Esta es una serie de muchas partes.

Miedos

Paz en el medio de las incertidumbres

Por Carolina Acosta

Cuando siento miedo pongo en ti mi confianza. ​Salmo 56:3

La Experiencia de Inmigración - Miedos

Cuando inmigramos al país que decidimos será nuestro nuevo hogar llegamos con las maletas cargadas no solo de ropa sino también llena de muchos miedos y expectativas.

Esos miedos comienzan mucho antes de propiamente entrar en otro país. Comienzan desde el momento que empezamos a pensar en la decisión de inmigrar. Es el miedo a lo desconocido, ¿Me voy a adaptar? ¿Conseguiré una buena escuela para mis hijos, una casa que me guste, un buen trabajo?

Otro miedo común es el miedo a fracasar. Muchas personas toman la decisión de inmigrar tomando un gran riesgo a la hora de vender sus propiedades, algunos incluso invierten todo lo que tienen materialmente hablando para perseguir ese sueño. Algunos otros dejan incluso en sus países lo que les ha costado lograr durante toda su vida: casas, carros, empresas, etc. Es por ello que muchas personas pueden pasar años para tomar la decisión con el temor enorme de fracasar y perder todo lo invertido en ello.

Los miedos también dependen de las circunstancias personales. Es diferente llegar a un país con trabajo, con dinero suficiente para empezar, con estabilidad económica, o por lo menos apoyo familiar, por el contrario, llegar sin dinero, sin trabajo, sin conocer a nadie. Hay personas que ni siquiera habían visitado antes el país a donde inmigraron. Algunos han tenido oportunidad para planear. Otros han tenido que salir de un momento al otro sin ningún tiempo para prepararse debido a circunstancias de seguridad, políticas, de salud, o circunstancias personales. Todos estos factores determinan la severidad de los miedos que se sienten.

 

Listing my fears...

Tuve la oportunidad de entrevistar algunos amigos y familiares acerca de sus miedos cuando ellos inmigraron, y este es un resumen de lo que dijeron:

  • miedo a ser rechazado (Xenofobia),
  • miedo a no poder aprender el idioma,
  • miedo a perderse por no conocer las calles,
  • miedo a ir a la tienda y que no le entiendan lo que necesitan comprar,
  • miedo a manejar en la nieve,
  • miedo a aprender a hacer cosas diferentes como pagar los servicios,
  • miedo por la seguridad,
  • miedo a no encontrar amigos,
  • miedo a no encontrar una buena escuela para sus hijos,
  • miedo a estar solo,
  • miedo a tomar la decisión equivocada,
  • miedo por la situación legal,
  • miedo a que no aprueben los documentos,
  • miedo a que la familia que se quedó se enferme y no poder ir a verlos.
  • algunos tienen temor a que le secuestren a sus hijos, o perderlos de alguna manera.


Estoy segura que esta lista es más larga y que cada quien puede añadir sus miedos únicos durante esta experiencia de vida.

Aprendiendo a Manejar tus miedos…

Es normal tener miedo en un momento de cambio. Como mencionamos anteriormente, hay cambios muy grandes cuando inmigramos. El problema se hace severo cuando la ansiedad comienza a afectarnos negativamente. La ansiedad nos roba nuestro gozo. La ansiedad no nos permite pensar claramente, nubla la razón. La ansiedad puede afectar nuestras decisiones, puede paralizarnos, incluso podemos hasta enfermarnos físicamente. Es por eso que es muy importante aprender a manejar nuestras emociones y lograr sentir paz aun en el medio de las incertidumbres.

Algunas personas tienen una tendencia natural de ser más ansiosas que otras. Una reacción cuando tenemos esa tendencia es que vamos a querer controlar las diferentes situaciones en nuestra vida. En la experiencia de inmigrar no podemos controlar todas las cosas, son demasiadas variables en la ecuación; además que no podemos controlar lo que no conocemos. En muchas ocasiones estamos en una posición de solamente quedarnos quietos, como Dios nos pide:

Quédense quieto, reconozcan que Yo soy Dios. Salmo 56:3

La ansiedad puede darnos la oportunidad de ver como Dios se encarga de organizar nuestras vidas para nosotros, de abrir puertas laborales, encontrando la escuela para nuestros hijos, la casa que necesitamos, etc.

Map from fear to trustDurante estos 25 años de mi historia de inmigración he acompañado a muchos amigos y familiares que han inmigrado, y ha sido maravilloso ver como Dios va desarrollando su plan una y otra vez, y por supuesto aun lo sigue haciendo. He podido ser testigo de cómo El ha ido armando ese rompecabezas de vida para cada uno acorde a su plan que tiene preparado de antemano.

En la Biblia, hay muchas historias acerca de Dios ayudando a su pueblo durante experiencias de inmigración. Una de ellas es cuando los Israelitas dirigidos por Moisés viajaron durante 40 años en el desierto en búsqueda de la tierra prometida. Podemos ver milagros tras milagros desde que salieron de Egipto hasta que finalmente entraron a la Tierra Prometida. Dios los acompaño, mostrando el camino y proveyendo para ellos materialmente y espiritualmente.

