Two Thousand Blessings
By Janet Eckles
"You’re crazy! You don’t even speak English…you’ll never make it!"
My uncle shook his head in disbelief, as my father announced his decision to move our family to America.
"I need to give my children a better opportunity than they have here," Father affirmed with conviction.
Mother and Father talked later in private.
"We’re doing the right thing," Mom said, reassuring him.
Sighing with disappointment, my father replied, "I still need to go back to the American consulate a few more times. They need more documents."
(The requirements imposed by the U.S. Immigration Department for those wishing to enter the country and establish residency were stringent to meet).
One evening, Father came home holding a packet of papers high in the air and screamed with joy, "I got them," he said. "They were finally approved!" He placed them on the kitchen table like a prized treasure. Then, he frowned, "Now, we’ll have to somehow come up with the money. I just don’t know how we’ll do it. Two thousand dollars is a lot of money!"
"God will make the way," Mom responded, with tenderness in her voice. Her faith equaled my father’s creativity.
Father surprised the family with the unconventional ways he planned to make sales to raise the funds. First, he creatively refurbished a 1949 Jeep. He rebuilt the engine and put together an enclosure made out of wood panels.
His second idea was equally creative.
"What do you think?" Father shouted with pride, holding the cover he designed for a 45-rpm record. He purchased the records in large quantities. Selling them would add to the much-needed funds.
A few days later, we all climbed into the refurbished Jeep. My parents sat in the front seat, while I, and my eleven-year-old brother, sat in the back. I was twelve at the time. The activity in the crowded streets of La Paz entertained us.
We drove around for hours playing my father’s record over and over through a loud speaker he had carefully placed on top of the Jeep. The record’s lyrics echoed the clamor of Bolivia’s citizens to regain the outlet to the sea. This issue touched many hearts with intense emotion; thus, the lyrics held a special appeal.
The busy vendors lined the sidewalks, while those shopping with them would stop and looked at us with curiosity as we drove by. Others paid no attention at all. Those who did approach the Jeep expressed their enjoyment of my father’s record and purchased one.
"We only have a few left," Mom commented, as she counted the pile on her lap.
"We’ll take whatever they offer," Father replied. Selling the records was easier than selling our furniture.
I didn’t know it then, but it would be one our last rides together in our Jeep.
Early one morning, I went outside. I noticed an empty spot where my father usually parked the Jeep. "Where is the Jeep, Mom?" I asked with astonishment.
"We needed the money for the airline tickets," she explained. Sadness lingered in her voice.
Later, we all talked at dinner. The conversation at the dinner table in our dark, tiny kitchen seldom changed.
"I’m going to see Mr. Mendez to ask him for a loan," Father announced. "We’re running out of options."
"Two thousand dollars is a lot of money," Mom sighed. "But I know God will answer our prayers," she added softly.
"Why does God have to make it so hard for our family?" I asked. "Do we really have to move, Mom?" I wanted to know if that country, so far away, called the United States, was really worth all the sacrifice.
"When we get there…when we finally get there," she explained with a huge grin, "You will see for yourself. It will be better than any dream we’ve ever had."
The dream was about to become a reality.
On December 12, 1964, we tossed a few suitcases into the trunk of an old taxicab. My stomach tightened and I felt a slight pain.
My grandmother held me close, her wet cheek against mine as she whispered, "Honey, I will miss you." The scent of her stale, yet somewhat fragrant perfume, stayed with me.
"We’ll write as soon as we can," Mom reassured her with apparent composure. Mom’s stream of tears however, disclosed different feelings.
We got in the cab and headed to La Paz airport. I turned to look out the back window. I knew this would be the last time I’d see my neighborhood, as well as my familiar surroundings. I glanced at the old, worn-out playground where my friends and I spent hours flying high on the swing set. The swings swayed in the wind as if waving a sad good-bye to me. I thought of the shouts of glee as we slid down the rusty, old slide. The neighborhood, although not pretty, held a secure familiarity for me.
We arrived at the airport in St. Louis, Missouri. It was much different than home. In contrast, the airport looked strange and big…bigger than anything I’d ever seen in La Paz. It had unfamiliar gadgets and electric doors that opened on their own… it was a frightening scene.
"Hold on tight," Mom instructed. She held my hand and placed it on the black banister moving along the side of the escalator. I froze. I looked at her as if to say, But, Mom, they’re moving!
The next step in our new home was even more frightening. I remember one morning in particular.
"No, you cannot stay home from school," Father instructed, with a stern tone.
I begged him to let me wait a few days before going to school where all I heard was incomprehensible noise. However, while at school, I learned to speak English. It became the rope that lifted me up, keeping me from drowning in a strange culture.
Years swept by, turning the seasons of adjustments— the spring of new life in a new home, the summer warmth of opportunities we never knew before, the fall with a refreshing embrace of new American ways, and the winter, as it ushered in the beauty of Christmas, along with the priceless gifts of freedom and liberty.
We received these gifts with gratitude, presented to us in a ceremony where my family and I gave our oath.
"Congratulations, you’re now United State’s citizens."
My, what a privilege and honor bestowed upon us. As I heard these words, I knew what Mom meant when she said, "When we get there…you will see, it will be better than any dream."
Since that day, our lives cannot be described as "better;" rather the correct word "best" describes it more accurately. The freedom, liberty, and opportunities we enjoy as Americans represent a cherished treasure.
The sacrifice invested by my father so long ago gave priceless returns. As a young girl in Bolivia, I observed my parents struggle to gather two thousand dollars. Decades later, I rejoice with gratitude for the opportunity to thank God openly, for turning them into two thousand blessings!
Janet Eckles, her husband, Gene and family live in Orlando, FL. Jan Eckles is a Sunday school teacher, inspirational speaker, writer, and the author of "Trials of Today, Treasures for Tomorrow: Overcoming Adversities in Life." Although Jan has no physical sight, she has a vision: To proclaim God's faithfulness as He leads one beyond adversity to success and excellence. For excerpts of her book, please visit: www.janeckles.com
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