Missionary Homelessness- When No Place Feels Like Home
We recently visited America. Though I was born in Nigeria, my passport says I am an American. I love my country. But I have never felt like a “real” American. As our time back in the USA was drawing to a close, someone asked me, “Are you going home next week?” That is a hard question to answer. Where is home anyhow? Is it where I now live on the mission field (Asia)? Is it my passport country? They both feel like home. Neither of them feels like home. This feels like a kind of “homelessness.” This never quite fulfilled longing for home, is a type of missionary loneliness. It is a tough cross to bear.
We Don’t Fit Anywhere
As missionaries do you ever feel as if you don’t “fit” in? You are not fully a part of your new culture. You are no longer at home in your old culture either. God wants to use these missionary life challenges to draw us deeper and closer. He wants to turn difficulty into a disguised blessing.
The sense of never being at home pushes us toward a greater discovery of our true identity. We are sons and daughters, citizens of a Heavenly Kingdom.
Let’s embrace this journey into a deeper understanding of both God and ourselves. We can learn to be at home in Christ no matter where we are. Waiting for the day when we will be forever at home with Christ in our new Heavenly home, we can be at home with Him now.
“You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, The place, O LORD, which You have made for Your dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.” Ex. 15:17 NASB
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” John 14:1-2 NIV
Home Is A Promise of God
In both the Old and New Testament we read of God’s promise to create a home for His people. Finding “home” is part of what it means to experience salvation. In Christ, we finally fully and totally belong. He says He will both 1) bring us to, and 2) plant us in, the place of our inheritance. We will have roots going down. We will not be nomads forever! God has prepared a place for us- a place to call home.
2 Understandings That Help Us Overcome Missionary Loneliness
1. Our true home is in His embrace
In John 13, there is a beautiful description of John’s intimate friendship with Jesus. It says in that chapter, John reclined on Jesus’ bosom. He was leaning up against him. They were close. They were comfortable together. John felt Jesus there. He was home.
Intimate friendship is like that. We hang out and relax together. This looks different according to the culture you are in. In Asia, both men and women walk down the street holding hands. Some places, a soccer team huddles in, to plan for their game, arms around each other. In some cultures, they greet with a kiss on both cheeks. We express closeness and intimacy through physical nearness…through touch.
Like John, we can come close to Jesus. He wants to draw us into that place of intimacy and friendship where we are at home. Jesus wants us to lean against Him. Dependent, close, comforted, loved, hanging out with Him. This friendship is ours to have. He calls us to it.
Loneliness on the mission field can drive us to many negative things. We feel the shame of not belonging fully. We pursue inappropriate solutions. Food, too much time on the internet, self-condemnation, over-working, and many other things. When you feel that missionary loneliness, come home to Him. He is where you fully and forever belong.
2. We are citizens of a different Kingdom, a Heavenly one
As we encounter Jesus in that place of intimacy, He shows us once again who we are. We are sons and daughters, members of His family. We are also His chosen ones, royal priests in His Kingdom. Not only do we have a home in His arms, a family in which to belong, but we have a country. We have a Kingdom of which we are both citizens and ambassadors.
Understanding our Kingdom identity gives us a different worldview. It gives us new values and ways of behaving. Life on the mission field creates an incredible opportunity. We learn to deeply embrace our true identity in Christ.
While we work hard to adapt to our new culture, we also reject some behaviors and ways of thinking we find there. We need to recognize things in the culture around us that are not in line with God’s values and ways. As we discern these, we live out our Kingdom identity. We are in the world but not of it. (John 17:14-15)
There is another thing that happens as we come to love the ways of those we now live among. Our eyes open to our own culture’s faults. This too is an opportunity to embrace who we are as Kingdom citizens. Again, we don’t reject our home cultures. We discern what is Kingdom and what is not. Our loneliness, our missionary homelessness, creates in us a desire. It’s a longing for the Kingdom to come on earth as in heaven.
Come Home Today
Ask God to use missionary loneliness for good in your life. He can transform the sense of “homelessness” you sometimes experience. Jesus wants to use this for good in your life. He is calling you, “Come into My arms. Let Me show you where home truly is.”
Won’t you go to Him even now?
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