Loving America: When You’ve Experienced the Darkness, You Appreciate the Light

What happens when you love something with all your heart and God asks you to give it up?

If you’re Ed and Leré Robinson, you obey. You put your house in South Africa on the market, where it gets gobbled up immediately. Unprepared for the quick turnaround, you move your two little girls and newborn into an apartment, and you complete the agonizing process of leaving your entire family, your culture, all your friends, and everything you’ve ever known and loved behind.

You do it because you serve God, and He has a mission waiting for you in America—and around the world.

It’s devastating and exhilarating all at once.

I recently sat down with Leré and Ed in their little renovated backyard barn, a project they assumed by themselves, taking them years to complete, as time and finances allowed. For them, it stands as a testament to God’s goodness and provision, a beautiful and sacred space known as Leré’s Barn—outfitted to accommodate Leré’s passion for nutritional cooking.

It’s a business, a dream, that was all but unimaginable when the Robinsons arrived in South Carolina back in 2007.

But God.

And something else, too.

The United States.

Just days now before our all-important United States election, I am eager to speak with them about America—what they found here when they first arrived, and if their feelings have changed.

I want their perspective, these immigrants, these fiercely proud South Africans turned American citizens, who hold their adoptive country with the same love and respect as they do their birth country.

They offer a viewpoint our mainstream media overlooks and Big Tech censors want us to forget: This is still the country upon which the rest of the world runs. And now that they’re here, they’re not leaving.

Ed’s ministry takes him to many of those countries people flee—to some of the darkest corners of the earth. He has seen what it’s like to live without. He has witnessed time and again how socialism depletes societies, robbing not just prosperity and dignity from its citizens, but hope. Alongside its meaner, more sinister sister, communism, they steal individuality, demand conformity, censor opposing views, and destroy dreams and truthtellers.

I ask him—as we watch Big Tech and the media censor and ignore political stories—if he worries. He tells me one of the “joys” of living in the U.S. has been the ability to take Americans to some of the closed countries in which he works to see for themselves what it’s like to live without freedom of speech, the right to vote, or the liberty to worship freely. He wishes he could show all Americans what it’s like to be forced to worship in secret or walk miles for a few eggs.

There is, he and Leré agree, so much that Americans take for granted.

The Robinsons left a tenuous political situation in South Africa that has only gotten more dangerous. Before they emigrated, the Robinsons had a few close calls where their home was compromised, Leré alone with their three young daughters. They had two cars stolen. Security measures are intense in their homeland. Standard safety equipment on homes include electric fencing, lasers, barred windows, and inner safe rooms. Outside dining and cookouts require careful care and caution. Evening walks are too dangerous to risk.

There is real freedom in feeling safe stopped at a traffic light or in taking your dog for a nighttime stroll. Leré says when they first moved to South Carolina and enjoyed a late evening summertime walk, it “blew their minds.” She said they were overwhelmed by how blessed they felt.

These are blessings they wish more Americans would count.

The Robinsons say watching the ongoing riots and calls to defund the police has been particularly unnerving because they well know that in their home country and nations across the world, the police will not, cannot, or are not equipped to respond.

“In America, law and law enforcement has been undermined,” Ed tells me. “That’s worrying. People speak about it very idealistically, having less and less police, but we’ve lived where the police can’t handle it. And when your peace and your safety and your security goes out the door, your quality of life just drops tremendously.”

For Leré, in particular, raising three daughters in the relative safety of South Carolina has been what she calls a “privilege.”

Her mama’s heart is grateful for the opportunities afforded these girls, each of whom has a fierce work ethic and determination. Their eldest, Tay, is an aerospace engineer major at the University of South Carolina. Then there’s Celine, a sophomore at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. Chloe brings up the rear. She’s a high school freshman who’s thinking about a career in medicine.

The Robinson girls seem to be living the very definition of the great “American Dream.”

But for their parents, it’s that and more.

In South Africa, even at their very young ages, the girls were rooted with life-defining characteristics like discipline and respect. Those qualities were nurtured here in the United States where roots gave way to wings in a country that embraced these girls with their fabulous accents and impressive intellects—and dared them to dream.

It’s no cliché to say that, for an aerospace engineer and a would-be Air Force pilot, here in America, the sky is truly the limit.

For this immigrant family and the young women being raised to change the world, there’s a lot to appreciate about the United States.

So, too, is Leré’s nutritional business, Alive Again!. She’s developed it over many years, and it now features cooking demonstrations and custom-designed group wellness talks from Leré’s Barn.

Those who know the Robinsons know theirs is anything but a fairytale story. It is a story of deep faith.

Leré gets emotional when she recounts the family and friends she left behind in South Africa. They retain half her heart.

But the other half now belongs to her American family—an unexpected community of friends and fellow believers who’ve walked what has sometimes been a bleak road with them.

The life of a missionary family is never easy, and when they have faced devastating personal loss—like the death of Leré’s dad in a traffic accident years ago—her new family rallied around her to make sure she had the means to fly back to South Africa to grieve with her first family.

“I think the sense of community just blew our minds,” she recounts, tears flowing, “to come into a culture where there is a crisis to see how people rally around those going through crisis. And I don’t think Americans realize that they are probably some of the most generous in the world.”

I tell them what they’re saying is counter to everything our culture is screaming at us right now. Our media, our betters at university, the political and Hollywood elite, all demand that Americans feel ashamed of our history, our flag, our country.

Ed sees it differently.

“What Americans have they’ve put to good use,” he observes. “Going to other nations and seeing what America is doing for other nations and the way they’re helping nations…When there’s a crisis, a famine, a natural disaster, or something, America steps in and helps. I think it’s one of those nations … without America in the world, as it were, the world would be a much worse place.”

I am grateful for this thoughtful couple from South Africa—turned proud Americans.

I’m thankful they are my longtime friends and for the many life lessons they’ve taught me. I’m inspired by their singular devotion to one King: Jesus Christ. Serving Him and Him alone puts politics in its proper place, even in a year like this one with so very much at stake.

The Robinsons see America as that hopeful city on the hill—with respect and thanksgiving. For them, the right to vote is a sacred responsibility. They hold it dear and have exercised it early this year, praying for the best but knowing Who wins, no matter who wins.

It’s interesting how those that minister in the darkest places are often the ones who best recognize that America is the brightest of lights, and make it their duty to shine.