International Ministries

No Place Like Home

February 18, 2014 Journal
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     For the first time in 12 years, I am in my country for an extended period. Although I am ‘home’ in the US, for over a decade, South Africa has been my home as well. Missionaries, if we are open, identify with those we serve and with whom we do ministry. We grow to understand the people, their cultures, values and worldviews. Hopefully, we enjoy worshiping with them as their distinctive ways become more familiar. We make a new life in another country and find a place which some of us begin to call “home.” Our children go to school and have play-dates there. We make friends and build relationships there. Our new home can become so familiar, we are unsure of where we really belong.

Upon returning to our native countries, some missionaries don’t quite fit in. Things feel a little strange and out of sorts. We no longer share the same priorities with family and friends. For some of us, reality TV comes across as crude. Cable and web images may appear irreverent or even obscene. Although we remain natives, there is something about us that will never be the same. We have shared the challenges, struggles and horrors of others who live outside of the world from which we come. It is difficult for many of us to erase such images and impressions from our hearts and minds and to focus on the frivolous.

On the other hand, when things fall apart in our personal lives, when daily problems and stress threaten to overwhelm us, I dare say, we missionaries draw from our own spiritual wellsprings. Our coping mechanisms grow out of the lessons learned in our native countries, from which our beliefs and the basis of our faith were formed. Granted, we have learned to appreciate the ways or even the language of those we serve. I, myself, continued to learn and grow spiritually on the mission field. However, what I know, I know, I know was learned within an earlier context in my native home. I believe we cope and overcome in this life, as we draw from personal resources. And when we seek the Lord with all of our hearts, we do it our way, using our words and holding onto our faith in what we believe is real.

Last week I attended a leadership meeting at my church here in NJ. I am sometimes impatient with such gatherings, but I truly enjoyed this meeting. The opening praise and worship was a special blessing as we sang songs I had learned as a child. The simple choruses and their meaning brought me joy. It felt good being among co-laborers with whom I share a common heritage. I am not the only American, the guest or the other. It does not matter that I know fewer members of the congregation now than I did 12 years ago—I feel a part of them. It does not matter I no longer wear the clergy collar nor ministry vestments—I remain one of them.

The senior pastor, Dr. Donald Hilliard, Jr., shared the vision the Lord has given him for 2014 with Cathedral leaders. He alluded to his own humanness and frailties, his being subject to pain and suffering like the best of us. We must serve as a team and be willing to fill in one another’s gaps, he suggested. I am reminded why I continue to respect and appreciate this man as a leader, and our church as my covering. I realize I am part of something much bigger than my ministry and my vision. In the same way, they too belong to something greater. No matter how small any of our roles in Christ’s church, we are cut from the same cloth. We are filled with the same Spirit. We are marked by the same hand for His purpose. The obscure part I play, in contrast to the great, is no less precious in God’s sight.

This time for me in the US is for reflection, refueling and restoration. While I go about the business of sharing my mission in South Africa, its spiritual and financial needs, I know I require some adjustments having moved from one location to another. It has been said, “Home is where the heart is.” If our hearts are in Christ, if He truly lives within our hearts, then wherever we are, wherever we go and wherever we serve, we can always be at home. I wholeheartedly agree with a young girl from Kansas who continues to share with whoever will believe, truly, “There’s no place like home.”

I look forward to visiting your church and sharing what God is doing on the other side of the world. I hope you will prayerfully consider how you can support this mission as we write the vision, share and run with it. Please sow into the great work to which the Lord has assigned us in Soweto and Johannesburg. Let us turn your dollars into rands for the sake of Christ's Kingdom!