“Los israelitas partieron de Sucot y acamparon en Etam, donde comienza el desierto. 21 De día, el Señor iba al frente de ellos en una columna de nube para indicarles el camino; de noche, los alumbraba con una columna de fuego. De ese modo, podían viajar de día y de noche. 22 Jamás la columna de nube dejaba de guiar al pueblo durante el día ni la columna de fuego durante la noche”. Éxodo 13:20-21

Inmigrar se va a convertir en una lección de vida de Aprender a Confiar en Dios. “Cuando tengo miedo Yo pongo mi confianza en Ti” Salmo 56:3. Parece un mensaje sencillo, pero los que sufrimos de ansiedad sabemos que realmente no es tan sencillo. Es una batalla diaria que tenemos que pelear. Pero también es un aprendizaje de vida que nos permite aprender a Confiar en Dios principalmente, no en las personas, no en nuestro dinero, no en nosotros mismos, sino en Dios.

Nos puede ayudar si recordamos que cuando éramos niños y nos asustábamos corríamos a los brazos de nuestros padres. Como hacen nuestros hijos con nosotros actualmente. Así mismo, debemos correr a los brazos de nuestro Padre celestial y encontrar el consuelo en El , y la guía para este nuevo comienzo. Cuando más asustados estemos, mayor es la oportunidad de buscar a nuestro Padre Celestial. Corramos a sus brazos. Y si tal vez no has estado tan cerca de Él, entonces esta es una oportunidad perfecta para conocerlo, en Su Palabra (las cartas de Amor de Dios para ti). Cuando estamos más vulnerables y necesitados , entones Su Palabra va a ser una bálsamo para nuestro corazón y nuestra mente. Vamos a poder descansar en Sus brazos.

Descansar en Dios significa confiar en El. Confiar en que si Dios resolvió mi problema principal, que es mi salvación, por supuesto va a poder resolver cualquier problema o situación que la experiencia de Inmigración va a traer. Eso es exactamente lo que El quiere que hagamos, confiar en El en cada situación, sea grande o pequeña. Entonces vamos a sentir Su Paz en nuestros corazones y mentes independientemente de las circunstancias. Como Dios nos lo recuerda en su Palabra:

No se inquieten por nada; más bien en toda ocasión, con oración y ruego, presenten sus peticiones a Dios y denle gracias. Y la paz de Dios, que sobrepasa todo entendimiento, cuidara sus corazones y sus pensamientos en Cristo Jesús. Filipenses 4:6-7

Aquí hay unas IDEAS PRACTICAS:

    1. Identifica tus miedos… Tengo miedo a…
    2. Comparte tus miedos. Habla con alguien que solamente este dispuesto a escuchar, sin juzgarte… También es posible buscar ayuda profesional si sientes que es necesario.
    3. Aprende a confrontar los pensamientos que generan la ansiedad. Entender que aunque tengo miedo a…no significa que realmente eso va a pasar.
    4. ¿Hacerte la pregunta que es lo peor que puede pasar?, Piensa que incluso cuando algo malo Dios va a estar allí también, ayudándonos con la solución, dándonos la fortaleza y la paciencia para soportar las dificultades. Incluso además tenemos Su promesa que va a usar todo (lo bueno y lo malo) para el bien de quienes lo aman (Romanos 8:28). Entonces aprendemos a descansar en El.
    5. Haz una lista de prioridades, enfócate en cada una de ellas, una a la vez, es como armar un rompecabezas, un paso a la vez: la escuela, la casa, el trabajo, etc.
    6. Escoge un versículo (o varios) que sean tu ancla para los momentos de ansiedad. Si puedes memorizarlo. Escuche un día que hay 365 versículos en la Biblia que hablan de la ansiedad.
    7. Pide a personas cercanas que oren por ti.
    8. Recuerda el cuidado de ti mismo en todos los aspectos: mente, cuerpo y espíritu. Refuerza tu vida devocional con tu familia, Lee la Biblia, ora, acude a la Iglesia.
    9. Toma un tiempo para hacer una actividad física que te guste. La ansiedad se queda en el cuerpo. Cuando estamos tensos hasta nos podemos enfermar porque debilita nuestro sistema inmunológico.
    10. Aprende técnicas de respiración y relajación.
    11. Duerme bien.
    12. Evita hábitos no saludables de relajación como tomar alcohol en exceso, uso de drogas, o comer en exceso.

Es mi oración para ti que esta experiencia de inmigrar se convierta en una oportunidad de aprender a confiar y descansar en Dios, en Su plan, en el Espíritu Santo que nos guía en las decisiones, y que logres vivir cada día con tu corazón lleno de SU PAZ, en el medio de todas las incertidumbres.

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series La Experiencia de Inmigración

Fears…

Peace in the middle of uncertainties

By Carolina Acosta

When I am afraid I put my trust in You. Psalm 56:3

The Immigration Experience series - Christian Therapist Network
When we immigrate to the country that we decided would be our new home we arrive with suitcases loaded not only with clothes but also with a lot of fears and expectations.

Those fears begin long before we actually enter another country. They begin from the moment we start thinking about the decision to immigrate. It is the fear of the unknown, Am I going to adapt? Will I find a good school for my children, a house that I like, a good job?

Another common one is the fear of failure. Many people make the decision to immigrate, taking a great risk when selling their properties, some even invest everything they have, materially speaking, to pursue that dream. Some others leave in their countries of origin all their belongings they worked for their whole life: houses, cars, companies, etc. That is why many people can spend years making the decision to immigrate with the enormous fear of failing and losing everything invested in it.

Fears also depend on personal circumstances. It is different to arrive in a country with a job, with enough money to start, with economic stability, and at least family support, than it is to arrive without money, without a job, without knowing anyone. There are people who had not even visited the country they want to immigrate to prior to immigration. Some have had the opportunity to plan. Others have had to leave all of a sudden with no time to prepare due to security, political, health issues, or personal circumstances. All these factors will determine the severity of the fears they feel.

