Recently I received a link about all the things living overseas that no one tells you about, written by a missionary. I read it, laughed at some things, shrugged at others, but mostly contemplated how little any of it applies to me. It is like that with most things I read that are written by missionaries living overseas. Most of them don’t seem to resonate much with me or my experiences. And much of the dissonance has to do with this notion of home.
We’re planning a visit to the US in March and yesternight I was discussing it with my wife. I was commenting to her how strange it feels to think of going to the US as going “home”.
I mean, it is home. I lived in the US all my life until almost 3 years ago when I came to live in Ghana. The sights, sounds, mood of the American South are deep in my consciousness and blood. My family is there. My church is there. Everything is there.
But it still feels strange, just like all those cutesy things about missions feel somewhat ‘off’ as it relates to my own experience. I think I know why.
I think it is because of something a missions Pastor said in an off the cuff remark that I did not fully appreciate at the time. He is himself an ex-patriate – a South African living in the United States. So I asked him if he missed home and he replied, “Home is where my family is.”
Well my family is in the US and so is my wife’s. And we are very much embedded in the whole extended family thing. When I say “family” I automatically include my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, and in-laws, not to mention those friends of the family that are like family anyway, or my brother’s ex-wife who has now been divorced from him about as long as they were married but who I still consider my sister, and her sister, and her sister’s children who call me uncle… it gets complicated but you get the picture. When I say “family” the list gets pretty long. And why wife’s case is worse since her family is spread out over 3 continents and 5 different countries (at least those I can think of off head).
But still… the mission pastor had a point. My immediate family – me, wife and children – are all here. And more importantly, about half of our family life has been formed in this context. Which means that most of our memories as a family are associated with this place and not that place.
Here is where my eldest son had his first birthday.
Here is where my second son was born.
Here is where we first went for a beach vacation as a family.
Here is where we had our most difficult arguments and our greatest make-ups.
Here is where our little girl was conceived, born, lived and died.
Here is where virtually everything about our marriage and family life has been formed.
Here feels very much like home.