Home can mean so many things. It can mean a house. It can be “a taste of home” or a little something reminding us of home. It can mean being with family or other people you love. In Swahili, it’s nyumbani.
Home can even be something different to different people. To me, it’s a house filled with the people I love and Fritz running to me with a wagging tail and sweet eyes when I walk in the door. It’s a place where I can cook good food and enjoy good company. Home means love and comfort and safety and security. It’s a place where Jesus is present in all situations.
For some people, home is many places. This is true for the semi-nomadic Turkana in Kenya. Their homes can move to different places at different times. For some people, like many in Mathare, home is a 10×10 metal structure with maybe a bed and a couch. Some say “home is where the heart is,” which is tricky when your heart is in so many places.
For me, my heart is spread out everywhere! It’s in Joppa, Maryland with my family at home and at Mountain Christian Church. It’s in Johnson City, Tennessee with my dear friends at Milligan College. It’s in Nairobi, Kenya with my teammates, coworkers, and the beautiful people who live in Mathare. It’s with my extended family in Ohio, England, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee. And it’s longing for home in heaven with Jesus.
I’ve learned a couple of things about suffering in relation to home. For me, home is great. And the suffering comes from separation from home. This week, we said goodbye to our beloved dog, Fritz. Of course, I was sad that Fritz won’t be running to me when I walk in the door this fall. But my pain from this situation came because home is good. It came from not being at home with my family as we dealt with this painful situation and the anxiety surrounding not being at home to deal with painful situations in the future.
For some people though, home is hard. Home itself brings about suffering. Some people have difficult relationships at home. Some people lack love and comfort and security and safety at home. For Joseph, one of the children my parents sponsor, home is difficult. We learned recently that his house burned down in November so he has been forced to move in with his aunt and her family along with his mother and two younger siblings. It’s painful because they lost much of what little they owned. It’s painful because sometimes there isn’t enough food for everyone. It’s painful because the family rests solely on the shoulders of Joseph’s mother, Naomi.
But I have come to realize that Jesus knows our suffering. He felt our suffering himself. He knows how it feels to be separated from family during difficult times. He knows how it feels to be without what is needed to survive. Jesus came to be like us so that we can better be like him. So that we can love and be loved. So that we can forgive and be forgiven. So that we, like Jesus, can do whatever it takes to bring God’s kingdom here now.
Some of my favorite music is from a group called Johnnyswim. They have a song called “Home” and the lyrics have just been popping into my mind this week. They say, “We’re all bruised and beaten. Lost on account of many reasons. But only love would make you understand. Home. Oh, I love me some home.” And it’s so true. We’re all bruised and we all suffer in different ways. We’re all lost because of our various sins and we’re all searching for someone or something to guide us and bring us back. And love is truly the only way we can understand the pain and the suffering of others. The love of Jesus, to be specific. The only way we can understand one another is to love the way Jesus loves. To minister to others out of our own brokenness because our love for Jesus and his people is so great. And as a result, we’ll ensure that everyone has home. The only kind of home that really matters.
I experienced a great taste of home at the end of March! My parents came to visit me and share in some soul care retreats with some Missions of Hope (MOHI) staff and pastors. Before the retreats, we got to take a mini-vacation together to the coast of Kenya. It was so good to spend quality time with my parents after being away for five months! We were able to relax, enjoy each other’s company, and enjoy the beautiful Indian Ocean. We spent a lot of time laughing and talking and just catching up on life together. We were able to travel to Turkana together to visit a college friend of my parents and see the MOHI center there. We spent some time one morning visiting a village there and spent an afternoon at Lake Turkana! My mom and I both love cooking and especially cooking together! So of course we made time for that! We went grocery shopping together and made a couple of delicious meals together. It was fun having them come into my home and seeing all the aspects of my life in Kenya. We also got to share ministry together. It was so awesome getting to invite my parents into my new world and do some ministry together. I often say I joined the “family business” and for the couple weeks my parents were here it was truly family business. Mutual ministry is one of the coolest things I’ve experienced and I’m so thankful for it.
Many of you have been asking about what my life is like here. So I thought it would be a good idea to include some pictures from my every day life in Kenya! The following pictures are a little taste of what home in Nairobi is like for me!
Thank you to all of you who make me feel like I’m home in so many places! Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and support! And a special thank you to those of you who sent goodies from the States with my parents. I appreciate it so much!