The customs officer stamped my passport, handed it back with a smile, then added two words: Welcome home.
That word is more than a physical location. For most people, it conjures up feelings of belonging, of psychological well-being, of safe-harbor.
So was the officer correct? Was I now “home”? What he didn’t know was I had merely flown in for 4 days of education meetings. Whatever might be emblazoned on the cover of my passport, most of my time was being invested not in my birth country but working in various African nations.
As missionaries, Amy and I now work in a single African nation, but still only about 15% of our time – a few months every two years – is given to traveling in the land of our citizenship, keeping up ties with supporters. As a practical matter, if only my birthland is “home,” then we cannot be simultaneously “home” and obedient to God’s calling to work overseas.
So should we just reverse the formula and call Africa our home? There’s an argument to made for that. We’re always learning more about the culture of each African nation where we’ve lived (four), whether it’s a phrase, food, a custom or a proverb. In each country, people have welcomed us with open arms. As we’ve developed relationships on the Big Continent, our thoughts often turn toward friends and co-workers when we’re away. Most of our possessions are in Africa, and it’s the place where we enjoy a daily rhythm.
Truth be told, the definition of “home” changes over time.
When our children were younger and still with us, we defined “home” as “wherever the four of us are together.” Now that they’re grown, that definition won’t work. In reality, we really have two homes. Home is both where we live and work in Africa and the country where we were born and raised. You might say we’re rich in homes, with double as many “homes” as most people, even though we own no house or condo. “Home” is where we’re welcome, and for us, that’s on both sides of the Atlantic. That’s a good thing.
Praying for us
Thank you for asking God to protect us on the road during our deputation, interestingly called (in-light of the essay above) “home assignment.” Amy and I are roughly 1/2 done, and so far, we’ve traveled more than 5,700 miles, speaking in churches in 8 states. We’ve slept in 23 different beds. It has been a challenge but very rich as we tell the story about what God is doing through Africa Nazarene University. It’s exciting to see that Nazarenes still have a heart that beats for missions!