 

Listing my fears

I took the opportunity to interview some friends and family members about their fears when they immigrated and this is a
summary list from it:

  • fear of being rejected (Xenophobia),
  • fear of not being able to learn the language,
  • fear of getting lost because they don’t know the streets,
  • fear of going to the store and not being able to understand what they need to buy,
  • fear of driving in the snow,
  • fear of learning to do different things like paying for services,
  • fear of safety,
  • fear of not finding friends,
  • fear of not finding a good school for their children,
  • fear of being alone,
  • fear of making the wrong decision,
  • fear of the legal situation,
  • fear that the immigration documents will not be approved,
  • fear that the family that stayed in their former country will get sick and not be able to see them again,
  • some are even afraid of having their children kidnapped, of losing them in some way.


I know for sure the list is longer and everybody can add their own unique fears that they encounter during this life experience of immigration.

Learning to manage our fears…

It is normal to be afraid at a time of change. As we mentioned before, we have big changes when immigrating. The problem becomes severe when this anxiety starts affecting us negatively in our life. Anxiety steals our joy. Anxiety does not allow us to think clearly. Anxiety can affect our decisions. It can paralyze us, even can make us physically get sick. This is why it is very important to learn to manage our emotions and be able to feel peace in the middle of the uncertainties.

Some people have a natural tendency to be more anxious than others. One reaction when we have this tendency is that we want to control the different situations in our life. In an immigration experience we cannot control everything. There are too many variables in the equation. Plus, we cannot control what we do not know. In many occasions, we get into a position that we just need to stay still, like God is commanding us to:

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Anxiety can provide us with an opportunity to see how God is in charge of organizing our lives for us, opening job doors, finding the right school for our children, the house we need, etc.

Trust map - A puzzle of fear solved when trusting in God - Immigration Experience - Christian 
 Therapist NetworkDuring these 25 years of my immigration story I have been by the side of many friends and family who have immigrated, and it has been wonderful to see how God developed his plan repeatedly, and of course, how He still does. I have been able to witness how He has been putting together everyone’s life puzzle according to His plan that He has prepared in advance.

In the Bible, there are so many stories about God helping his people during immigration experiences. One of them is when the Israelites led by Moses travelled in the desert about 40 years looking for the Promised Land. We can see miracle after miracle from the time they left Egypt until they finally enter to the Promise Land. God accompanied them, showing the way and provided for them materially and spiritually.

“The Israelites left Sukkot and camped at Etham, where the desert begins. By day, the LORD went before them in a pillar of cloud to show them the way; At night, he illuminated them with a pillar of fire. That way, they could travel day and night.  The pillar of cloud never failed to guide the people during the day nor the pillar of fire during the night”. Exodus 13:20-21

Immigrating becomes a life lesson of learning to Trust in God. “When I am afraid I put my trust in You” Psalm 56:3. It seems like a simple message. But those of us who suffer from anxiety know that it really is not that simple. It is a daily battle that we have to fight. But it is also an opportunity to learn to trust in God, not in people, not in our money, not in ourselves, but in God.

It can help us if we remember that when we were children and we were scared we ran into the arms of our parents. Our children may do that with us right now. In the same way, we must run into the arms of our Heavenly Father and find comfort in Him, and guidance for this new beginning. The more scared we are, the more opportunity we have to seek our Heavenly Father. Let us run into his arms. If perhaps you have not been so close to Him, then this is a perfect opportunity to get to know Him in His Word (God’s letters of Love to you). When we are most vulnerable and needy, then His Word will be a balm for our hearts and minds. We are going to be able to rest in His arms.

Resting in God means trusting Him. Trusting that if God solved my main problem, which is my salvation, of course he will be able to solve any problem or situation that the Immigration experience will bring. That is exactly what He want us to do, to trust him in every situation whether it is small or big. Then we are going to feel his Peace in our hearts and minds regarding any circumstances. Like God reminds us in his word:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Here are some PRACTICAL IDEAS:

  1. Identify your fears… “I am afraid of….” Pay attention to your “ What If…?”
  2. Share your fears. Talk to someone who is only willing to listen, without judging you… It is also possible to seek professional help if you feel it is necessary.
  3. Learn to confront your anxiety related thoughts. Understand that although I am afraid of… it does not mean that it will really happen.
  4. Ask yourself the question, “what is the worst thing that can happen?” Think that even when something bad happens God will be there too, helping us with solutions, giving us the strength and patience to endure any difficulties. We even has His promise He will use everything (good and bad) for the good of those who love Him.( Romans 8:28). Then we learn to rest in Him.
  5. Make a list of priorities, focusing on each of them, one at a time. It is like putting together a puzzle, one step at a time: school, home, work, etc.
  6. Choose a verse (or several) that will be your anchor for moments of anxiety. You can even memorize it. I heard one day that there are 365 verses in the Bible that talk about anxiety.
  7. Ask people close to you to pray for you.
  8. Remember self-care: in all aspects: mind, body and spirit. Strengthen your devotional life with your family, read the Bible, pray, go to church.
  9.  Take some time to do a physical activity that you like. Remember anxiety stays in the body. When we feel tense, we can even get sick because it weakens our immune system.
  10. Learn breathing and relaxation techniques.
  11. Sleep well.
  12. Avoid unhealthy coping skills. These are things like drinking alcohol in excess, substance abuse, emotional eating.

It is my prayer for you that this experience of immigrating becomes an opportunity to learn to trust and rest in God, in His plan, in the Holy Spirit that guides us making decisions, and that you live each day with your heart full of HIS PEACE, in the middle of all the uncertainties.

