God's Goodness To Those Who Live Far Away From Home
Last Sunday when I was standing in front of our church making some announcements I stopped mid-sentence when a couple of visitors walked in the door. Midway through something about the next youth group, my mouth dropped open and out came, “Well hello, Mr. and Mrs. Cobb!” Grinning from ear to ear, it took me a minute to gain my composure.
I have known Mr. and Mrs. Cobb since I was four or five years old. Their daughter and I grew up on the soccer field together. The Cobbs were sort of secondary parents in my childhood. But as an adult I have only seen them once every several years.
So when they walked into my current world—the world where I am a church planter’s wife living about 20 miles away from the soccer fields of my youth and ministering mostly amongst people I’ve only gotten to know over the past year—it jolted me. As I stammered through the remaining announcements I thought about how they’ve known me so much longer than anyone else in the room—even my husband.
Another time about six months ago I found myself at a gathering of about 200 people—most of whom were from the church where my husband and I were married, where he was ordained, and from where we were commissioned and sent as missionaries. I didn’t know most of them personally, but I recognized them. They were the faces of the congregation that prayed for us when we moved overseas and the faces of the people who stopped us in the lobby on our visits home to ask us how we were doing on the mission field. I had a sense of their stories from almost 20 years ago, even though our relationships weren’t deep.
This Just Doesn’t Happen Overseas
These two occurrences, which must seem ho-hum, moved me. As an adult I have grown accustomed to walking into rooms where no one looks familiar, where I cannot read the body language or the setting or grasp at anyone’s background or life story. I have spent most of my adult life as a foreigner in foreign lands.
While living overseas I had a sense of not belonging—of being “other”—of lacking roots where others’ were deep. These two incidents, where I felt an immediate commonality and history with others, awakened me anew to this particular hardship of a life overseas.
On our increasingly nomadic globe, people are living just like that more and more. It is normal now to transplant one’s family from one state to another, even one country to another. It’s not unusual anymore to move even across oceans. We 7.6 billion people on Earth are living at “home” less and less.
Four Biblical Encouragements for Those Making a Home Away From Home
There are a handful of verses that I clung to during our 15 years overseas. These verses grounded me, tethered my to the truth of God’s sovereignty and kindness. Truths that reminded me that there was purpose in the “otherness” in which we were raising our kids.
1. God Put Us In Our Specific Time and Place for a Reason
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26).
When Paul is describing God to the Athenians he tells that our God is the creator and sustainer of all lives. He gives us life and breath and everything else. He decides when and where we should live. His purpose is that men would seek him and find him.
These verses—even now as I live back “home” in Colorado—have assured me over and over that my family is right where we are supposed to be. When I fret that this doesn’t feel right or that it doesn’t seem like the Lord is using us here, these words come back to me.
2. God Will Supply Your Need for Family
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).
We moved to Japan when our firstborn was just six months old. As new parents, we did not grasp that we were removing our baby from her roots. Our parents were sweetly supportive, but they could not hide their anguish when we said our goodbyes.
While it’s true that no one can fill the shoes of our kids’ real grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and cousins, God did provide amazing family for us overseas. We lived alongside others who were also uprooted. Because all of us lacked family, we clung to one another. There were a handful of families who became auntie and uncle to my girls, friends who we called in the middle of the night when a trip to the ER was needed, friends who could watch our kids for a few days when we had to go out of town, friends who would do anything for us.
We never, ever lacked relational support, because God was faithful. He did indeed give us “a hundredfold” in family.
3. Even Though We Were “Other” We Had Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, those of us who are in Christ, belong to same household. We’ve all been adopted as sons through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5). Therefore, we really do have brothers and sisters all over the world, wherever there are Christians. I have a deeper bond in important ways with believers in Kazakhstan or Kosovo and Korea than I do my blood relatives who are not in Christ.
This past weekend an out-of-state visitor to our church in Colorado remarked, “It’s amazing. I feel such a connection with everyone in this room, even though I don’t know them.” The family of Christ is sweet like that.
4. One Day Our Homesickness Will Be Gone Forever
With Paul we say, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). One day we will indeed be in heaven. We will be at home in our eternal home and reside with our Father and all our brothers and sisters. Our homesickness will be forever answered.
Until then, we have glimpses of the reunion to come. When Mr. and Mrs. Cobb walked into our church plant and when I looked around the room at hundreds of people that I vaguely knew, I was beholding my family. I had a sense of belonging and a shared history with them. One day we who move to and fro across the Earth will enjoy entering our real home where we will share a deep and unblemished connection with all who are gathered there. Until then, let’s trust him who put us right where we are.