This morning I read an article shared by a dear friend and sister in Christ, and my heart broke. It was written by a Venezuelan professional whose family recently fled the political climate of their beloved country to seek refuge and a new beginning in Canada. (Full story: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-i-left-venezuela-2014-7)
How blessed is my life. Today, in our own hemisphere, people are still living under communist, socialist, dictatorial or military rule. Just a few hours away from the freedoms we celebrate this July 4th, people have been stripped of rights and simple privileges that we in the US often take for granted. In Venezuela, basic items like shampoo, yogurt, eggs and toilet paper are hard to come by. So it was in my parent’s day and so it is in Cuba today as well. Imagine your grocery store … with no groceries. Imagine things you bought and worked hard for being taken from you, claimed by the state. Imagine not being allowed to travel, speak or worship freely. Imagine lack of infrastructure or access to unpolluted water. Imagine being afraid to go outside.
My life could have been so different. Thank God, by His grace and mercy I am a first generation American. Mom and Dad also were able to make the brave, bold choice to leave their beloved home back in the late 50’s, when the Castro regime began it’s rise to power. This morning’s read brought alive in my mind their stories of Cuba before, the effects on the country and her people as conflicts arose between those in power and those hungry for it, the details surrounding their flee to this country. This morning’s words gripped my throat, my heart cried out in silent prayer for all those surviving oppression in Venezuela and Cuba, in the absence of freedom.
Mom and Dad left behind friends and family, a home and community, an established profession, all their worldly possessions and any savings, as everyone’s money was held by the government controlled bank. They left … Mom and Dad and my oldest brother … with plane tickets, enough clothes for a month, their hearts in conflict with sorrow, fear and hope. Some months after they had already settled in the US, my mother (ironically, a Venezuelan citizen) literally risked her life by going back to Cuba to rescue and bring out my grandfather, claiming he was her husband. At that time my grandfather was still unwilling to leave his home. They almost didn’t make it out. My mom and grandfather were detained on the tarmac at the airport in Havana at rifle-point by military guards, men who were at one time neighbors and acquaintances. Many Cuban-Americans in exile share similar stories, now some of our Venezuelan brothers and sisters, those who are able, are also making a break for freedom.
It’s important to remember what a gift it is to live here, to recognize and deeply honor the sacrifices of those before us, to remember battles won and lost, to cherish the history that brought us to this time and place that we as Americans are blessed to enjoy. Savor it, rejoice this in place of freedom. Give heartfelt thanks and praise to God, who by His mercy allows us to live in peace. Celebrate and never forget the cost of our freedom. And pray, pray without ceasing, cry out to God for our brothers and sisters in countries like Venezuela and Cuba, may God bless, protect and provide, may they one day enjoy deliverance from oppression. May their countries be healed and restored, in His precious Son’s name.