We just got back to the hotel from eating Steak Burgers at Spangles in Wichita. The whole family is here to see me off tomorrow morning to Cambodia. It’s stressful. Knowing that I’ll be travelling for the next two days, living in airplanes and airports, isn’t the stressful part. Being away from my wife and children is stressful. It’s hard on the children, and hard on Mom who has to take care of everything on her own while I’m gone.
The truth is, I hate to be away from them too, but I’m on a mission.
This trip the mission may have changed, at least a little bit. I learned today that my brother-in-law, one of the Minnesota 8, is scheduled to be moved by ICE from MN. We’re not sure where he’ll be moved to. He is Cambodian and grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He arrived to America when he was only 1 year old.
In Cambodia, his name is on a list at the deportee re-integration center- Cambodia’s resettlement service for deportees from all over the world as well as new immigrants resettling in Cambodia. His wife and daughter wait. In fact, it has been a long and stressful and heart-wrenching wait since he was arrested by ICE on a deportation order in August. He showed up for a routine check-in with immigration services, just as he’s always done, when he was placed in detention. A national movement and 6 months later it seems that Cambodia is going to receive him- and America is ready to send him- to a country he has never set foot in.
It feels hopeless, but our Christian faith is the substance of things hoped for. So we hope. We pray. We trust God’s wisdom and His plan.
My brother-in-law is a Christian. I can’t imagine how he feels, how his faith is being tested, or the questions he has of God right now. The rest of us want to wrestle with the law, with our government, with the Cambodian government, but the greatest wrestling match for all of us is the one we have with God right now.
Jacob wrestled the shadowy figure, the stranger who knocked his hip out of joint. Jacob wouldn’t let go until the “stranger” gave him a blessing. Jacob was broken, he was struggling, he was wounded, but he held on for God’s blessing.
And not everything turned out the way Jacob thought it should over the course of his life. We are like Jacob. There are many things in life that don’t go our way, that don’t make sense in our understanding of God, that are painful, and that make us examine what we believe and who we are to God.
My brother-in-law might be deported to Cambodia. It isn’t for lack of faith or prayer or believing. It couldn’t be a divine punishment for sin. It isn’t because God doesn’t know or understand our suffering.
But it does force us to face the content of our faith.
The truth is, when we lose everything else- house, home, material posessions, health, relationships, family- we still have all we need. We still have God. Even in our brokeness we still have God. Ours is not a faith that says, “God isn’t faithful because He let me be deported.” Ours is a faith that says, “Though I lose all, I still have Christ- because Christ will never let go of me.”
God is in Cambodia too. God is in the dark and light. He is in our grief and our joy. He is in our pain and triumph. He is in our sorrow and our celebration. He’s there.
For us, the question we have to ask is whether or not we are going to hold on to Him- even after losing the wrestling match. For us, we have to wonder: if that young man is deported, is it a loss or is God working a victory that we don’t understand- a victory according to His will?
Our greatest blessings are found when we stand in Him- and having done everything we can, to simply stand some more. There is no greater consolation to a grieving soul than to know that this corrupt world can take everything from us; yet we still have everything we need.
When we’ve lost everything we realize that God was our everything all along.
Jesus Christ is sufficient for us. He is our all-in-all, not just in America or in this moment, but in all places and all times from here to eternity.