I was moved today by the many tears of “Mrs. Grace,” while she cried in my office. The story of “Mrs. Grace” is not unique of its kind, but it is the most recent- but likely not the last–of those who were displaced from Egypt. Her story was known to many before Divine Will determined that I should know it.
The tears of “Mrs. Grace” represent the tears of thousands like her. Those who have emigrated because of the poor conditions in their country, whether from Egypt, Iraq, Syria and the like, to The United States of America. In “St. Abraam Ministry” in our church, and probably in many other churches, we are confronted with the counterpart of the oppression in Egypt and the Middle East, and it is the oppression of these immigrants in the land of the immigration.
To help you appreciate some of this hardship, I will tell you a little of the story of “Mrs. Grace” as an example of those immigrants. She is a married lady of more than 60 years old. Her husband and four children are in Egypt. She is the only one who obtained a visa to the United States with the hopes of traveling, laboring and helping her family in Egypt.
“Mrs. Grace” has not been aware that she is not permitted to work in the United States until she is granted religious asylum after six months at the best case, if her case is accepted. She also did not know how much this would cost her along with her monthly allowance for room. And after all this, the real surprise is that her age is not suitable for any sort of work, even with the permission of Immigration Services.
“Mrs. Grace” arrived to the United States of America with the commendation of her priest to a certain priest of the Promised Land. This priest did not directly welcome her, but sent her directly from the airport to the home of a family of his parish. After about a month, “Mrs. Grace” was discarded and lost on some unnamed street, clutching her belongings in a state of hysteria. She did not have a single dollar and did not know the simplest words in the English language so that she may articulate her needs. Her tears were all that she possessed in the land of vast dreams.
A good Samaritan, this time an American lady, saw her in the street and had compassion on her and I thank God that she somehow was able to obtain the phone number of our church. She called and delivered to us “Mrs. Grace” with her belongings and her burdens, which were far heavier than her belongings. In any event, it was the initiative of this foreign woman and the “St. Abraam Ministry” in the land of immigration that worked grace for “Mrs. Grace.”
It is not the point now to recount the many tragic stories of the many families that grace “St. Abraam Ministry” but I do remember that the night before, for example, was the tearful night of the sick mother of three who did not have money to pay rent. In the same day was the story of the young couple that fled Egypt, and under the weight of misfortune they began to beat each other–this in the land of dreams. And many more like these.
With Jeremiah the prophet, I say “For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt. I am mourning; astonishment has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:21-22). Now, the balm is a healing ointment and Gilead is the church of God. The physician is the person who stretches his arm to heal the wounds of the displaced, like the Good Samaritan. It is time for collective and individual action to serve those displaced in the diaspora for the tears of “Mrs. Grace and those like her.
Fr. Abraam Sleman
PO Box 6909, East Brunswick, NJ 08816
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