By Anita Grace Lie Carman
I wish I could bring you back to where the story began. If you could see my humble beginnings, you would stand amazed at how great God is. Thank you for honoring me this evening and for giving me this prestigious award from the Daughters of the American Revolution for leadership and community impact. This medal belongs to the great God we serve and the great country of America which He breathed into existence!
From as early as I can remember, my family dreamed of coming to this free land. We had to wait ten years before our first interview with U.S. Immigration. At the age of 17, I finally came to this country on a student visa with all my worldly possessions jammed in two suitcases. I did not have the funds to call home or to fly home during holidays.
Sadly, my parent’s petition to come to this country had been denied. My mother became very depressed. Six months before I left my country, she had taken her own life.
What a contrast my leaving for college was in comparison to my two sons, ages 20 and 18 who are with me this evening. One is at Cornell University and the other is at Texas A & M. When they left for college, I told them they were evidence of God’s goodness. They left with a car full of belongings, their computer games, their cell phone, their tuition paid for with the funds to return home during their school breaks. One of my sons had a suitcase full of games and his father had to say, “Son, where are your clothes?” and he went to his room to throw in his clothes with the idea that if he forgets anything he can always return home. I left knowing I could not return home if I forgot anything. What a contrast but also, what a testimony of the great country of America and the opportunities it offers to change the future for the next generations. Opportunity is a gift and my prayer is that my children will celebrate it.
A few years after I arrived in this country on a student visa, I returned to my country for an interview with U.S. immigration to hopefully have my student visa changed to that of US resident, which would lead to my becoming a US citizen.
I walked into the interview knowing that my relationship with my brother who had become a US citizen was my only grounds to have my status changed to that of US permanent resident. The problem was, he was born in China during the war and my mother did not have a birth certificate for him. US immigration said they would settle for a blood test from my mother. The problem was, my mother had died. So here I was going into an interview where my grounds for immigration was my relationship with a brother who I could not prove was my brother. But GOD can work through any circumstance. At the time of the interview I was in college in Mississippi and I am the kind of person who absorbs her environment. As I was speaking and explaining to the immigration officer why I wanted to be in this country, he began to laugh. He said, “I have not been in my country for years and I never imagined I would hear a Mississippi accent out of the mouth of a Chinese woman. You want to live in our country? Fine.” He stamped the papers “Approved”. When I left his office, the thought hit me, “God must want me in America . When God has a plan for your life, He will open the doors.”
… I grew up in a country where I was always saying goodbye to my friends…I don’t know if you have ever been in a place where you had to say goodbye to friends, to family, to the structure that has been so much a part of your life. Fortunately, I came out of a mission school in my city where I learned about the God who created humankind by breathing His very breath of life into us. I became aware that God’s eternal breath is connected with God’s eternal purpose. Over time, I learned that unless my life is about using God’s breath in me to express His purpose, no matter how successful I am, I will feel displaced, disconnected and restless wherever I am in my life.
I clung to God’s promises in the Bible. He told me in the Bible that when human kind fell into sin, our sin nature separated us from Him. He told me a loving God sent His son to earth to offer me the way back to the Father and to be a forever friend who would walk with me into the rest of my life.
Because my whole life consisted of saying goodbye to family and friends, I was grateful to receive a forever friend who would guide me in my life.
Eighteen months after my mother’s death, my father re-petitioned and was granted papers to this country. He is a US citizen and lives with my stepmother in Houston , Texas .
Today I am able to give my mother all that she ever dreamed of having but she is not here to receive the blessing. God had such wonderful dreams for her but she lost hope too soon. God transformed my personal loss into a passion to help thousands of women to guard God’s dream for their lives. Inspire Women produces citywide events to inspire women to connect their lives with God’s purpose, we discover and mentor women with leadership potential and we fund scholarships to train women in the best programs in town that will prepare them for their calling.
The heart of America is all about freedom to develop one’s potential. Many immigrants’ first glimpse of America after the Revolution was the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. When I came to America , I was touched by the poem written by Emma Lazarus for dedicating the Statue of Liberty, which she calls the “Mother of Exiles”. The ending words to her poem were these:
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The very heart of America was meant to express God’s purpose of love and mercy and God’s belief in the potential of all people to represent Him.
President Ronald Reagan said, “If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
President John F. Kennedy said, “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
As a citizen of this great country which God breathed into existence to represent His heart to the oppressed, as one with God as my forever friend to walk with me into His purpose, I am grateful to God for entrusting me to express His life on this earth.
I thank God for using my insignificant life to establish Inspire Women which God birthed in Houston Texas but which He will carry to inspire leaders in major cities across the country to empower thousands of women to serve others.
As Founder and President of Inspire Women, my prayer is that every woman in our city, and every man married to a great woman, and everyone who ever had a great mother, grandmother or female teacher in their lives will one day say, “I am proud to know of the Inspire Women organization. Who would not want to be part of a work that releases the potential of women of all ethnic backgrounds to fulfill their God appointed assignments to bless the world?”
But more than that, I pray that every American citizen will be proud of the awesome privilege to be citizen of a country that so many in the world look to as a beacon of hope.
I was that tired, poor 17 year old yearning to breathe free, tempest-tossed through the loss of my mother and best friend and today I am privileged to lift my lamp (my witness of GOD’s blessing) beside a golden door of grace and freedom in America . God remembered my mother’s prayers to protect her children in America . America is the land of promise, and it represents for me a God who keeps His promises. Thank you for this award and may God bless America !