Bev and I are driving three teenagers to Camp Woodland in Georgia this week. Our teens are so happy to be able to have a camp experience this year after last year’s cancellations. We are aware that a number of staff and campers who returned from Camp Pinecrest tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, anyone who was at Camp Pinecrest, as well as anyone who has come in direct contact with someone who was at Camp Pinecrest, should NOT attend services this coming Sabbath. Please pray for the safety of our children for the remaining camp sessions that are and will be in progress.
Pilgrimage To and Through Ellis Island
Last week I took my family, including four grandchildren, to visit Ellis Island in New York Harbor. I want to share this very personal story of God’s providence and grace in our lives that has spiritual implications for us all as Christian pilgrims and citizens.
Ellis Island is our country’s primary museum devoted entirely to immigration. It is three-quarters of a mile from the iconic Statue of Liberty that represents freedom and justice. From here, you see the majestic skyline of Manhattan. From 1892 to 1954, over 12 million immigrants entered the United States through the island. They fled from war, famine, failed socialism, oppressive communism and brutal fascism to begin a new life, change their citizenship and adopt a new identity. My parents and I were among them.
Today, about 100 million living descendants of these Ellis Island immigrants account for more than 30 percent of our nation’s population. I wanted my children and grandchildren, who are among these descendants, to see where we came from.
My parents originally came to New York on troop carrier USS General C. H. Muir. Originally from the Soviet Union, they survived the Nazi invasion of 1941. They were enslaved as teenagers (my mother was 16) and worked for three years in German factories. Before the war was over, my father was put into a concentration camp and suffered severe beatings. Then as the war ended, they escaped from the advancing Russian army and lived for four years in a United Nations refugee camp in Hannover, Germany, not knowing what would become of them. They could not return to the USSR because they were looked upon as collaborators with the Germans. Refugee camp Lyssenko is where I was born. Fortuitously, my parents found a professor at the University of Minnesota who sponsored them to the United States. You can read the story about a letter that my father wrote him a day before we boarded the troop ship for the United States at kubik.org/kubik-to-america. The letter projects their suffering and ignominy, yet cautious hope about their new life in America.
Upon arriving on Ellis Island in July 1949, we went through a five-hour immigration clearing process. Doctors checked for diseases, particularly trachoma in the eyes. If diagnosed, the person was put back on the ship to go back to where they came from.
The final phase after inspections and before entry into the United States was walking down the “Stairs of Separation”—the dreaded staircase that divided some immigrant families. There were three lines: one for trains to New Jersey and beyond (my parents), one to New York and the middle row to a detention center to be sent back. 98 percent were allowed into the United States. Only two percent were sent back.
The immigrants were required to pay a $25 processing fee (about $300 today). Most didn’t have any money at all. Lenders on site were glad to advance the money to them since 99 percent of the grateful immigrants paid them back in full.
On the museum tour, I retraced the steps starting at the dock through the intake facility and on to where immigrants boarded a vessel to take them to a train station in New Jersey or to New York City.
What are the spiritual parallels and take-aways? You may already see some.
Christians are like immigrants, more like pilgrims who are on a spiritual journey guided by God to a better country. Here are some passages that describe our odyssey.
“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you’” (Genesis 12:1 Genesis 12:1Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you:
American King James Version×, English Standard Version throughout). God had other plans for Abraham. He was no longer to remain a citizen of Ur in Mesopotamia, but called to leave his own country and people, and journey to an undesignated land where he would become the founder of a new nation.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10 Hebrews 11:8-10  By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.
 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
 For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
American King James Version×).
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20 Philippians 3:20For our conversation is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×).
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 2 Corinthians 5:17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
American King James Version×)
As Christians we have new identities as citizens of a new country. We have been invited to pass through a spiritual Ellis Island where we become “accepted.” Five years after arriving in the United States, my parents and I became naturalized US citizens.
When I have visited Ukraine, my friends tell me that even though I am a first generation Ukrainian and speak the language, that I don’t and should not identify as a Ukrainian. They rightly say that I am an American of Ukrainian descent. In the same way, we are all the citizens of the Kingdom of God coming from various descents.
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27 Acts 17:26-27  And has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
American King James Version×).
“But glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:10-11 Romans 2:10-11  But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that works good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
 For there is no respect of persons with God.
American King James Version×)
As I think about living in the United States and its privileges, I think of an even greater future time for all who yield to God and accept His invitation to His spiritual “Ellis Island.” This invitation is and will be available to all. God has a very special interest in you, and is looking for you to yield to and obey Him. I look forward to a time, which hopefully is not too distant, where justice under and within the law of God will rule and be available to all.
The final stop on the visit was to the Wall of Honor where my name and my parents’ names are inscribed. This wall was recently finished and renovated and contains names on 770 panels circling the island. It brought Revelation 2:17 Revelation 2:17He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he that receives it.
American King James Version×to mind: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
This visit graphically underscored and pointed to our identity and journey as Christians. It made me more thankful and appreciative for the awesome working of God in our lives!