SOJOURNERS SEARCHING FOR A HOME

This post is from my amazing wife, Lorna. Follow her on twitter @lornajoannes. Enjoy!

Sitting at our 40 square meter apartment in Manila, I am crying to God, asking where is my “home”? It has been more than nine months since we moved out of China. I was excited to return to the Philippines, thinking that it would be great to be “home”. I would finally be with my family, friends, church community, see the familiar faces, places and food. But after nine months of life in Manila, it feels so different. I still feel like I am not really “home”.

I remember it clearly, nearly nine years ago when I left home for China. It was two months after David and I got married. I was excited for my new stage of life with David and the mission field. But the day I left, I was filled with mixed emotions. It was the day I stepped into the unknown, the day I left all the comforts of home. It was a full flight, and as the plane took off, all I noticed was David sitting next to me, comforting me as I sobbed my eyes out.

That year was full of “firsts”, as I was a stranger to a foreign land. My first Chinese new year. My first Christmas in China (it was full of tears). My first time to celebrate my birthday with all the strangers and acquaintances from the missionary community. But as time went by, they became great friends. They became like a family to me.

It took me more than a year to adjust while experiencing the first year of our marriage, studying the language, and traveling to villages where there was no witness of the gospel. We had a great community. At last, I felt I was home! I felt better. However, in the back of my mind, I always thought of my “first home”.

Many years passed. By God’s grace, we were able to establish training centers among some of the most unreached villages in China. Many followed Christ, churches were planted, and they began to reach their own people. Throughout these years, I felt at home in this foreign land. There were times that I didn’t even think about my first home in the Philippines anymore. The mixed emotions of leaving that home had slowly faded. In my heart, I thought we would stay in China for many more years, and even raise our family there.

But after many years, David and I became very sick. We were unable to have children. Many people even told us it was impossible. I had stage four endometriosis and other health problems. The years of heavy travels and lack of good medical care had taken a toll on our bodies.

So we decided that it was time to leave China for the Philippines. Again, I was filled with mixed emotions. I had to leave the place where I finally felt had become “home” to go back to my “first home”.

When we arrived in Manila, my expectations were high. But soon I realized that I had mistaken hopes. I felt like I was a stranger in my own land. All the people, friends, and places were no longer familiar to me. The years spent in a foreign land had created a chasm between me and my own land. It wasn’t that our friends and family did not welcome us warmly. They did. They are not to be blamed for what I felt. It was I myself who chose to leave and follow God’s call. The years of experience on the mission field, and the life I have lived in a foreign land had strangely detached me from the place I once called “home”.

As I ponder all these feelings, I realize that the book of Hebrews says in perfect words all that I am experiencing:

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.” (Hebrews 11: 8-10, The Message)

You may be a businessman, a student, a minister or a missionary, but we are all transients and strangers in this world. We are all passerby’s, and someday we will return to our true home. Through the years of following the Lord, I have always felt like a stranger wherever I go. I felt foreign in the tribal villages of Yunnan, China mountaintops; in the overpopulated bustling city of Manila; in quiet Prescott, Arizona. I guess I can console myself that it is normal to feel this way. If I didn’t feel like a stranger in this world, I wouldn’t long for my real “home”, where God resides and rules.

Moving from China back to my “first home” in the Philippines was one of the best decisions we ever made. Because right now, I enjoy a double blessing: healing after a major surgery for my endometriosis, and the gift of life—our baby on the way!

A new season has come. And in every new season comes new place of assignment and responsibility. We know it won’t be long when we will be on the road again, going to an unknown place where there is no witness of the gospel. That place will become our “new home”. Again I will feel those mixed emotions. But I will be able to deal with it better this time.

We are open to the next move of God in our lives because we are excited to get to our “real home”. 

Matthew 24:14 is the theme of our lives. We are passionate about taking the gospel to all nations so that Jesus can return to take us to our “real home”. After all, we are simply sojourners in this world.

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1 Comment

  1. Terry Joannes

     /  07/20/2012

    Beautifully written, loved every word. The Lord will be with you all the way and bless you more than you could have imagined.

    Reply

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