You probably agree the Book of Exodus is a story about immigration by immigrants. It details the struggles, the fears, and the pains of living in a foreign land. Above all, the Book of Exodus will help you understand what home means to people like me – immigrants.
I come from a long line of immigrants. My grandparents were born in Mozambique. About 80 years ago, Grandpa left his home country in haste. Probably because of marital problems. But in a twist of fate, Grandma found him in the then Salisbury, Rhodesia.
My grandparents were Chikunda. The Chikunda were ‘an obscure and impoverished people living in the shadows of history.’ They were slaves that became an ethnic group when the Portuguese prazo system collapsed.
I grew up ashamed to be a Chikunda. Most people in Zimbabwe despised Mozambicans, in general. We were considered dumb, dull, and backward. Back then, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Africa and Mozambique was torn apart by an unending insensible civil war.
I often tried to hide my heritage in fear of ridicule and shaming. But my surname always betrays me. No real Zimbabwean has a surname like ‘Sanganyado.’ It’s neither Shona nor Ndebele but I am a Zimbabwean by birth.
But reading the Book of Exodus introduced me to a God of immigrants. A God who calls people out of their home countries into foreign lands. And a God who beckons those who don’t belong, the outcasts, and the oppressed, “Come home.”
What The Book of Exodus Teaches Us About Immigrants
I came to the US for cultural exchange, to share with the people in Riverside about my culture. While I learned the California culture. And the goal was for me to take home all the positives I discovered.
My first day in the USA, I shared an elevator with a couple of white people. One of them said, “Do you know it’s our taxes which are being wasted to pay for these people coming to our country?” Of course, she was wrong. But it wound my heart.
A Pharaoh came along who had no idea why the Hebrew immigrants were treated with respect and honor. He cared more about his own people and began to oppress the immigrants. Yet, Egypt survived the seven years of drought because of an immigrant.
Make Egypt Great Again!
History teaches that nations are built by immigrants. Different cultures, different traditions, often lead to new practices. And these new practices are often more effective and productive. But such developments are always thwarted by fear of the other.
The new Pharaoh was afraid of the growing population of the immigrants. He was not sure of their dreams, desires, and plans. Therefore, Pharaoh had serious reservations regarding the innocent immigrants.
And, of course, many rumors about the criminal activities of the Israelites were spread around Egypt. There is nothing new under the sun.
What Is Home? A Place You Belong and Become
More than 32 years ago, I was born in Bulawayo. Home was a small house in a military camp. But before my 9th birthday, we moved to a village in Hurungwe. I learned to call that village home. After all, that’s where my father was buried 7 months later.
I only lived in Hurungwe for less than 2 years. My mother bought a house in a local town. And I had to learn to call that place home. I lived in that house for 7 years and left for college. My mother passed away 3 years before. (You can find the complete story about my struggles growing up an orphan here.)
Home is a place where you do not only belong, it’s the place where you become. Living in America the tension of belonging and becoming was real. The laws in place and a few ignorant people reminded me that I was just an immigrant.
In Becoming Curious, Casey Tygrett observed, “Love gives us roots, develops a sense of belonging, and places us in a relationship with ourselves, with others, and the with the world at large.” My crisis in calling America home is because of the Americans who genuinely loved me and my family. They made America my home.
The Book of Exodus opened me up to a new understanding of what home is. Home is a place you belong and become through an incessant worship in God’s faithful presence. God called Israel home, a place he had promised Abraham, a place he had set apart for them.
When Immigrants Are Called To Be A Nation
The Book of Exodus taught me that even though I’m in this world, I am not of this world. I am an immigrant. My true home is in the faithful presence of God.
At Passover, God reminded the children of Israel that he watches over them. He’s the God who loves them enough to grant them life by imputing their sins on an innocent lamb. Home is a place where forgiveness abounds and mercy resides.
But importantly, home is the place where the character of the head of the household is revealed. God called the Israelites out of the Egyptian oppressive government to be a royal priesthood – a reflection of Christ the Lamb and the Lion of Judah.
I guess that is why Robert Mulholland said, “Identity and value are found in a vital and living relationship with Christ as Lord. This relationship liberates Christians from dependence upon the little systems of order and fragile structures of control.”
Sadly, the Israelites were too comfortable in their adopted systems of order and structures of control. While Moses was on the mountain talking to God, they riveted to the old Egyptian governance. They created an idol. God called them to himself so that they could belong and become. But they chose to be liked and to be like others.
Where do you belong and who are you becoming?