From Airport to Cemetery: How to Live Successfully in Our Adopted Homeland

Sadiri Joy Tira
February 20 2024


I used to say, "A suitcase is the greatest equalizer of immigrants."

We all arrived in Canada with only two suitcases. Regardless of our social, political, military, or even financial and educational status in our homeland, we arrived to start a new life.

In September 1981, my wife, our 3-year-old girl, and I arrived at Vancouver International Airport en route to Regina, Saskatchewan. We traveled thousands of miles from Manila, Philippines.

Upon arriving at our destination to study at the Canadian Theological Seminary, I reported to the administration building. There, I met other students and some professors. From the school, we went to Safeway to buy groceries, then to the mall to purchase our fall outfits. At the Sears store, we learned how to pay at the cashier; we had to follow and stand in a long line, saying "please, excuse me."

At the grocery store, we used a shopping cart and returned it to where we got it from after use. In the parking lot, a driver occupied two parking stalls when his car could be parked in only one. His little kids threw their rubbish outside their car. Then, the driver sped up, not following the 20 km/hour speed limit, ignoring pedestrians crossing the street!

In between the Airport & the Cemetery

Immigrants arriving at airports or seaports are all bound for cemeteries.

In between these two places, there are hospitals, drug stores, malls, restaurants, schools, and public spaces like places of worship (temples, synagogues, church buildings), parks, and libraries - all of which have rules and policies.

We must follow orders, observe cleanliness, practice good manners and proper etiquette, be polite, learn to say "excuse me," and "thank you," and respect others. Yes, even respecting their religion, cultural habits, and customs. We must be respectful and live at peace with everyone.

The Prophet Jeremiah had this to say to his countrymen living in another country:

"This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 'Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.'" (Jeremiah 29: 4-7 NIV)

As Christian immigrants in Canada, from the airport to the cemetery, we are recipients of hospitality, kindness, and generosity. But we also have responsibilities: to work hard, make peace, foster healthy social relationships, and pray for the economic success and stability of our adopted country.

Sadiri Joy Tira DMiss, DMin, more commonly known as Joy, is the Diaspora Missiology Specialist at the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta.


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