When Home is No Longer Home
By Stuart & Eugenia Li, Missionaries in Nicaragua
Home is where you feel safe. Home is where you can run to when everything has gone wrong and you just need comfort. Home is where your best friends are. Home is where family is. Home is where your heart is.
A crazy thing happens to missionaries after they spend enough time abroad. The first few trips back to their home country they still feel like they’re going “home.” But after several years on the field, putting down roots in their host country, and making many new local friends, their concept of home begins to shift.
Things gradually change in their home country. With each visit, they feel farther and farther removed from those they once counted as friends. They’ve missed new fads like TikTok and Netflix, which have infiltrated their home while they were gone. Friends have moved away or moved on. People have grown up. And slowly what was once their home no longer feels like home.
Now they’re stuck in a dilemma. Being on the mission field has its stresses as well—not being able to buy whatever they want from Amazon with one click, not having access to a wide range of cuisines like their home country, and being separated from family and their children not being able to grow up seeing their grandparents.
Herein lies one of the many sacrifices missionaries make when they go on the field. They may forever lose their sense of home. Even if they decide to leave the mission field after a few years, a piece of their heart will always be left with the people they served and spent time with.
But take heart, as a missionary, when you’ve arrived at the point where the location of home has become so blurred that you yearn for both places to be home—where you wish you could just pick up your home town and your host community and stick them together in one location so you can have the best of both worlds—you know you have successfully integrated into the culture. Your heart and your home are no longer strictly in one place, but you have learned to adapt as you move between your two homes.
During COVID-19 this was even more amplified as airports began shutting down, and we had to make a quick decision of whether to fly “home” or to stay “home.”
We decided the latter because we knew we needed to be with those we were serving in Nicaragua during that time of great need. As we reflected more on our decision to stay, we realized that our safe space was no longer the U.S. In fact, this time, there was no running home to avoid a crisis. The crisis was everywhere.
As we look to the next time we may go “home,” we are patently aware that home will be even more different this time around. Social distancing and masks mean the intimate gatherings and meetings with friends may no longer be possible. Many of the stores and restaurants we used to go to may no longer be there. We get a shrinking feeling that another part of our “home” has been taken from us, but we are comforted in knowing that our time in Nicaragua during COVID-19 has strengthened our relationships with the local people, and we have gained an even more substantial home in Nicaragua as a result.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
Ultimately, we know our future home is in Heaven. In the homes of this world, we will have trials and tribulations. But the day will come when we will be praising and dancing in His presence, and it will be glorious! Amen.
To God Be The Glory.