In Search of a Better Life
GEORGE felt desperate. He could not get enough food for his family. At the same time, neighbors were getting sick, and some appeared to be starving. A few hundred miles to the south, however, lay a richer country. ‘I’ll move abroad, find a job, and then have my family join me,’ he thought.
Patricia also dreamed of a new life abroad. She had no work and few opportunities. She and her boyfriend decided to travel from Nigeria to Algeria, on their way to Spain, unaware of how harsh the journey across the Sahara Desert would be. “I was pregnant,” she said, “and I was determined to give my child a better life.”
Rachel wanted a new start in Europe. She had lost her job in the Philippines, and relatives assured her that domestic work was plentiful abroad. So she borrowed money for the plane fare and said farewell to her husband and daughter, promising them, “We won’t be separated for long.”
It is estimated that more than 200 million people like George, Patricia, and Rachel have moved abroad in recent decades. Although some have fled from wars, natural disasters, or persecution, most have moved for economic reasons. What problems have migrants faced in their new land? Do all find the better life they seek? How do children fare when a parent leaves in search of a better income? Consider the following answers to these questions.
Getting There and Getting Established
The first challenge of moving abroad is often the journey itself. George, mentioned in the first article, traveled hundreds of miles (km) with little food. “The journey was a nightmare,” he recalls. Many immigrants never even arrive at their destination.
Patricia’s goal was to reach Spain. She traveled in an open truck across the Sahara Desert. “The journey from Nigeria to Algeria took us a week, and 25 people were crammed into the truck. En route, we saw many corpses, as well as people just wandering about in the desert waiting to die. Apparently, some truck drivers heartlessly abandon passengers along the way.”
Unlike George and Patricia, Rachel was able to fly to Europe, where domestic work awaited her. But she never imagined how much she would miss her two-year-old daughter. “Every time I saw a mother caring for her young child, I felt sick inside,” she recalls.
George struggled to adapt to his new country. Months passed before he could send money home. “Many nights, I cried because of loneliness and frustration,” he admits.
After several months in Algeria, Patricia reached the Moroccan border. “There,” she says, “I gave birth to my baby daughter. I had to hide from traffickers who abduct migrant women and force them into prostitution. Finally, I got enough money for the risky sea crossing to Spain. The boat was in bad shape and ill-equipped for the large number of passengers. We had to bail water out of the boat with our shoes! When we beached at Spain, I did not have the strength to walk ashore.”
Of course, would-be migrants should take into account more than the possible risks associated with travel. They should also consider potential language and cultural barriers in the new land, as well as the cost and legal complications of trying to become citizens or permanent residents there. Those who fail to obtain legal status often find it hard to obtain good employment, quality housing, education, or health care. They may also find it difficult to obtain a driver’s license or a bank account. And all too often, undocumented immigrants are exploited, perhaps as a source of cheap labor.
Another factor to consider is money itself. Really, how secure is it? The Bible gives this sound advice: “Be wise enough not to wear yourself out trying to get rich. Your money can be gone in a flash, as if it had grown wings and flown away like an eagle.” (Proverbs 23:4, 5, Good News Translation) Keep in mind, too, that our greatest needs are for things that money cannot buy
As humans, we also have a spiritual need. (Matthew 5:3) Hence, responsible parents do everything in their power to fulfill their God-given responsibility to teach their children about God, his purpose, and his standards.
A United Family
—More Important Than Money
The stories of immigrants may vary, but many have a common thread, as can be seen in the examples of George, Rachel, and Patricia, mentioned earlier in this series of articles. The family suffers when a parent departs or a spouse leaves his or her mate, and years may go by before the family is reunited. In the case of George’s family, that took over four years.
Rachel finally flew back to the Philippines to get her daughter after being separated from her for nearly five years. Patricia reached Spain with her baby daughter in her arms. “She is all the family I have, so I try to take good care of her,” Patricia says.
Many immigrants stick it out in their new country despite loneliness, economic setbacks, and a prolonged separation from their family. They have invested so much in the move that when things do not work out, few have the courage to cut their losses and go home to face possible disgrace and humiliation.
One who did have such courage was Allan, from the Philippines. He found a good job in Spain, but 18 months later, he returned home. “I missed my wife and my young daughter too much,” he says. “I decided I would never work abroad again unless we could emigrate as a family. And this is what we eventually did. Family is far more important than money.”
Something else is also more important than money, as Patricia discovered. She arrived in Spain with a copy of the “New Testament,” or Christian Greek Scriptures. “I viewed the book as a charm,” she said. “Then I came in contact with a woman who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Previously, I was not interested in talking to representatives of this religion. So I asked the Witness many questions in order to expose her beliefs as wrong. But, contrary to what I thought, she was able to defend her beliefs and answer my questions right from the Bible.”
What Patricia learned taught her that having lasting happiness and a sure hope for the future depend not on location or money but on having insight into God and his purpose for us. (John 17:3) Among other things, Patricia learned that the true God has a name