Servie's Song by Heidi Tucker tells the gripping story of a woman from Zimbabwe who is given an opportunity to immigrate to the United States without her five children. The choice is heartbreaking and the resultant trials even more so. Interwoven into Servie's narrative, the author weaves in doctrine and commentary from Servie's faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The book's primary tenet is that joy is possible despite our circumstances.
I suppose I might have struggled more with the narrative if the plight of modern immigrants weren't so personal for me. A few years ago, a family entered our congregation. The parents had been brought over by my church to work in international accounting. The wife was pursuing a nursing degree. Smart, vibrant people who radiated joy. Then came the day I learned that that had been required to leave their oldest three children in their country of origin - a country with violence and war.
Servie heard the final call. A glaring announcement at the airport gate that boarding would soon begin. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly trying to calm her racing heart and restless stomach. Servie dared herself to look back one more time. A final glance at the 2-year-old daughter she was walking away from.
The choice struck me powerfully. I wanted to judge a mother who abandons her children to an uncertain life. But as I heard the story behind that choice, I understood the conflict better. Was it right to leave women in a country of near-certain rape and abuse? A world where women have few options for education? Or was it better to take a chance on U.S. Immigration, to hope that one day VISAs would be granted the boys? Access to American money made the latter more likely.
I didn't have an answer, I could only be grateful I've never faced the choice.
Years later, so many years that boys had turned into gangly teenagers, the whole family walked back into our ward to thank us for our feeble attempts to help them achieve unity. They all still radiated that same joy.
This story was fully on my mind as I read Servie's Song. The reality of our world is that many mothers don't have the privilege to sit with their children in safety while noisy little ones argue over video game controllers and who hit who.
I know that no life is perfect, but most of those who read this blog have more than Servie had as she stepped on a plane with nothing but hope in a promise from God and the promises of an often-unwelcoming country. So I challenge you to read Servie's Song. Maybe the doctrine resonates, maybe you skip those chapters. But I hope Servie's Story changes you. I hope you make a decision to be more like Angela, who sacrifices time and money to use her privilege in Servie's behalf, or will you be the school director who dismisses a struggling mother because a journey to bury a child carries unexpected delays. The choice is yours every day.
Until then, we live. Just like Servie lived - one chapter, one trial, one heartache at a time...God is always there. He knows the beginning,t he middle, and the end. He knows the melody...He knows your song.
I've recommended Servie's Song to my LDS book club. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we've been asked to take in the stranger. Maybe you can't literally do so, but you can take in Servie's Song and choose to sing beside her. As we amplify her voice, we begin a chorus calling for mothers not to have to consider leaving their children in order to reach for survival.
So many organizations desperately need your help to ease the suffering of immigrants and refugees. I write for an organization called Their Story is Our Story. We tell refugee stories to gain understanding and awareness. You are always looking for talented, dedicated volunteers to help us further the work. Contact me for information. There are many more Servies who need help singing their songs.