When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns … Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime. Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders … Meanwhile, the Midianite traders arrived in Egypt, where they sold Joseph to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.—Genesis 37:18-36, NLT
Social research has indicated that, on average, immigrants tend to be more ambitious than their compatriots who do not leave their country. The great majority of immigrants do not arrive in their new home with a sense of defeat, but rather with optimism and dreams to improve their lives. Sociologist John Ogbu, a Nigerian-American, conducted research that indicates a tremendous advantage for “voluntary immigrants” because they see their new context as a place of opportunity. In contrast, “involuntary minorities” often see their home as a place of oppression and injustice.
Joseph, the celebrated dreamer, certainly did not arrive in Egypt as a “voluntary immigrant.” His dreams of glory and honor had to do with his family, not a faraway land like Egypt, full of prejudice (Génesis 46:33). But his dreams provoked great jealousy and hatred against him among his own brothers, to the point that they wanted to kill him. Because of mercy or cowardice, they decided to sell him as a slave.
Nevertheless, Joseph became a model for all immigrant dreamers. His example resonates with the ultimate shout of “Yes, we can!” Of all the categories of immigration—diplomats, investors, skilled technologists, lottery winners, entertainers, temporary or migratory workers, exiles, refugees, fugitives, etc.—no one faces graver challenges than the slave. If Joseph could fulfill his dreams, why not you? You can overcome any barrier.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.