Contributing to our Guest Month, Elisha McFarland expounds his thoughts on the concept of having a home.
Have you ever struggled with the idea of “home”? I know I have. As missionary kids/third-country kids, we often battle this relentless onslaught of insecurity about our legitimate home. Throughout my entire life, the only insecurity I battled was found within a question: where is home? Do I have several, or none at all? What qualifies as a home?
I first moved to Uganda (East Africa) when I was about eight months old. Now, as a seventeen-year-old senior in High School, having permanently moved back to the United States after 16 years of service, I am reminded of the innocent questions only a four-year-old can ask.
“Mama, when are we going home?”
“We are home, darling.”
“No, we’re not. Home is waaaay over there.” (I would point to the clouds, thinking that, because I would fly there, the USA was on a cloud.)
Forget being four, I struggled with this idea (home, not the clouds) until the day I left Uganda. Where is my home? Am I allowed to pick more than one? What comes with actually having a home? Do I get my own room? (No, Elisha, you will still share with your brother.)
All of these questions (and the three hundred other questions I have omitted for sake of word count) are normal and even healthy. They prove we have a sense for home in the first place. Some people never leave their birth-homes, yet still don’t know where they belong. As far as people go, I think we’re doing a fairly good job.
Questioning home is a difficult insecurity. It bites deep, leaving us vulnerable and depressed. To make matters worse, this malady is not physical; it cannot be cured by drugs or remedies. This malady is of the spirit, and so we must turn to the One that created our spirit.
This answer was first given to me at TCK Camp Uganda 2016. This camp was so thoughtfully constructed and operated that when the management shifted, the newer leaders would never even come close to what was achieved in 2016. Needless to say, the time spent in this camp was world-rocking. Sermons were preached, hearts were changed … and homes were found.
One of the main speakers at this camp was Gabe Williams. Gabe had grown up as a missionary kid in Jamaica, spending most of his life there before attending college in the United States. After marrying his wife, Andrea, Gabe spent several years in Uganda serving as a missionary alongside my parents.
Gabe began his talk by discussing the difficulties of being a missionary kid. Insecurity, panic, depression–Gabe knew it all. He also knew exactly how it felt to struggle with the concept of home.
“Home,” he said, “is not where you are. It’s where you belong. Every single one of you here struggles with the idea of belonging because you don’t fit into either of your worlds. My American MK’s are too American to be fully Ugandan, but they have too many Ugandan tendencies to be fully American. They fit in this gap between two nations, bridging a divide many fear to cross. But let me tell you something: your home isn’t in the United States, or England, or Germany, or China, or even Uganda.
Your home is in Heaven.
Every single believer on this planet desires to be in their greatest Home, but they know they must serve God here, on this fallen planet. Regardless of whether they want to be here, they are here, serving the God that called them out of their sin and darkness. We, as believers, grow up in a place we do not belong. This isn’t home; Heaven is.”
Gabe then illustrated the idea of “Jesus the Missionary Kid”, saying, “Jesus Himself knows precisely what you are going through. Think about it: Jesus removed himself from the greatest, most amazing and exciting place in the Universe to go and live among the disgusting scum of Creation. He removed Himself from His home and spent about thirty-three years living on earth.
Christ was the ultimate Missionary Kid. He knew exactly how it felt to leave His home. While He may not have struggled with identity issues, He knows every thought in our head, and He understands our hearts. When we open our hearts to Him, He envelops us with His grace and love.
Elisha McFarland is a former missionary kid in Uganda, East Africa. After sixteen years there, he has moved back to the United States to pursue a career in pastoral ministry and writing. You can visit his blog here.