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series The Immigrant Experience
Esta es una serie de muchas partes.

Confiar

Impacto en la Salud Mental y Espiritual en la experiencia de Inmigración

Por Carolina Acosta

Se fuerte y valiente. No tengas miedo, ni te desanimes!. Porque el SEÑOR tu Dios te acompañara dondequiera que vayas. Josué 1:9

La Experiencia de Inmigración - Miedos

Las palabras de Dios son muy apropiadas para recordar en una experiencia de inmigración, que impacta no solo la vida de una persona de diferentes maneras, sino también la vida de las generaciones futuras: hijos, nietos, bisnietos, etc.

Estados Unidos es considerado uno de los países que ha recibido más inmigrantes que cualquier otra sociedad. Hay muchas razones por las que la gente emigra. Las personas se mudan en busca de trabajo u oportunidades económicas, para reunirse con sus familias o para estudiar. Otros se mudan para escapar del conflicto, la persecución, el terrorismo o las violaciones de derechos humanos, factores ambientales como desastres naturales, etc.

En mi caso, la experiencia de inmigrar comenzó hace casi 25 años por motivos laborales. Nací en Venezuela, un país de América del Sur. Aunque, cuando lo pienso, nací con la inmigración en mis venas, porque mis abuelos maternos emigraron desde España y algunas islas del Caribe.

A los 28 años, mi esposo, mi prometido en ese momento, aceptó una oferta laboral para trabajar en Miami, Florida. Nos casamos y nos fuimos de luna de miel, llenos de sueños e ilusiones, a empezar una nueva vida. También recuerdo tener algunos sentimientos encontrados por la separación de mis padres, el resto de mis familiares y amigos, y la posibilidad de no poder ejercer mi profesión de psiquiatra. Aunque en teoría podemos decir que fue inmigración, Miami realmente se siente como una extensión de América Latina por el clima, el idioma español que predomina y la cantidad de inmigrantes que viven allí. Debido a la cercanía con Venezuela, familiares y amigos frecuentemente venían a visitarnos, o nosotros íbamos a Venezuela. Además, los familiares de mi esposo también se mudaron cerca, lo que rápidamente llenó el sentimiento de soledad y necesidad de familia que sentí en algún momento. Fueron 8 años de bendiciones, tras bendiciones.

Miami fue el lugar que Dios eligió para concocer verdaderamente quién es Él, Su amor y Sus promesas, cuando comenzamos a asistir a una Iglesia Luterana.

Otras de mis mayores bendiciones fue cuando nacieron mis dos hijos. También fue el lugar donde mi esposo sintió el llamado a ser pastor, razón por la cual nos mudamos a Wisconsin, para asistier al seminario.

Fue en Wisconsin, donde pude sentir y vivir plenamente la experiencia de inmigrar. Allí puedo decir que experimenté plenamente el CAMBIO en todas sus expresiones.

El “cambio” es una realidad que va de la mano con la experiencia de inmigrar. Generalmente hay un desafío cuando hay un cambio en solo una área de nuestra vida. Por ejemplo, podría ser un cambio de trabajo, escuela o vecindario. Pero cuando inmigramos experimentamos ese cambio, de un dia para otro, en la mayoría de las áreas de nuestra vida. Experimentamos cambios en la cultura, el idioma, el clima, las tradiciones, la comida, los estilos de adoración en la Iglesia , el trabajo, la profesión, entre otros.

Fuimos a Wisconsin con la emoción de esta nueva vida y un proyecto de vida significativo, que sentía como si Dios mismo estuviera llamando a mi esposo. Pero las emociones que surgieron de esos cambios comenzaron a afectarnos desde el primer día de nuestra llegada. Recuerdo, por ejemplo, el sentimiento de tristeza cuando nos mudamos a Germantown, Wisconsin.

My DaughterMi hija de casi 4 años, que era muy sociable y le encantaba conversar, llegó a la casa llorando porque no entendía nada de lo que le hablaban unas niñas del vecindario. Estaba tan frustrada que nos pidió que no le habláramos más en español porque quería aprender a hablar inglés. Esta fue una frustración que entendí perfectamente porque yo tampoco hablaba inglés, en ese entonces y no me podía comunicarme con los maestros de mi hija, los vecinos, mis hermanos cristianos en la iglesia,etc.

Tambien recuerdo el sentimiento de vergüenza y confusión cuando conocí a un miembro de la iglesia, y lo besé en la mejilla (como lo hacemos en Miami y América Latina) y él inmediatamente se sonrojó. Luego aprendí que dar la mano es la forma apropiada de saludar aquí en los Estados Unidos. También había incertidumbre y miedo. ¿Vamos a poder adaptarnos a vivir en el invierno, ya que nunca habíamos experimentado esas temperaturas climáticas tan extremas?. ¡Este miedo se intensificó con los comentarios de la gente cuando me preguntaban qué estaba pensando al mudarme de Florida a Wisconsin! Casi me miraron como si fuera el mayor error que podía cometer. Todo por como es el invierno en Wisconsin. No quiero aburrirlos contando otras experiencias. Sólo quiero expresar que hubo tantas veces con emociones tan fuertes que incluso sentí en ocasiones que tenía muchas ganas de regresarme a Miami.

Extrañaba mucho Miami, mi Iglesia, mi padre espiritual, mis sobrinos, mis amigos, mi profesión, la playa donde íbamos todos los fines de semana, los restaurantes venezolanos y colombianos, mi gimnasio, mi oficina, entre otros. Esto nos lleva a otra palabra muy importante relacionada con esta experiencia de inmigración. Es la palabra DUELO. A cada uno de nosotros nos tocó vivir nuestro duelo con todas sus etapas y emociones envueltas.

