Thoughts on Citizenship from Around the World

Hey friends, today we have a treat for you! We asked the Have You Seen team and the Facebook team to share their thoughts on this prompt: “What _______ taught me about being a citizen” (or citizenship)

Sarah Hilkemann (HYS, Submissions Editor for the summer, Book Club, and Guest Posts) said:

Living in Cambodia the last five years has taught me how to be a global citizen. I will never truly claim Cambodia as my home country, bearing her seal on my passport or having the right to vote. But I have learned to care deeply for the situations that weigh heavy on the hearts of my local friends, to care well for the environment by limiting my use of plastic, picking up trash, and following the laws. As I have rubbed shoulders and held hands with fellow workers and brothers and sisters from around the globe, I have been exposed to so many cultures and issues far beyond those in my passport country. I pay more attention to the news scrolling across my Twitter feed because I know people from those different places. I can share honestly about the joys and concerns of my own country because they care about that too. Living overseas has helped to broaden my perspective and opened my heart to the ways the Father is working all around the world.

Bayta Schwarz (HYS and Connection Group Leadership Team) said:

It started as a one-off event. A friend invited me to a volunteering day. We would clean up a local park, plant flowers in a few empty flower beds, and give out brownies to people we met along the way.I enjoyed it and this one-off event became a fairly regular part of my life.Over the years, I have painted walls, tidied up gardens, played games with senior citizens, people with disabilities and refugee children, chopped vegetables at a soup kitchen and handed out thank you cards to policemen and bus drivers.None of this had anything to do with my organization or ministry focus. It was just me as a person being involved in the city I live in.Somewhere along the way, it dawned on me: I was seeing aspects of life in the city that I would normally never encounter. I was becoming part of the fabric of life here in a way that just sticking to my role would never have achieved. And isn’t that part of being a citizen? Beyond passports and visas, I realized I started to feel like a citizen of this place when I began to be invested beyond my little niche.

Hannah Ayena (Facebook Team, Connection Group Facilitator):

Once my husband’s and my relationship started getting serious we began thinking about becoming citizens of each other’s countries.We knew it would be more difficult for him to become a US citizen than it would be for me to become a citizen of Togo, but we were willing to take the risks since we knew it would allow us to travel freely between both countries. Handing off a weighty envelope containing his application and supporting documents was terrifying knowing that at any step in the process he could be rejected and have to start the process all over. After months of waiting we received a notification that our petition was denied, only for our case to be reopened, and then accepted a few weeks later.When preparing for my husband’s interview at the US Embassy, we compiled every document we’d ever submitted with its copy and translation in addition to extra evidence to prove that our relationship was genuine. The night before it was difficult to sleep knowing that it all came down to the decision of one person so we practiced possible interview questions over and over since that gave us the slightest semblance of control. We would be prepared!Thankfully the interview was a breeze and we are now in the US, but it will still be more than three years before he can become a citizen and the uncertainty still looms.My path to Togolese citizenship was completely the opposite. Other than one stressful day running around the capital on a motorbike collecting all the pieces for my application, the process was smooth, predictable, and efficient. But even though I have a passport that says I’m Togolese I still look, feel, and act like an alien most days. My husband’s citizenship case has offered no assurance of a positive outcome and mine has offered no assurance of actually belonging to the two countries where I claim citizenship. But these frustrating and challenging experiences have shown us a little glimpse of how valuable and incredible the assurance we have as citizens of heaven. Without submitting a single document, paying any fees, or being left waiting for years we know where we belong and what magnificent gifts come with our heavenly citizenship.

Addie Davis (Facebook Team — and full-time student!):

As a student, there are times where it feels almost shameful to talk about citizenship. And when you live between two (or more) countries, it can seem like you float between worlds. What does it mean when I say I’m a citizen? I do not think it means that I fully agree with all of my nation’s policies. Nor does it mean that I care only about my country. In my opinion, citizenship means appreciation and duty. I appreciate the country to which my citizenship belongs, and I want to be a good steward of it. Praying for the country and demonstrating good citizen acts, like respecting leaders and paying taxes, can cultivate an attitude of appreciation.I am an American citizen, but my heritage could have told a different story. You see, my mom was abandoned by her biological parents. Her adoptive parents fell in love with her from the moment they saw her name on the South Korean paperwork. After adopting her, my grandparents brought my mom to their passport country: the United States. There is a picture of my mom, a little bit older, wearing her nice dress and holding an American flag. I’m not saying that this happened because one nation is “better” than another. No, I’m just telling you our story. We will always have our heritage, but we will always appreciate the story that unfolded out of her citizenship. Korean citizen? American citizen? Somewhere in between or not at all? God still calls us to glorify Him in everything, including citizenship. We can do this through appreciating the ties we’ve had with that country and through remembering where our true citizenship belongs: the Kingdom of God.


Thanks Have You Seen and Facebook team for the ways you serve the great Velvet Ashes Community!

How would you answer the question:“What _______ taught me about being a citizen” (or citizenship)?

Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

1 Comment

  1. Spring June 28, 2018

    what living in Belize taught me about being a citizen is that we all live in our own separate spaces. The world can seem so small,even though we “technically” have it at our fingertips. So many things can affect me here, and I feel removed from my country of citizenship. It has also taught me the value of belonging. For us the process of getting the visas/residency we want takes long and isn’t a fun process. I don’t wish it to be any different. It does help me appreciate what others have gone through in my passport country to gain their citizenship.

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