I am a Mennonite Canadian, but I did not grow up here. I grew up in the Middle East, in the small but wealthy country of Qatar. My experience growing up internationally has given me a unique understanding of what being Canadian means to me. When I think about Canada, the word that comes to my mind is embassy, but in order to explain why I chose the word embassy, I need to tell you a bit more about what my experience of growing up internationally was like.
I am so glad for my experiences growing up in Qatar, and it was a good, stable place for my family to live and for my parents to show their daughters more of the world outside of North America (if you have seen the news, you will know this stability is currently being challenged, but I do not have the space here to elaborate on that issue). Still, the Qatari legal system is not as good as the Canadian legal system, and if the worst should happen and an immigrant were to get caught up in a legal issue, there was not much to guarantee that you would be treated fairly. Embassies are the places immigrants go to when they need the support of their home government to ensure that they are being treated fairly, and as such embassies in this context become a symbol of refuge and safety.
Being a Canadian meant I had access to the refuge of an embassy that would care about my well being while I was living abroad. Canada is also like an embassy on a larger scale; it is a place where people who are either wanderers or refugees can come to find a place of safety and support. Being international has become a part of my identity, and one of my favorite things about Canada is that it is a country that cares so much about welcoming foreigners and treating them well.
The symbol of an embassy is also an important image for how I understand my faith. As followers of Christ, we are called to be ambassadors to the kingdom of God. When I listen to sermons in Canada, people tend to interpret this phrase “ambassador” to mean that we need to be a good example and representative of God’s way of life. While this is true, the word ambassador means something a bit different to me. It means that we are meant to serve as safe havens and places of refuge for people in the world around us. It means that we need to be people others can turn to when they need support, care, and love. To be an ambassador of God means to share God’s love with the people around us. It is my hope that Canada will be able to continue growing in its embassy-like qualities, and continue to be a place of refuge for all those in need.
Amelia Wiens is a Publishing Assistant at Word Alive Press. She is in the process of completing her undergrad degree with a double major in English and Psychology, and her favorite hobbies include reading, creative writing, and contemporary dance. She currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.