What Do We Owe Caesar?

At the end of a long day, sometimes we overlook significant photos.  These two are from yesterday morning in Elkton, Tennessee.


Sejal and her father-in-law, Grovindji, told Jeffrey about their immigration to the U.S., their family, the mango grove back home.  Grovindji admired our bicycle.


Pulaski, Tennessee, is where the Ku Klux Klan was founded.  We were told that residents are sensitive about the town’s history.  Note the yellow Dollar General sign.  American Heartland!

Today at breakfast, Jeffrey met a group of Germans on tour.


At left in the black shirt is Sonja, in the olive shirt is Reinhardt.  Their English seemed the best in the group.

Jeffrey apologized for interrupting their breakfast (which was pitiful compared to what is offered in German hotels), apologized for being unable to address them in German, and asked their view on the world refugee crisis.  Jeffrey praised Germany’s generous response, and surprised the Germans with the news that in 2018, the USA has admitted only forty (40) Syrian refugees.

Sonja has sympathy for refugees, who accept poor living conditions because they are afraid to go home; Sonja’s sister teaches German to newcomers.  Reinhardt, an enthusiastic bicycle traveler, also was sympathetic while acknowledging that there is a limit to what Germany can do.  These two talked at length with Jeffrey about cycling, the Rides, and America.  We wished them a wonderful stay; they wished us safety and happiness on the road.

As Jeffrey was checking our tires, Nate called out.


Nate was intrigued by the sign on our bike.  After Jeffrey told him about the Ride, Nate decried the government’s attitude toward refugees and asylum applicants.  He understands the need for lawyers to help people present their cases.  He gave us his smile and his blessing.

Jeffrey needed help with his tire pump.  Christian to the rescue!


Christian figured out how to configure Jeffrey’s exotic tire pump.  A humanitarian, he bicycled from Huntsville to Phoenix, AZ, on a successful mission to convince insurance companies to pay for a particular therapy for cystic fibrosis patients.

In downtown Huntsville, business owner Trang told Jeffrey about his harrowing teenage escape from Vietnam.


Trang plans to write a book.  In his thick Alabama accent, he spoke of his love for America.  He believes that today’s refugees should have the same chance he has had since 1979 to contribute to the country, to work hard, and to be safe.

Trang joined Jeffrey and David for a talk with Ellin, a Baptist “liberation” pastor.


Ellin has thought deeply about the political and economic systems that harm poor Americans while forcing people in other countries to leave home or die.  When others claim that Jesus would “render under Caesar what is Caesar’s” and expel refugees because secular authorities have so decreed, Ellin replies that nothing belongs to Caesar, that all belongs to God, that God’s command to love the stranger must prevail.

Ellin’s heart broke when her teenage daughter died in a car crash involving an unauthorized foreigner, but to whatever extent the foreigner’s status led to the tragedy, Ellin believes it was because he suffered here as an outsider, not because he was born on the other side of an arbitrary border.  We grieve for the sadness Ellin has borne, and admire her for how she has borne it.

After that intense conversation, Jeffrey and David had lunch where service was provided by Brook, of Utica, NY . . .


. . . we were enlightened by Jack-of-all-trades Michael, a native of Jersey City . . .

. . . and we were delighted to meet Ashley (from near Rochester, NY), Oliver (in Ashley’s arms), and Katherine (from Brooklyn, NY, and whose father was from Ogdensburg, near Jeffrey’s native village).


We loved our chats with these supportive new friends, and the reminders of home.

Jeffrey pedaled us 19 miles south, past an encouraging sign . . .


The banner says, “Immigrants & Refugees Welcome”

. . . on a greenway along a creek . . .


. . . and onto a parkway (not shown) where the speed limit was 65 and the shoulder disappeared.

Jeffrey phoned David.  Instead of pedaling through this dangerous zone, we let David drive us the last miles to tonight’s destination, Arab.  (The town was to be named Arad, after founder Stephen Tuttle Thompson’s son, but a clerk in Washington erred.)

Tomorrow we will head southeast to a town that has been in the news.

2 thoughts on “What Do We Owe Caesar?

  1. Dear Joey and Jeffrey,
    As always, your posts are fascinating. This one, perhaps in part by virtue of it’s title, “What do we owe Caesar?”, shines a particularly bright light on the complexity of the broader topic of immigration. Your unrelenting focus on education and your genuine effort to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and colored terminology is truly admirable. Yes we are a country of laws, but as citizens we have an obligation to understand and consider our laws. Laws can and often should be changed. Thank you for the work you are doing. Barbara (Rugh) Robeson
    PS Glad to see you are considering your own well being when appropriate!


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