I had an enlightening conversation this morning with a Nigerian cab driver who talked about Nigeria prior to discovering its oil, and how oil corrupted his people and his homeland. He spoke of the hopelessness of his generation and how “Nigerians now litter the world because we have no future in our homeland.” He described how he’d promised himself that he’d only come to the U.S. for four years, then he would return home–but how much had changed at home in those four years, and how he realized that as much as he missed it, he could never make a life there for a family. Many of his college mates have been assassinated for trying to evoke positive, moral change on behalf of their country’s poor. And he expressed disgust at his own betrayal: earning a living dependant upon the very industry which ruined his nation. He has now been in the U.S. (legitimately) for 34 years. It was a gut wrenching, heart breaking conversation and tears rolled down his cheeks while he talked. When I asked how things could change, he sucked air in through his teeth (in that Northern African way…) and said “I believe there is no hope for that land. To go back and fight the system is certain death. Better to be littered across the globe than to go back.”
I exited the cab sobered, vowing to decrease my dependence upon oil. But it sobered me in other ways: I was reminded of my own exodus from my native ecclesial land–and how very painful the denominational divorce was for me. Much like my driver spoke, I’d begun to realize that there was no future for me there–but it never dulled the pain of separation from my ecclesial birth-family. The nostalgia I’ve felt doesn’t outweigh the gravity of the spiritual danger it imposed–I’m better off having immigrated. It was a death-dealing situation, and my newly adopted homeland (I immigrated 6 years ago) has been life-giving.
My story isn’t unique and is hardly singular. Many of the colleagues with whom I went to seminary now minister in other denominations. And many have cast aside all forms of religiosity in favor of a more benign ‘spirituality’. We are ecclesial litter, to put it in my driver’s vernacular. And while we have managed to thrive in other environs, there remains that twinge of homesickness.