Ellis Island reopened today – after being shut down more than a year for repairs from hurricane damage. And to celebrate this, I thought I would share pictures from our 2010 trip.
Also, there are two important lessons we can reflect on when we think about Ellis Island!
Side note for readers – this is a Christian post – so it is geared to those who share this belief – and for a non-religious post on Ellis Island – check out the old ART blog HERE.
First, Ellis Island is a clear reminder of the Melting Pot of Culture Diversity that makes up these here United States.
More than 12 million immigrants passed through this immigration station from 1892 to 1924- and it is estimated that over 1/3 of Americans can trace ancestry to this 27 acre site that sits on a small harbor on the tip of Manhattan, New York. So let’s NOT take for granted the rich and mixed cultural groups that make up our country. The next time you are looking to dine out, enjoy local arts, or just doing some shopping, take a look around and soak up the rich diversity that has shaped this country!
Second, I once heard an Ellis Island Christianity analogy, which I thought was great! The analogy compares our life here on earth to a person waiting on Ellis Island. You see, from 1924 to 1954, Ellis Island functioned primarily as a detention center – and thousands of immigrants had to spend months, or YEARS, waiting to get into the United States due to medical or legal reasons. So even with approval – there was just this waiting period that had to be endured.
Well take a look at these pictures – look at how close the bunks are and just imagine some of the discomforts this waiting period involved. What would you tell some folks who were upset and complaining about the bunk bed lifestyle? What if they looked around and said they wanted to go back to their original country? Well I would remind them that Ellis Island was not their real home – it was temporary – and once they left Ellis Island, they would be able to buy a big ol’ bed and put it into their very own bedroom in their very own house.
Many detained immigrants wanted just to get onto the streets of New York, because from an Ellis Island view, the skyscrapers meant freedom. However, folks were later blown away when they realized there was a lot more to be discovered in America besides NYC; in fact, over 3,000 miles of country was spread across different states. Immigrants could settle in the other parts of New York State, which are green and lush with beautiful lakes and rivers, they could travel to the flatlands of Kansas, the colorful Southwest, the breezy Carolinas, the coastal state of California (a state that thinks its a country)- or how about the mountainous regions of Utah and the mystifying rock formations throughout Colorado??!
Anyhow, as Christ followers, our life here is analogous to this old port. You see, this time on earth is like an appointed stay at Ellis Island, with trials to endure amidst sometimes less than ideal conditions. But it is not our true home. We were built for another place – and one day we will meet our Maker – we will arrive to a real home, which is heaven. Streets of gold, mansions, and no more tears.
Now this does not mean that our life here does not matter, because it DOES matter! In fact, we are to persevere and push on as we love others and as we enjoy the GIFT OF LIFE. The Lord also gives us the desires of our heart and even in the midst of ups and downs, we can have His joy – and His peace that passes understanding. However, unlike the the folks on Ellis Island, who only had mere government officials to depend on, God gave us the Holy Spirit, which gives us counsel and comfort! We have a Godly, appointed calling for our time on earth – with an ALL powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving Father-God who has every step of life mapped out.
Jesus is alive through His people here on earth – and do not ever forget – or minimize – the value that your “appointed” life serves – as you are a light in a dark world. As we make the most of each day – and as we let the Lord direct our steps and while we trust in Him – let the thoughts of Heaven encourage you right now! Because Heaven is our true home – and this earthly span of time – well it is not our real home. This reality should change your perspective – because one day – at God’s appointed time – your welcome team in heaven will say, “Welcome Home.”
~Define the directional difference between emigrate and immigrate: Emigrate means to LEAVE a country to settle in another, whereas immigrate means to COME INTO.
~ Talk about the unethical practices that went on back then (and while doing so we can note how far we have come socially as we improve ethical standards). Folks arriving to Ellis Island encountered crowded conditions and a plethora of often unethical pre-entry exams. For example, each hopeful received a medical symbol, um, I mean a huge chalk letter drawn on their outer clothing to denote any defects. i.e. C – Crabs, B – Back, CT – Trachoma, EC – Eye Problems, SC – Scalp (fungus), SI – Special Inquiry, WOP – Without papers, X – Suspected Mental Defect, ⓧ – Definite Mental Defect.
~Student lesson here.
~One of the books on Ellis Island that I just cannot part with is: Ellis Island Interviews: Immigrants Tell Their Stories In Their Own Words by Peter Coan (2004)-with used copies for under one dollar on Amazon!
~Revelation 6:9-11 provides insight about life now and heaven life.
~The Bible says that when we get to heaven, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away.”
~It is estimated that 2% (or more) of Ellis Island immigrants were denied access and sent back home, and for these folks, Ellis Island was not the “Land of Heaven” or “Island of Hope,” but instead was called, “The Island of Tears” or “Heartbreak Island.”
~Discuss how some folks just seem to have it harder in this life. We know a few folks who really appear to have been dealt what looks like “a bad hand in life.” But how do we define Bad Hand? -Especially because a “heavenly minded definition of success” is much different from the world’s view of success and earthly achievement!! We can still enjoy the now, but don’t get caught into the cares of this world because it is fleeting. Let our thoughts anchor with the great things that are in store when we get home, and when the Lord embraces us in His arms one day.
~ 1st Corinthians says that
no eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
and no human mind has conceived-
the things God has prepared for those who love Him!
God is the ultimate Provider and Healer – and so if your life has felt like a rough stay on Ellis Island – I challenge you right now to go directly to the Lord and find out what He has in store for you. Because good things are in store!