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America, Land of the Free

“I left the United States in 2014 to do missionary work and came back three years later to a different America.” I recently made this statement along with my experiences of living in a former communist country to a close friend. That person told me I need to write my experiences down. To share them with people who have only known America, the land of the free and home of the brave.

First, I shall go back to 2014. I had just arrived on the island of Tobago, where I was going to be doing volunteer work in a government school. I arrive just days after Ferguson happened (in the U.S). When I saw the news on TV, I thought that could not be America. We don’t riot like that. We just don’t act like that! But to my breaking heart, it was happening and I could not understand why.

Trinidad and Tobago used to be two of the wealthiest islands in the Caribbean because they have oil. And with the revenue the government hired their own people to fix roads, be security guards, clean the countryside, and so on. Sad part is that many of these government workers didn’t work their hours and had someone else clock them in and out. They took turns at this and scammed the government. The government has the money was the attitude of many of the people. Meanwhile, the government could not pay me to work with their children. And I worked hard.

I got chikungunya, a mosquito borne virus, and after a week in bed, went back to work. I could hardly stand. The children were so happy to see me back that they hugged me and touched my arms constantly, almost knocking me over. I loved the children and loved what I was doing, I didn’t need to be paid because I knew God would take care of me. And when I had to leave for a short while because of immigration, I came back. I was still weak but I loved the children.

As the years wore on, many of the locals were telling me I needed to go to the Ministry of Education and tell them I wanted a paying job for they would never work for free. What they didn’t understand is that life isn’t always about money or what you can get out of others but what you can give. Their government had taught them a different lesson.

The government had taught these people to go after what you can get and put as little effort into it as possible. They had good paying jobs and didn’t have to pay for their medical needs…it was all free because the government can afford it.

Now I will take a jump backwards, to August 2006 when I went to Moscow, Russia as a missionary and worked in a Christian School where many missionary kids were able to go to an English-speaking school. This “former” communist country was modern in many ways and backwards in other ways. I had a nice apartment that reminded me of my grandparent’s house in the 1950’s. Modern is a term we know here in the United States and many would have said my apartment was anything but modern but it was sufficient for my one semester that I would be there.

We walked much of the time in both Tobago and Moscow. Yes, they have cars but who on short term assignment can afford such a luxury? We did get rides from Russian and Tobago teachers or a landlady or sometimes from a parent.

Grocery shopping in both countries was a challenge, to buy what you needed without buying too much because you had to carry it all home. In Russia, they use a different electrical current and I made the mistake of “frying” my curling iron and had to buy another. I went to a store, hoping that someone would be able to speak enough English that I could replace my curling iron. Sadly, I left that store without buying a thing because I found that even though they have employees at the store, they are not overly eager to help any patron. Why you might ask? Because under communism they got paid the same wages whether they worked and helped someone or whether they just stood around and ignored you. But even though they were a “former” communist government, the people’s mindset had never changed. And guess what? They still get paid no matter how they treat the costumer.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the people of Moscow, Russia from the produce lady to the teachers at school to our drivers, they were kind but they still had a romance with Lenin and the communist way of life. And many said they would like to go back to that former rule. They had forgotten about the food lines and lack of work and meager housing and lack of medical attention but hung onto being cared for by the government.

Now I will jump forward to March 2017, living in Tobago and getting sick, being taken by ambulance to the hospital. Yes, it was free and no, I didn’t pay a cent. I spent twelve hours in the emergency room on a small table so cold with just a small sheet to cover me. They took my vitals when I arrived, did an EKG and deemed that I could wait. In the next few hours I got very little attention, when I needed to use the restroom, I got off the table by myself and went on my own. They did nothing for my headache because I told them I could not take a pain pill since I’d not eaten since the night before. After being their six hours, they finally gave me a drink of water and oxygen and finally an IV because they suspected that I was dehydrated. That evening my landlady brought me some food to eat and she started asking questions. We were told they could not put me in a room or do further testing because it was so expensive. After twelve hours, they released me. No answers and finally I had to fly home to find out that I have a rare type of angina. That, my friends, is socialized medicine.

But, when I got back to the states, I found a different country. I found a country where you can’t speak your mind because you might offend someone. But yet, when I lived in Tobago, the dark-skinned people used to ask me “white” questions all the time and I’d ask them questions as well. The children wanted to touch my skin and my hair and I got to touch their hair. We grew ever closer because of our curiosity and love for one another by talking about our differences.

I came back to a country where people no longer show respect for their elders and to the office of President of the United States. We have lost manners and kindness and are told that what we are “thinking” is not appropriate. We no longer have people who can talk about their differences but insist that we all think alike. We have forgotten about communism and how bad it was and now use socialism as something to look forward to. To get all sorts of free things without working…in other words, teaching people how to become lazy.

I may not have as much education but have experienced a lot in my 70 years, I do know that we are going backwards because it is hard work that makes for good character. It is reading the Bible that teaches morals and to know right from wrong. No, not everyone is right and yes, we need to go back to the 10 Commandants to know how to behave.

We can never go back to the “old days” but we can get in the Word daily and start behaving how God commands. You can use “Faithful Promises of God” to help guild you along that journey and learn how to apply the Bible to your life. It is for today…believe me, it is!

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