Recuerdo que mi hija, cuando se frustraba por el idioma u otras cosas en la escuela, decía a sus maestras: “Me regreso a Miami”. Se sentaba en un banco en el pasillo de la escuela. Sus maestras fueron muy amables y pacientes. Le permitieron regresar a Miami (un banco en el pasillo) y luego volver a Milwaukee (su salón de clases) cuando estuviera lista.

Todos los miembros de nuestra familia sufrimos con la ansiedad de tantos cambios, incluidas las incertidumbres financieras. Tomó tiempo adaptarnos a esos cambios. Teníamos muchos sentimientos de soledad y de duelo por lo que quedó atrás. No recuerdo exactamente cuando esos sentimientos y emociones empezaron a calmarse. Fue un proceso.

 

I learned that

Al reflexionar ahora puedo comprender algunas de las cosas que aprendí y que me ayudaron en ese proceso:

  • Aprendí a fijar la mirada y centrarme en lo permanente, en lo que nunca cambia: Dios, su amor y sus promesas. … “porque el Señor mi Dios me acompañara a dondequiera que vaya”.
  • Aprendí la importancia del desapego y la importancia de intentar “estar contento sean cuales sean las circunstancias”… incluso en pleno invierno.
  • Aprendí que lo que le da valor a un lugar, a una casa, no es lo que vale, sino los recuerdos que tenemos en ellos. Entonces le pedí a Dios paciencia, esperar para construir esos recuerdos nuevamente, con nuevos amigos, nuevas personas que Dios pondrá en mi camino.
  • Aprendí a aceptar el cambio como parte de la vida, no resistirme al cambio. Aunque no fue fácil porque lo natural es aferrarse a lo conocido, quedarse en la zona de confort. Aprendí a abrirme a nuevas experiencias, con nuevas personas de diferentes países, diferentes culturas, nuevas comidas: comida mexicana, comida alemana, nuevas celebraciones (4 de julio, Acción de Gracias), nuevo clima, la oportunidad de aprender un nuevo idioma: inglés. , spanglish (idioma oficial de Miami) y varias versiones de español (mexicano, puertorriqueño).
  • Aprendí que Dios abrirá puertas y oportunidades para servir, incluso en otro pais. Estas oportunidades podrían estar en nuestra misma profesión. Pero tambien podrían venir en una nueva profesión como le pasó a mi esposo que estudió ingeniería en Venezuela y Dios lo llamó a ser Pastor aquí en Estados Unidos.
  • Aprendí a confiar en el plan de Dios, más que en el mío. Aprendí a confiar en que estos cambios son diseñados por el Creador de mi vida. Cuando decidimos mudarnos a Miami, nunca pensé en el maravilloso plan que Dios tenía para mí: conocerlo en profundidad y saber quién es Él, su amor y sus promesas. Quizás eso no lo hubiera logrado si me hubiera quedado en Venezuela, porque allí mi atención se centraba más en mi profesión de psiquiatra.
  • Aprendí a entregarle el control de mi vida a Dios, a confiar en su sabiduría para mudarme de aquí para allá como le dijo a Abraham, Moisés, José. Mirando hacia atrás, puedo ver cómo mi experiencia de inmigración y mi crecimiento espiritual están entrelazados. Dios me conoce muy bien. El usó esas experiencias de inmigración para podar las ramas que estaban afectando mi crecimiento espiritual.


Alguien me preguntó una vez si regresaría a Venezuela, si siento que Venezuela es mi hogar. Hace muchos años que no visito Venezuela, pero las últimas veces que fui ya no me sentí parte de allí…. Mi familia tiene sus propios recuerdos de experiencias que vivieron juntos donde yo no estaba. Los amigos cambiaron, yo cambié; sólo quedan recuerdos. La cosa es que yo tampoco me siento completamente parte de aquí. Por eso ahora sólo me aferro a mi real ciudadanía. Nosotros los creyentes somos extranjeros en esta tierra.

Mi ciudadanía está en el Cielo.

La Biblia nos describe a los creyentes como “extranjeros y peregrinos en la tierra… anhelando una patria mejor, es decir la celestial. Por lo tanto Dios no se avergonzo de ser llamado su Dios, y les preparo una ciudad”. (Hebreos 11:13,16)

Sé que hay un lugar al que definitivamente puedo llamar mi casa desde ahora y eternamente: el cielo es mi casa, el cielo es mi ciudadanía. Mientras tanto disfruto el paseo de aquí para allá, con sus altibajos, la variedad en mi cocina: con arepas, tacos, salchichas, brisket, las oportunidades de conocer gente y de compatir La Palabra incluso en diferentes idiomas. Pero siempre recuerdo orar para que Dios me ayude a : ser fuerte y valiente. A no tener miedo, ni desanimarme!. Porque el SEÑOR mi Dios me acompañara dondequiera que vaya: Venezuela, Miami, Milwaukee, u otro lugar (o país) que Él tenga en mente para mi futuro, hasta que me llame a casa.

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series La Experiencia de Inmigración
Esta es una serie de muchas partes.

Introduccion al Blog : Impacto en la Salud Mental y Espiritual en la experiencia de Inmigración.

 

The IMMIGRATION EXPERIENCE

Este es el primero de una serie planificada de blogs sobre el tema del impacto en la salud mental y espiritual en la experiencia de Inmigarcion que planeamos publicar. Esperamos tener uno nuevo cada mes durante el transcurso del próximo año. Creemos que el impacto de la experiencia de inmigración dentro de una familia no se ha estudiado bien. Este trabajo no será investigado en profundidad. Será, sin embargo, anecdótico y cristiano.

