Missionaries move a lot.
Our three-year-old Giant tagged along as we traveled from place to place.
From his home in smalltown Poland to a missionary-house in South Carolina where his sister (Bean) joined us. Then we were off to Lithuania, merely dropping suitcases off at our new place and flying to Greece, before returning to study language for a few months. Sound exhausting? It was.
Once official language study wrapped up, we hunted an apartment in southern Lithuania for a few weeks.
Looking for a place to call home.
In the middle of our home-shopping, we took a quick jaunt over to Budapest for a family education conference. After checking in, we waddled down the hall with kids and bags in tow to settle into our room with two chairs and three beds.
Giant wandered around inspecting things, sat on the bed by the window, and nodded. “Is this it?” he asked.
“Our new home?” His expression told a story of acceptance with a smidgen of disappointment that his exploration was limited.
I knelt in front of him and kissed his forehead. “This is a hotel. We’ll be here for four days, and then we’ll keep looking. But did you know that the Bible says, ‘wherever a few people who follow Jesus get together, in His name, He’s right there with them’?”
Wide-eyed, our son shook his head. Bean crawled over and swatted at his knee, and he smiled.
“And,” I continued, “it says those who live with God and trust Him for protection will be gathered close to Him. He’ll be like a bird spreading its wings over its babies.”
He blinked. And then he was off to pull out his toys.
That night, as we settled in and turned the lights off early, he sang a song of spontaneous praise. Something like this: “God, you’re so strong. You made everythings—the stars, and the giraffes, and the flowers, and the apples, and the moon. I know You love me, and I know You’re here.” Then, he giggled softly. “And my mom said you had wings and feathers, but I know You don’t, so I guess You just keep us tucked in Your armpits.”
Two adult faces immediately buried themselves in pillow, so they could laugh without offending. How precious, how full of innocent faith Giant was in that moment. We all came away with truth that night. Home is wherever we are together, serving Christ. Wings or no, we can abide in Him.
We still do.
Home is our sanctuary. Here, with the world shut outside, we can live loudly, laugh until our stomachs ache, learn at our own pace, let ourselves make mistakes, love and forgive and love more.
But home shouldn’t be our sole existence. What do we live for, but to glorify and enjoy God? All the advantages of home are avenues for us to live out our faith, rejoicing in the place and time God has chosen for us. We shouldn’t keep them locked indoors.
To build relationships on the mission field, we needed to build bridges. We built them into our home, inviting new friends for tea, visiting families, celebrating holidays together, practicing conversation, watching children ignore language barriers and communicate through play. We built them into neighborhoods, community centers, and coffeehouses.
We spent time outside–to meet neighbors, to explore the area, to find stores and playgrounds. We connected with people. On the whole, we’re a family of introverts, but we understand the importance of reaching outward for ministry’s sake.
Still, finding balance took awhile. In a few cities, we erred on the side of boundaries, locking ourselves in so we could enjoy the microcosm of America we’d created. And in a few places, we had so much interaction with others that we couldn’t backpedal and guard our precious family downtime. A costly mistake.
Learning to build bridges and establish boundaries requires discernment, but we’ve got to remember that home is also our training ground. A haven? Yes. But bootcamp and schooling and counseling and studying happen there, too. Without all that, we’re not prepared for the good works God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10).
God calls us to go into the world and teach all nations . . . teaching them to obey everything He’s taught us (Matt 28:19-20). We can’t do that from inside the house. And did you catch that last part? We’re supposed to be doing so much more than offering a simple gospel presentation as conversation permits. We’re to seek out opportunities to show what He’s taught us in everything. That includes how our family behaves toward one another, toward others. It’s how we conduct business, make impressions on our neighbors and colleagues. It’s the care and concern we show for the needy. It’s the trusting in the midst of suffering, believing that God will be glorified in whatever He asks of us.
Let’s be intentional. If you’re new to the area, get out there. Let other see what Jesus has done in your life.
And if you’re settled, ask the Lord to lay someone’s name on your heart. Start bridge-building.
Every moment is an opportunity. In your home and out.