The definition of home varies for many people. For some home is a place, for some it is people, for all believers home is our heavenly calling with Christ Jesus. Yet, something truly does happen in the missionaries' hearts when visitors come to see them. Hear from one of our sent-out ones who shares what it was like when some of the BH faith family came to visit in her "home".
Nearly all my childhood was spent in East Africa. This was my home. Yet I didn’t hold a passport from either country where I lived during that time. I was still American; that’s what my passport said. Yet I wasn’t really an American. I remember going to college and never knowing how to answer the question, “Where are you from?” I still don’t know how to answer it exactly.
Now I am living back in Africa, this time in North Africa. I still don’t know what to do with that elusive word “home.” Right now, this feels like home—this is where my life is. I even have family here. Yet, once again, I am a foreigner with a different passport, making
Overseas life is such a mix of joys and challenges. Being in another culture is so interesting and often exciting. It can truly be a fun and exhilarating experience to be surrounded by different people who think and live differently. There’s a lot to appreciate about the diversity of humanity and cultures. But it can also feel extremely isolating and frustrating. The constant presence of communication and cultural misunderstandings is exhausting at times. The mental energy needed to navigate daily life often feels overwhelming. Sometimes you just want to be with people that think like you, have the same goals as you, and “get” you.
Often when I am back in the US, I struggle to describe life here. And even when descriptions come, they never seem to do this place justice. The sights, smells, and sounds must be experienced firsthand to be truly understood. So, I do my best to paint a picture with my words, but that’s all it is, a picture, and a feeble one at that.
Earlier this year the picture of life here became a lived experience for a few from our Brook Hills family when they came to visit us. My brother and his wife serve on my team with me and are also sent out of Brook Hills. So, these friends are well acquainted with our lives here—our struggles and our triumphs as we serve in this vast city, greatly in need of the gospel and healthy churches. But they finally got to see it with their own eyes! It went from being stories and some names to flesh and blood people in a real place facing real joys and hardships.
They were only here for a few days, but those were special days for us. Their presence and willingness to engage in life with us was very encouraging. Simply sharing meals, talking together, and introducing them to friends and team here. Such simple things, and yet so important. Just being with us was so meaningful. At one point, during our few days, we all sat around my brother’s living room and had a mini worship session. Pastor Matt was one of the crew visiting, and he was gracious enough to grant my request to play and sing some songs for us. He sat at a little keyboard and played familiar tunes while we listened and sang along. It was an incredibly sweet moment that I will not forget. With the sounds of the city in the background, we joined our voices in unity to sing about the God who loves us, the God who saves us, and the God who sends us. What a gift to have a moment like this, with these friends from “home” being reminded of the unity we have in the gospel, in the church, and in ministry.
Being sent out of a church is one of the gifts of serving overseas. Having the support and backing of a body of believers stateside shores us up. But knowing how to care well for sent-out ones isn’t always obvious. Not everyone can make the trip across the water to see the picture they’ve heard of come to life. But some can. What a great way to encourage sent ones, by simply going and seeing the work, putting faces with names, and getting a glimpse of everyday life.
But going and visiting isn’t the only way to be connected. When those serving head home to the States, they often come back defeated and weary from the work. Some of them come back burnt out and desperately in need of refreshment. Most of them come back with things to talk about and process. For a lot of us, when we get back to BH, it feels like a lot has changed. There are lots of new faces, and there are familiar ones that aren’t there anymore. It can be hard to plug back in if your small group has disbanded, or friends have gotten married or moved away. Even if you don’t have a personal connection to the returning sent one, you are brothers and sisters in Christ, members of the same body and part of the same local church. So, invite them for dinner—don’t assume they’re too busy. Take them to coffee and just listen to them share. Even if you don’t know what to say or feel like you can’t relate, simply showing interest, asking questions, and listening is so meaningful. An invitation to share with your small group is also a great way to connect and care well for them.
I can say from personal experience that the body of Christ can feel more like home than any specific location on the map. The Brook Hills faith family can be a home and haven for those serving overseas—whether it’s visiting them on the field or hosting them in your home in Birmingham. I am reminded of the picture in scripture of the body of Christ and how we all need each other. No part of the body is insignificant, and God has given us each other to do this life together. We know that as the body of Christ, our ultimate home is with the Father in heaven. None of us are at home on this earth, and we all need each other to press on, remember the Gospel, pursue faithfulness, and make it safely home to Jesus. May we all do this well, both sender and sent out one.