Carolina Acosta está liderando este proyecto. El primer blog contiene sus pensamientos personales sobre el impacto que la experiencia de inmigración tuvo en ella misma. Ella es inmigrante (emigro de Venezuela a Estados Unidos) y actualmente trabaja como consejera en Miami, Florida.

 

Esta es una lista de temas que esperamos cubrir:

  1. Miedos… Paz en medio de las incertidumbres. Confianza en el plan de Dios para nuestras vidas
  2. Superar el duelo durante la inmigración: La clave de mi identidad en Cristo.
  3. Cuando Yo no tomé la decisión de inmigrar.
  4. Criar hijos en otro país.
  5. Inmigración: una lección de desapego
  6. Palabras de un inmigrante
  7. Palabras que describen el impacto de la inmigración durante las tres generaciones posteriores a la inmigración.
  8. Palabras de un inmigrante indocumentado.
  9. Usar mis dones y talentos en otro país.
  10. Aprender a estar contento en otro país.
  11. Lidiar con los sentimientos de soledad.


Te invitamos a compartir tus comentarios y pensamientos. Puede contactar a Carolina.

 

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series La Experiencia de Inmigración

Trust…

Peace in the middle of uncertainties / Trusting in God’s plan for our lives

By Carolina Acosta

Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Words that Joshua received just before immigrating, entering the promised land. Words that I treasure in my heart, and understand perfectly, during my immigration journey in US, the Promise Land of opportunities, the land where the dreams come true.

God’s words are very appropriate to remember in an immigration experience which impacts not only the life of a person in different ways, but also the life of future generations: kids, grandkids, great grand kids, etc.

The US is considered one of the countries that has received more immigrants than any other society. There are many reasons why people migrate. People move in search of work or economic opportunities, to join family, or to study. Others move to escape conflict, persecution, terrorism, or human rights violations, environmental factors like natural disasters, etc.

In my case, the experience of immigrating began almost 25 years ago for work reasons. I was born in Venezuela, a country in South America. Although, when I think about it, I was born with the immigration in my veins, because my maternal grandparents emigrated from Spain and some islands in the Caribbean.

At the age of 28, my husband, my fiancé at the time, accepted a job offer to work in Miami, Florida. We got married and went on our honeymoon to start a new life full of dreams and illusions. I also remember some mixed feelings due to the separation from my parents, the rest of my family and friends, and the possibility of not being able to practice my profession as a psychiatrist. Although in theory we can say that it was immigration, Miami really feels like an extension of Latin America because of the weather, the Spanish language that predominates, and the number of immigrants that live there. Due to the proximity to Venezuela, family and friends frequently came to visit us, or we went to Venezuela.

God chose to truly let us know who He is, His love, and His promises, when we began to attend a Lutheran Church

In addition, my husband’s relatives also moved nearby, which quickly filled the feeling of loneliness and the need for family that I would feel at some point. They were 8 years of blessings, after blessings. Miami was the place that God chose to truly let us know who He is, His love, and His promises, when we began to attend a Lutheran Church. Other blessings came when my two children were born. It was also the place where my husband felt the call to be a Pastor, which is why we moved to Wisconsin for him to attend the seminary.

It was in Wisconsin, where I got to feel and fully live the experience of immigrating. There I can say that I fully experienced the CHANGE in all its expressions.

“Change” is a reality that goes hand in hand with the experience of immigrating. Usually there is a challenge when there is a change in just one area of our life. For example it might be a change of work, school, or neighborhood. But when we immigrate we experience a change in most areas of our life from one day to the next. We experience daily changes in culture, language, weather, commute time, traditions, food, worship styles, work, profession, among others.

Fear... sad 4 year old girl

We went to Wisconsin with the excitement of this new life and a meaningful life project, that felt like God Himself was calling my husband. But the emotions that came from those changes started hitting us since day one after our move. I remember, for example, the feeling of sadness when we were moving to Germantown, Wisconsin. My almost 4 year old daughter, who was very social and loved to talk, came home crying because she did not understand anything that some girls from the neighborhood were talking to her about. She was so frustrated that she asked us not to speak to her in Spanish anymore because she wanted to learn to speak English.

This was a frustration that I understood perfectly because I did not speak English back them and I couldn’t communicate with my daughter’s teachers, neighbors, my Christian brothers and sisters at church. I remember the feeling of shame and confusion when I met a man, a church member, and I kissed his cheek (as we do in Miami, and Latin-America) and he immediately blushed.

Then I learned about shaking hands is the appropriate way to greet here in the USA. There was also uncertainty and fear. Are we going to be able to adapt to the winter experience, since we never had experienced those extreme weather temperatures?. This fear was intensified with the comments of people when they asked me what I was thinking to move from Florida to Wisconsin! They almost looked at me as if it was the biggest mistake I could make. All because there was real winter in Wisconsin. I do not want to bore you with many other experiences. I just want to express that there were so many times with such strong feelings that I even felt like I wanted to go back to Miami very badly.

I missed Miami so much, my Church, my Spiritual father, my nephews, and nieces, my friends, my profession, the ocean where we used to go every weekend, Venezuelan and Colombian restaurants, my gym, my office, among others. This brings us to another very important word connected to this experience of immigrating. It is the word, GRIEF. Each one of us had to live our mourning with all its stages and emotions involved.

