Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The USA (01/08/09)
- TITLE: Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord Will Provide
By Beth Muehlhausen
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I caught my first glimpse of the United States as a twelve-year-old immigrant from Germany. After ten rocky and seasick days, my mother, sister and I stood amidst Atlantic sea-spray and squinted against glints of reflected morning sunlight toward a hazy, soon-to-emerge shoreline. It was May 24, 1956.
One of the deck hands heightened our expectations with his enthusiasm. “Keep watching…you will see the Statue of Liberty before long.”
I peered even harder through the morning mist as the boat rolled and tossed on giant swells. Eventually I jumped in place and pointed. “There she is! See, her arm is held high to welcome us! LIBERTY!”
A hush fell over the previously noisy passengers who stretched their arms past the iron rails of the boat to somehow shorten the distance, if even by mere inches. Tears flowed.
Once on shore, a stranger offered sandwiches made of strange white bread that tasted more like cake. We boarded a train and traveled though the night to Albany, New York where a factory owner evidently needed workers. He promised to sponsor us and provide a rental house.
The next morning we were greeted by lush grass glistening with dew-spangled, early-summer green. Our New England town looked pristine and oh-so-beautiful with its clean, very tidy, all-white houses. Down the street from our rental house stood an inviting white church with an imposing bell tower - clearly the central landmark of the town.
Our possessions were few, only what fit in a box the size of a small office desk during our voyage. However, our hearts and minds overflowed with residual emotional baggage in the form of war-torn memories.
I was born while my father fought and died in World War II; he never met me. My mother sacrificed greatly for her two daughters. Our meals often consisted of watery soup made with potatoes or cabbage scavenged from fields after harvest; she ate mostly broth. However, we felt blessed to have something to eat and an abandoned US army barracks to call home.
My first impression of Americans was of a gentle people who wanted to help us. I remember feeling comforted by their very presence. Americans appeared to genuinely believe in God; they revered their country as a haven of safety and peace.
We began attending a Lutheran church in a town near Albany. Every Sunday a parishioner picked us up and delivered us to-and-from in his car.
“This is a chance to show our faith in God and welcome this woman and her daughters,” the pastor explained from the pulpit. “Invite this family to dinner – get to know them.”
Every Sunday for a long time we shared dinner with various people in their homes. They respected, honored, and loved us deeply.
My teacher at school went to great length to help me integrate and learn English. Even before I could understand every word, I knew my classmates were very proud of their country. They carefully and methodically explained American concepts to me like “freedom of speech” and the “right to bear arms.” They also impressed upon me that they would never be involved in another war - not EVER.
We prayed in school, and during assembly sang Christian and patriotic songs together. I specifically remember “Onward Christian Soldiers” as one of my favorites.
When Christmas drew near we received an invitation from a family in our church to share the holiday in their home. Christmas in the United States was clearly a time to prioritize compassion. Gifts among family members were sparing but meaningful, while the real focus was on reaching out to others.
The following summer I played in a public swimming pool with my friends, a place where the Lord redeemed my difficult younger childhood. Beautiful gardens full of mouth-watering vegetables peeked from back yards. Church continued to be an integral part of life for both young and old. No matter where I went, laughter and wholesome conversation uplifted me. For the first time in my life I heard delightful stories about recreational fishing – not to provide food, but just for fun!
Was I in Paradise? It seemed God’s hand had scooped me out of deprivation and want and delivered me to this land of security, optimism, and great wealth of soul and spirit.
“Thank you, Lord,” I prayed many times, “for bringing me from a place torn by fear and want to the United States of America – a land where people’s hearts are ruled by Your mercy, truth and goodness.”
This story is predominately non-fiction. The main character continues to trust in God’s ongoing provisions, and gives Him glory as Jehovah-Jireh (“the Lord will provide”).
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