he said, “We cannot give your son a US student visa, because he’s a Canadian!”
We proceeded to the immigration office and it was reaffirmed that because Rita and I are Canadians, our children are also considered Canadian, regardless of where they were born.
I have often wondered how the thief on the cross felt when Jesus declared, “Today you shall see me in paradise.”
An unexpected welcome home.
There is a world of difference between hanging on the cross facing death and crossing into Canada. But the feeling of unexpected welcome is universal.
For those of us who are enduring the 2016 political season here in the USA, it does not feel like a time of welcome or unexpected citizenship. I worry what happens to us as individuals, community members, and residents when our world view starts to be shaped by fear and distrust of the other.
Almost a decade ago our family stated attending a new church. On that first Sunday we didn’t know what to expect. We were coming out of a difficult transition. This church was different; most significantly it wasn’t Mennonite. It was a Denver Westside Hispanic congregation. We were one of a handful of Anglos in church. Despite all these differences we were welcomed, adopted, and given “citizenship.”
This is what it means to be Christian. Welcoming people in and seeing strangers as family.