As a Christian, I consider my brothers and sisters in Christ as fellow citizens of the most important kingdom on earth. It is a kingdom that I believe will be around after all other governments and kingdoms are gone. I am constantly aware that I am a citizen of two "nations." Sometimes they are congruent, but because of their natures and reasons for existence there is often tension.

Our current immigration crisis, which is an emigration crisis for other countries, is an example. I know people and relatives of people from Honduras that are in the "caravans" headed to the Texas border. I have visited in the houses of people who had absolutely no food, some of whom go each day to the landfill and gather what they will eat that evening. I have eaten wonderful meals in the homes of middle-class, well educated Hondurans. They are citizens of the kingdom of God.

I have not met many from Honduras (a few hundred maybe) and I have yet to meet one that does not have positive attitudes toward gringos; the ones who want to come here as well as the ones who would rather stay. They understand their government is corrupt, and they understand that while ours may not be perfect at least we have opportunity to make changes and to openly criticize it.

We are far from perfect and we have a long way to go -- always will. We have made terrific mistakes and will continue do so. However, in my limited travels, which tend not to be touristy, even those who criticize America do so because they know that they can and that we not only can take it, but very often we listen. My children have experienced the same things.

If one wants to get a grasp of how blessed we are, listen to those who either want to come here or who have come here. I know a young Albanian classical musician who is living and working playing in orchestras and chamber music groups. I remember he and his family, who were visiting to attend his sister's wedding, explaining to me that he was having difficulty getting into good music schools in Europe because of where he was from. After a couple of phone calls and an impromptu audition, he was awarded a full scholarship to study in the United States. He has taken full advantage of the opportunity. And he is married to another immigrant from Japan. We still have the capacity to reward hard work.

I know immigrants that run the gamut from day laborers to business owners and professionals. They are here for a reason. We are not the only destination for those looking to improve their lives, but we are still one of the favored.

But it is not only immigrants that we should hear. We should also listen to those who admire our nation who also understand the responsibility that our wealth and power requires of us. While it is good for us to gain the knowledge and labor of immigrants, it is not always good for the place they left. If all the best people leave a place (it has been called "brain drain") it makes it harder for those who choose to stay.

I went to school with a man from the Philippines, Salvador Carriaga. He came here and received his education and has used that to improve his home. It has not been easy for him. He has delivered some very poignant arguments praising the United States while challenging us. Here is an excerpt of something he recently wrote in connection with July 4, which is Philippine-American Friendship Day in the Philippines. He wrote this for Filipinos.

"America is often loudly questioned and criticized as a super-power, and it should [be]. It is the price and nature of accountable leadership. However, imperfect as she is, no country has wielded its power more responsibly than America. No nation has promoted democracy and respect for human dignity more than America. It even absorbs the verbal attacks with soul-searching reflection, instead of heavy-handed response to any opposition. I shudder to think, what the world will be when the Chinese take over [control] in South East Asia or, God-forbid, of the world. Or what if any middle eastern country takes charge of our destiny? Or Russia imposes its will and military superiority. Will they meekly acknowledge their weaknesses or respond with force and impunity? America could have done better in helping the Philippines transition into a less corrupt self-rule. But we asked for independence and independence we got when the late president Manuel Quezon boldly pronounced: 'I would rather the Philippines be run like hell by Filipinos, than run like heaven by the Americans.' And so. for the last 50 years, we were run like hell by fellow Filipinos."

America, you are beautiful.

Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at

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