Last summer I had the AMAZING privilege of traveling to Aneby, Sweden for a family reunion. 75 Swedes, and 75 Americans gathered at the heart of the birthplace of our ancestors to celebrate the family bonds that are still held together today.
Ya, ya, I know… we Rystrom’s and our heritage!!(and…fyi- even though I am no longer a Rystrom in name, the Swede in me will never die!)
I’m not kidding, there was so much love and laughter that week. We stayed at an old campground, ate loads of ostakaka, sang (err…tried to sing) Swedish songs, saw the church and home where gg grandma grew up, and just lived life together in Swedish and English!
The story, which ends up being My story, started in the 1800’s with two sister, Maria and Hedwig. Times were hard in Sweden. Famine, religious persecution, illness and poverty gripped Europe tightly. Maria chose to stay and raise her family in Sweden. Hedwig on the other hand chose against all odds to leave with her husband and travel to America. Food and jobs were scarce in Sweden, and with a famine in the land, Hedwig chose to make the horrendous voyage across the sea to a country where she did not know the customs, the language, or the people.
But she did it for love.
Love of God to worship freely.
Love of her children, wanting to give them a better life and more opportunities.
And she suffered.
At the end of her life, Hedwig told a relative that had she known how hard it was, she would not have gone. Life as an immigrant was not easy, but she chose love- to go and give her family a better opportunity. She chose the road of sacrifice.
So here I am, over a hundred years later, a descendent of an incredible woman that made the hard choice to leave her home and everything she knew to make a better life for her family. The prejudice, the struggles, and language barriers Hedwig faced were not in vain. God has blessed her heart and her faithfulness to her family, and I am a living testimony to that.
Her story reminds me of the countless Latina women in my neighborhood who have braved the hardship, in order provide for their precious children.
These are the women who looked around the poverty in their own country and dreamt bigger dreams for their children.
Women who could not look at their starving children anymore and take the heart-wrenching faces of hunger.
Women who saw the lack of education and aspired to something more for their beloved children.
Is that not the heartbeat of every mother, regardless of time in history, language, ethnicity, or origin?
These last few years living on Garnet, I have been encountering epic stories of immigrants that have transformed the way I think and the way I live. No longer does immigration conjure pictures of Ellis Island, or stories of a nameless immigrant in the newspaper.
They are my neighbors. They are my friends.
They are my brothers and sisters in Christ.
and they are brave.
So before we are ever quick to pass judgement on someone who may be different than us, remember that we really are not that different after all. And that we have a lot to learn from one another. and a lot of love to give.
and that mama’s
yes, sweet mama’s
are the same regardless of origin, history, economics, culture