I remember my daughter, when she got frustrated by the language or other things at school, she would say, “I am going back to Miami.” She would sit on a bench in the hallway at school. Her teachers were so kind and patient. They allowed her to go back to Miami (a bench in the hallway) and return to Milwaukee (her classroom) when she was ready.

We were wrestling so strongly as a family with the anxiety of so many changes, including financial uncertainties; It took time to adapt to those changes. We had such feelings of loneliness and mourning what was left behind. I do not remember exactly when those feelings and emotions started to calm down. It was a process.

I learned that

Reflecting back…
I can now understand the things I learned that helped me in that process

  • I learned to fix my eyes and focus on what is permanent, on what never changes: God , his love and promises. … “for the Lord my God will be with me wherever I go”.
  • I learned the importance of detachment and the importance try “to be content whatever are the circumstances” …even in the middle of winter.
  • I learned that what gives value to a place, to a house, is not what it is worth, but the memories we have in them. So, I asked God for patience, to wait to build those memories again, with new friends, new people who God will put in my way.
  • I learned to accept change as part of life, not to resist change. Although it was not easy because the natural thing is to cling to what is known, to stay in the comfort zone. I learned to open up to new experiences, with new people from different countries, different cultures, new foods: Mexican food, German food, new celebrations (4th of July, Thanksgiving), new weather, the opportunity to learn a new language: English, Spanglish (Miami’s official language), and several versions of Spanish (Mexican, Puerto Rican).
  • I learned that God will open doors and opportunities to serve, even in another country. These opportunities could be in our career. These opportunities could come in a new career like happened to my husband who studied engineering in Venezuela and God called him to be a Pastor here in USA.
  • I learned to trust God’s plan, more than mine. I learned to trust that these changes are designed by the Creator of my life. When we decided to move to Miami, I never thought about the marvelous plan that God had for me: to know him in depth and to know who He is, his love, and His promises. Perhaps I would not have achieved that if I had stayed in Venezuela, because over there my focus was more on my profession as a psychiatrist.
  • I learned to surrender control of my life to God, to trust in his wisdom to move from here to there as he told Abraham, Moses, Joseph. Looking back, I can see how my immigration journey and my spiritual journey are intertwined. God knows me very well. He used those immigration experiences to prune the branches that were affecting my spiritual growth.


Someone asked me once if I would return to Venezuela, if I feel that Venezuela is my home. I have not been in Venezuela for many years, but the last times I went I did not feel part of there anymore…. My family has its own memories of experiences they had together where I was not. Friends changed, I changed; only memories remain.

That is why now I only cling to my royal citizenship.

The thing is, I do not feel completely part of here either. That is why now I only cling to my royal citizenship. We believers are strangers on this earth. My citizenship is in Heaven. The Bible describes us believers as “strangers on earth… longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them”. (Hebrews 11:13,16)

I know there is one place I definitely can call home since now and eternally: Heaven is my home, Heaven is my citizenship. Meanwhile I enjoy the ride here and over there, ups and downs, the variety in my kitchen: with arepas, tacos, sausages, brisket, the opportunities to meet people, and to spread the word even in different languages. But, I always remember to pray that God will help me to be strong and courageous.

Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the LORD my God will be with me wherever I go: Venezuela, Miami, Milwaukee, or another place (or country) He has in mind for my future, until he calls me home.

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series The Immigrant Experience

Mental Health and Spiritual Impact in the Immigration Experience

 

The IMMIGRATION EXPERIENCE

This is the first of a planned series of blogs on the subject of the mental and spiritual impact of immigration within a family which we plan to publish. We hope to have a new one each month over the course of the next year.

We feel that the impact of the immigration experience within a family has not been studied well. This work will not be heavily researched. It will be anecdotal and Christian, however.

Carolina Acosta is leading this project. The first blog is her personal thoughts on the impact of the immigration experience on herself. She is an immigrant from Venezuela to the United States and currently works as a counselor in Miami, Florida.

These are a list of topics we hope to cover:

  1. Fears… Peace in the middle of uncertainties/ Trusting in God’s plan for our lives :
  2. Overcoming grieving during immigration: The key my identity in Christ.
  3. When I did not make the decision to immigrate.
  4. Raising kids in another country / impact in second and third generation.
  5. Immigration : A lesson in detachment
  6. Words from an immigrant
  7. Words that describe the impact of immigration over three generations post immigration.
  8.  Words from an undocumented immigrant.
  9. Using my gifts and talents in another country.
  10. Learning to be content in another country.
  11. Dealing with loneliness feelings.


We invite you to share your comments and thoughts
by corresponding with Carolina.


We pray that, if you are a therapist or a pastor or a Christian who has had an immigrant experience across the generations of your family, that you will learn things from these blogs to help you in your personal understanding, your ministry, and your relationships within your family. Your input is appreciated.

May God bless you in this life and into eternity through the grace of Jesus, His Son!

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series The Immigrant Experience

Nestled among the many comforting promises in scripture is one of my favorites:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Romans 8:26

When a new mother hears the wails of her baby, she offers care and comfort to her little one. The helpless child, so precious to her mother, can only groan and cry. In the same way, new mothers sometimes do not know exactly what to ask God, or possess the words to express what we feel. We cry out to our loving Father, who understands our wordless groans, knowing our emotions and needs far better than we do. With all wisdom and love, God nurtures us.

