J.C. Derrick: Remembering family history


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday the 27th of June. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Challenges related to immigration aren’t new for the United States. This isn’t even the first time the nation has faced a wave of unaccompanied minors. WORLD Radio Managing Editor J.C. Derrick brings us a story from his family’s history.

J.C. DERRICK, MANAGING EDITOR: In the 1860s, a German couple put their daughter Marie and her brother Carl on a ship to America. The boy was 17. Marie was only 13. Unaccompanied minors.

Some would say they were terrible parents for putting a young daughter on a ship full of strangers for nearly a month with no adult to protect her. But they faced an impending war with the Alsace region of France and decided it was less risky than keeping her at home. They knew they would never see Marie or her brother again.

Marie Riesel went to Galveston, Texas, to live with an uncle—her nearest adult relative. She stayed with him until she became an adult and married.

None of this would have been possible today. But I’m really glad it happened then, because Marie’s daughter’s daughter’s daughter brought me into this world.

Now I’m not suggesting that my personal family story gives us a guide for lawmaking today, but I do think it’s instructive for our current cultural moment. Reflecting on family history reminds me I didn’t choose the family, the country, or the time period into which I was born. God did.

And I can’t explain that any more than I can explain my own salvation. Both are humbling mysteries.

I wonder if more humility wouldn’t change how we as Christians respond to the latest border crisis.

Most of us will never have even the opportunity to break immigration law, because we were born citizens. It’s very easy to look down on those who break rules that don’t affect us.

That’s why I think it’s helpful to make things more personal. For example, did you know that crossing the border illegally is the same class misdemeanor as a speeding ticket?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t say I was fleeing violence the last time I broke the speed limit. Nor did anyone trick me into doing it.

I’m not minimizing law-breaking. I’m simply confessing that—according to the law—I’m the same level law-breaker as many of the migrants on the border.

I’m glad no one calls me an “illegal.” And I’m glad we don’t have a zero-tolerance policy for speeding.

By the way, one more thing about my great-great grandmother Marie. She remained poor most of her life and never became fluent in English.

But her youngest daughter graduated from Galveston Ball High School in 1912.

Her granddaughter got a taste of college—and had six kids who all earned college degrees. They became teachers, and CPAs, and ministers.

And then last month, Marie’s great-great granddaughter—my first cousin—also graduated from Galveston Ball High. As valedictorian.

Not a bad legacy for an unaccompanied minor.

For WORLD Radio, I’m J.C. Derrick.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “J.C. Derrick: Remembering family history

  1. Steve McNutt says:

    The family story gives a good perspective, on the other hand simple “speeding” is an infraction (fine only offense) not a misdemeanor or felony.

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