September 6th rolled around and I felt a new sense of freedom, a lightness to my step. My immigration was up for renewal but for the first time I was going to ignore it and just not go into the GNIB to request another year in Ireland. It was surreal to drive through the city with the knowledge that I would never have to again!
I will remember the week that bears scars that are more like character now. If there was one week that I would have preferred to leave Ireland and never come back, it was the first week of July last year. But in the very middle of it I was given a very clear indication that it was not time to leave.
I received citizenship!
It’s time to remember what that day meant. (Originally posted on my previous blog on 4 July, 2013)
I have lived in Europe a combined total of nine and a half years since I was 19. For the last five of them I have been looking over my shoulder wondering if Ireland would let me stay another year. They kept saying that they would kick me out. We are only legally allowed to stay three years on a “missionary/volunteer visa”. The regulations around that have changed so many times that immigration workers don’t even know what that is half the time and nearly turn our volunteers away at the airport when they arrive. Meanwhile, I knew that this is where I belonged. One of the mams in the community, who is also a friend, gave me an Ireland necklace one year and said it was so I wouldn’t forget where I come from. I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me.
Today I stood in a long queue with over 1000 other people from over 110 nationalities. We were all waiting to be let through the doors to receive citizenship in Ireland. I didn’t even have to take a test to see if I would pass. In the Conference Centre we were welcomed into Ireland after we pledged loyalty and fidelity to the country and it’s laws. They told us that they welcomed the diversity that we brought. They told us that Ireland’s history is now our history. They told us that we now have the same rights as any Irish person born here. They told us to get our passports and travel as Irish citizens.
Canada is a great country to come from. If you want to pick a country that will care for its citizens, Canada is it. It has been so good to me. Other people that stood with me today don’t come from a country like Canada. They come from war torn countries where they won’t find a future. For them, Ireland is a place of refuge. For me, it is a place where I know I belong.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household … ~ Ephesians 2:19
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ … ~ Philippians 3:20
Created in the Image of God, my soul cries out, “don’t forget where you come from”. I wasn’t born a citizen of heaven. I haven’t a drop of perfect or holy blood in me. I haven’t come from a home or environment that was bad. I’m sure I could have made it just fine in the world without being a citizen of heaven. But I know that it is where I belong. When I experience life the way that God intended it to be with him as King and Lord I know that citizenship is important. All I needed to do was pledge loyalty and fidelity to the Kingdom of Heaven and its laws. In return, I am given a new history marked with forgiveness and grace. I have the same rights as Jesus has (The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ … ~ Romans 8:16-17). I can travel in the name of Jesus Christ. God is my protector and my refuge no matter where I go. This citizenship is more than I could have ever imagined! The benefits are out of this world! I didn’t even have to take a test first.
I have learned so much through the citizenship process and am a little overwhelmed. Becoming a citizen of Ireland was meaningful but what it taught me about what it means to be a citizen of heaven is so much more than I can begin to describe. I never even dreamed that I would see the day or feel the weight lift off because I was an Irish citizen. I don’t just feel like I should belong here – those who have the authority in the country have now declared me a daughter of Ireland and co-creator of her future. Wow!
If it is possible, I love Ireland more than I ever have before and am looking forward to actively participating in her future!