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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Where's Home? The Question That Confuses Your Missionaries

The kind woman walks over and asks, “Aren’t you glad to be home?” I always answer yes, because, let’s face it, it’s nice to be in my birth country again. I love seeing my family. I love singing hymns in my mother tongue. I love being able to find my size in stores. I love large washing machines. So, yes, I’m glad to be home.

We’ve lived overseas longer than we lived in our home country. We reared our children here. One was born here. We still live in Spain. So, do we live at “home,” or is home a figure of speech?

Your missionaries live with this conundrum.
  • Is home where we came from, or is home where we live?
  • Is home our native culture or the culture we’re adjusting to?
  • Is home where our family lives, or where our family lives—the two of us with our children?
  • Is home a place or a state of mind?

Home . . . what a warm, fuzzy word.

Home. So much more than a house.

“Home is where the heart is.”

“Home is where you are, my love.”

“Country roads take me home . . . .” (Yes, I was born in West Virginia!)

Missionaries are, by definition, “sent ones.” Our supporting churches send us to another place so that we can share God’s wonderful message of salvation with anyone who will listen. We’re here to evangelize and disciple. We’re here to get a new church established.

I’m listing just a few of the adjustments involved:
  • learning a different language—or several different languages
  • a different culture
  • different ways of thinking
  • learning how to shop in a market, small stores, boutiques, bargaining, etc.
  • different monetary currency
  • understanding people’s backgrounds—religious, cultural, political, educational, etc.
  • loving place and people—searching for the good in a sinful world
  • traveling on lousy roads, full streets, in taxis, buses, and on trains, driving!
  • adapting to native dress
  • learning local manners—verbal, table, non-verbal, taboos
  • understanding their jokes
  • learning how to stay healthy when the water is contaminated, you can’t go barefoot, and you have to soak your veggies
  • learning how to live efficiently in very different conditions from where you left

And, most important: learning how to communicate the gospel—the death of Christ for our sins, His burial and resurrection—in a way that is clearly understood by the people we’re called to serve.

So, where’s home?

For the new missionary, the answer’s easy. It’s everything he left behind. It’s where he just left. It’s where family and friends are.

But, for a missionary with ten years under his belt, he’ll say, “Home? We made our home here.” Or “Oh yes, it’s great to be home.” He’s moved on, his family back home has adjusted, too. And, he’s made new friends and family on his field of service. He’s into the language and culture, and from time to time, he forgets he’s a foreigner. He even dreams in his acquired language!

We’ve been in Spain, the Basque Country, for over thirty years. We feel at home. My husband and I came when we were both in our twenties, and well, you can do the math. We’ve been here most of our lives. We love the mountains, the beautiful coastline, the fishing villages, and the picturesque towns that dot the hillsides. We love the people. Our church is very international, and it’s been a real education learning how people from different continents and backgrounds think. (I’d imagine they find us fascinating, too . . . at least, I hope so.) We settled in long ago, and this is home. When people ask our kids where they’re from, they say “Spain,” of course. They love it, and they miss it. After all, it’s where they grew up.

We visited the U. S. recently and heard the question again, “Aren’t you glad to be home?” Yes! Family, friends, eating out, Walmarts, speaking English again . . . yes, we’re glad to be home!

And now, we’re home again.

In our home.


  1. Never really thought about it. I mean is it different for a missionary overseas than someone that moves across several states away from family? Yes, you have a different culture and language... but then, isn't CA different from NY?

    1. Yes, you have a point, for sure! I've lived in the South and in the North, and they're different cultures, but it's the same country. When you're overseas, everything is different--culture, language(s), worldview, politics, the way the people think, values . . . it's amazing! Thanks so much for your input and comment, Trena.


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