This post was originally published on Lindsey Lautsbaugh’s blog at http://www.thisisloveactually.com/immigrants-orphans-jesus/ on December 1, 2014 and is re-posted with permission.
My maternal grandparents were immigrants from Norway. My Grandma Edie would enthrall me with the story of her first sighting of American soil. As a young girl, she peaked through the window of the ship, and there stood the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, New York City.
When Grandma Edie and Grandpa John fought around my sister and me, often they would do it in Norwegian so we couldn’t understand what they were saying! My grandmother made fish-balls and lutefisk and lefse. The town they lived in was full of Norwegian immigrants, and its official motto is still “Little Norway.”
Being surrounded by so many Norwegians brought the inevitable Swedish jokes. I just thought it was like an old high school rivalry. I didn’t know why Norwegians and Swedes teased each other; it’s just what we did. In fact, my Grandfather posted a sign at the top of his drive-way that said, “Norwegians Only! No Swedes Allowed!” Little did I know that this rivalry came out of a deep-rooted history. But it was all good fun for the family in those times.
The last two weeks I’ve thought a lot about my precious grandparents. I was always acutely aware we were a Norwegian-American family. But there was so much I never knew to ask them. They were immigrants. The family didn’t know English when they came, I know that. But what else? What was it like to be foreigners in a strange land?
The reason I thought of this was because I’ve been surrounded by a whole new set of “foreigners” here in South Africa. My husband and I bought a house, and we are doing a few renovations this month before we move in. We’ve had the privilege of hiring a number of men from Malawi to help us with some of the work.