Psalm 126 for Im/migrant Dreamers

This setting of Psalm 126 is a fairly close rendering of the original text – just freed up enough to refer to the context we encountered in Scicli, Sicily. The inspiration came from hearing workers at Mediterranean Hope describe their experiences of boats arriving from North Africa. For some of those who made it safely over, the enormous relief of arrival in Europe was exhilarating, with people hugging one another, singing and dancing on the beach. That description merged in my mind with the story of two (very) young travellers, one from Cote d’Ivoire and one from Mali, who had travelled across the desert in pick ups driven by people traffickers.

Those experiences came together in my head with Psalm 126, which describes an exhilarating dream like arrival, but also includes references to water in the desert/wilderness. The lyric also references Mahalia Jackson’s iconic How I Got Over – a liberation song from the African American tradition. The shout of praise ‘God is Great’, as well as being faithful to the Psalm text, reflected our experience of learning from the local Imam and members of the mosque in Scicli and was a way of marking the fact that many of those who give thanks and praise for a safe arrival are Muslims.

There was so much that was painful and disturbing about the experiences we heard of in Scicli, that it would have been easy to only write songs of lament. This big, swinging, gospel/R’nB tinged number bears witness to the fact that that the immigrant/refugee/asylum seeker experience also includes moments of celebration, praise and thankfulness. For some people, what they sowed in tears, they reaped in joy.

when our God brought us over – It was like a dream! (x2)

We were laughing, we were dancing,
Then we all began to sing
‘God is Good, yes God is Great!
See how our God has done great things!’

when our God brought us over -It was like a dream! (x2)

just like water in the desert
in those hot and dusty years
our arrival was the harvest
of all we had sowed in tears

when our God brought us over -It was like a dream! (x2)
like a dream.

© Doug Gay 2019