Saturday, January 26, 2013

"mama, are we home?"

It should have felt like home.

It was our first Sunday in America. Pure joy to worship alongside the hundreds of people that I grew up with...these were the ones with whom I sang, prayed with, and sat next to every Sunday for the most formative years of my life. And then we were called up on stage by Pastor Mike Smith, the very same man from whom we had repeated our vows of marriage and had pronounced us as "one person" eleven years before. It should have felt like be there in this fellowship of believers, to be standing next to my husband and this dear pastor.

But then, in front of these hundreds of people, he asked, "what is the thing that has surprised you most about missionary life?" And then words flowed out of my mouth, out of my heart. Surprising myself as they formed.

Home. The hardest and most surprising part of my missionary journey is that we are called to be homeless. We sold and left our home in the US, we live in a rustic home in the bush owned by WHM, we "itinerate" to borrowed homes in the US. 

I joke with Travis that when people ask me, "So, what do you do?" I want to tell them, "I pack, unpack, pack, unpack."But I am pretty sure that is not what they want to hear, so I share about life in the bush of Africa, how the gospel is moving forward, and about our humble and hardworking team.

I try to make our home in Bundibugyo a refuge, a place for beauty and rest. But my efforts are often thwarted by the continual front door knocking of neediness, the battle with the critters who are not invited indoors, and the stress that naturally comes with poverty, leadership, young children, and make-everything-from-scratch living. So, we pack up our bags, arrange for animals to be fed, close and lock our many shutters, unplug appliances, try to remember the countless power cords and electricity converters, and head out of Bundi to find rest outside of the home. Sometimes, we find that rest. Sometimes, the travel and life out of a suitcase is more exhausting than restorative, but at least we can be a family in a different locale.

Years back, Michael Masso said it best when he described this kind of life as "mobile and chaotic". During times of border insecurity, we have a "go bag" packed of needed essentials should we be forced to move out quickly. A bag always packed...yes, that feels mobile to me. Leaving our house, traveling at minimum three hours on rugged roads with young children to find rest...yes, that feels chaotic to me.

Since we moved to Africa when Aidan was not even three months old, his life has consisted of this rhythm of packing, moving, unpacking, sleeping in a different location, travel by truck, plane, and even occasional trains. En route between Africa and America, we recently spent some recommended time in Spain for rest, reflection, and recalibration to Western culture. When we arrived to our apartment there, Aidan asked in his chubby three year old voice, "Mama, are we home?" The question caught me off guard. We had never been to Spain. Why would he consider and then ask if this place is home? Maybe because, even in his young soul, he understands that we all long for home, a place of refuge, a place to call our very own.

And that is the truth of the gospel. The truth of our lives. We do have a home. It is just not made of walls, whether in sparkly America or muddy Africa. Our home is truly found in Jesus. When I am feeling out of sorts, such as our recent 7 weeks of suitcase life, feeling rootless, I repeat the mantra, "Jesus is my home. My Lord is my home." Again and Again. And Again. And, like the saints that have gone before me and many the saints that are around me, I remember that we are all called to be homeless, to not anchor ourselves or our identity in our house or dwelling space or even our nationality, but to be rooted and find our identity as a child of God, a citizen of His kingdom.

Maybe I am just a slow learner. It should not be the "biggest surprise of my missionary life" that my home is not in this world, but in Jesus. So, the next time Aidan asks if we are home, I can simply tell him, "No baby, we are not home yet."

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