What a comfort this picture is, as new mothers cope with a wide range of emotions, extreme exhaustion, and major transitions. When we pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes between our disheartened groans and our loving Father’s listening ears. As the Spirit passes our cares on to the Father, He also reminds us of God’s promises. He points us back to our loving Jesus. He works through a loving family member who texts a poignant psalm, through the grade school memory work that resurfaces at just the right moment, or through a scripture notecard that your husband displays by the kitchen sink. After I had my third baby, I felt the Holy Spirit providing the words I needed—during the joyful moments and particularly during the trying times. As I reflect back on that time, I can also see how He interceded between my groans and my heavenly Father, who listened, comforted, and intervened.

I experienced postpartum depression after my first child was born. The stress of being a new mother and working in an emotionally demanding field fostered an already-present self-doubt. It took several months to feel emotionally balanced again. I groaned out to the Lord for reassurance and for peace, but often did not have the words. My second child was born in April of 2020, mere weeks after the COVID-related shutdowns took place. The social isolation and complex uncertainties of that time contributed to many dark days, again colored by despair. My cries to God were more desperate this time, and it was particularly challenging to find the words to convey my sadness, anger, uncertainty, and hopelessness. However, throughout my third pregnancy, God blessed me with mostly cheerful days. My prayers focused on my baby’s health, and the hope that I would continue to do well emotionally.

After my sweet baby came into the world this January, I was flooded with warmth and gratitude. The rush of oxytocin magnified the overwhelming love I had for my new baby, my two older children, and my husband. Happy and exhausted, I snuggled my newest little boy, also aching to see my other kids so I could embrace them, introduce them, and bask in the beautiful family God gave me. The Holy Spirit interceded to the Father with my grateful groans. The Holy Spirit pointed me to scripture…

“Every good and perfect gift is from above.”
James 1:17

He deepened my desire to have our son brought into God’s family through baptism the following day, and there were no words for my cries of joy. The Lord cares for my baby so much that He adopted him into God’s family, now and for eternity. (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Different groans followed in the coming weeks. A few days after we brought our tiny newborn home, several emotions surfaced at once. I was exhausted, anxious, overwhelmed, and was having difficulty expressing my feelings. I had a terrible cold and had difficulty catching my breath. Suddenly the combination of these physical and emotional factors became intense, as I felt a rush of panic, shortness of breath, and the fear that I would need to be rushed to the hospital. While I did not have the words to convey my desperation, I know that the Holy Spirit felt my terror and alarm. He provided comfort most immediately through my loving husband. The love and safety provided by my spouse reflected Christ’s complete care:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Ephesians 5:25.

In the following days, I experienced foreign rushes of dread and irrational fears. I know that God felt and heard my terror, and that the Spirit translated my groans to the Father. After I shared my experience with my mom, the Spirit used her to remind me of Psalm 23. This part of scripture, so familiar that I often overlook it, was suddenly brimming with reassurance. Jesus was walking through the valleys with me, comforting me, personally guiding me. He is not a far-off, removed God, but one who is always there. He doesn’t always remove the hardships, but he is my steadfast leader and companion through them.

Sometimes I feared that my strongest anxiety would return (a groan that I had never experienced or uttered before). These raw words of Psalm 116 may sound a touch dramatic to a pampered 21st Century American, but they aligned with my fears in these worst moments.

“I was overcome by distress and sorrow…LORD, save me!”
Psalm 116: 3, 4

Within the same psalm, the Spirit reassured me that God hears and understands my groans, and reminded me of God’s mercy. “Our God is full compassion…when I was brought low, he saved me.” God did not immediately alleviate all of my anxiety, but he did something immeasurably better. He highlighted my helplessness. It was abundantly clear that I could not do this on my own. God reminded me that He is all-powerful and all-loving, inviting me to take refuge in his arms. Where I was weak, He was strong (2 Corinthians 12).

The Holy Spirit also answered my prayers in more outwardly observable ways. I was able to calm my mind by taking walks, crying, talking to loved ones, and connecting with a counselor and doctors. When my emotions were steadier, I was able to confront my negative thoughts with the truth: “I won’t always be this sleep deprived and overwhelmed.” “I don’t have to accomplish everything at once.” “I can ask for help.” I also believe the Holy Spirit convicted me on my over-use of social media, and how this fueled my anxious thinking, occasional anger, and comparison to others. He guided me to open to Bible app on my phone instead, meditating on Psalm 62’s reminder to trust in God to provide salvation, rest, and hope:

“Trust in him at all times, you people. Pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”
Psalm 62:8

In the following months, my prayers and groans to the Father have continued. Am I a good enough mother? I lost my patience with the kids today…the guilt is strong. How can I provide every practical, emotional, and relational skill to my children? Sometimes the Holy Spirit used song to remind me of Scripture’s truths:

“I think I can’t, I think I can’t
But I think You can, I think You can…
Gather my insufficiencies and
place them in your hands
place them in your hands
place them in your hands.”

For Moments I Feel Faint, by Relient K

I cannot give my children everything they need, but I don’t have to. I can point them to Jesus, who is the source of life and hope. I will fail and fall short, but Jesus more than makes up for my insufficiencies. Even in the dark moments, I can sing, dance, and praise Him.

“In the darkness I’ll dance, in the shadows I’ll sing!
The joy of the Lord is my strength!”

Joy of the Lord, by Rend Collective

In the months since having my baby, God has provided stability, alleviation of the worst anxiety, and countless moments of joy. Challenges and changes also still remain. On this journey of motherhood, I am ever more grateful for the one who does not change like shifting shadows. He is my refuge and strength, whose love endures forever. I am so thankful that he loves me—and my children—perfectly. He hears my groans and gives me comfort. He provides support, perspective, and resources. He gives life and hope through scripture. He gives me himself.

 


Author, Julie Straseske has also written for Forward in Christ magazine, May 2023 issue.