I wrote a poem as a bitter fourteen- year old missionary kid. It was about a flower that never got solid roots, because it kept getting ripped out and re-planted in new places. Since then, I’ve often struggled to feel like I have a home or a certain place I belong.
I’ll never forget once when I was visiting my grandparents over college break. A sweet woman from my church enfolded me in a hug and said, “Welcome home, Abby.” I felt myself bristle. The woman quickly backtracked, “I mean, welcome back… I guess this isn’t really your home.”
I hated the words “welcome home”. When I heard those words, I felt homeless. I was reminded that I didn’t feel ‘at home’ anywhere.
Growing up, I considered my home to be wherever my parents and siblings were. If we were together in the US, that was my home. If we were in Cambodia, that was my home. If we were staying in a hotel while visiting a supporting church for the weekend, that was my home. When I moved back to the US away from my family, my definition of ‘home’ was uprooted.
I remember having long arguments with my parents about why neither the US nor Cambodia could ever be called my home.
I hated the idea of settling anywhere. I never felt settled. As I grew older, I refused to settle. I didn’t want to have roots anywhere.
The poem I wrote about the flower explained my struggles well:
“A seed is sown. Roots appear. Leaves start
Then it is pulled out
The leaves grow rapidly. Roots grab hold. Stem starts growing
Then it is pulled out
And every time it was replanted
The flower took some of the last dirt with it”
Last year, I spent the summer living with my aunt and uncle in Alaska. I got an Alaskan driver’s license and worked a city job. I was quickly adopted by my extended family, my church, and my co-workers in the city. This experience made me realize that I am blessed as an MK.
I don’t just get to have one home; I get to have three.
I get to have three church families. I get to have people all over the US who will adopt me as family. I get to have friends in Illinois, in Alaska, and in Cambodia. I get to have a family bond among missionaries and other MKs. I get to meet amazing people in every place I go.
I get to have roots in more places than one. And every time I leave a place, I get to take my memories, experiences, and friends with me.
It’s not easy to say goodbye all the time. It hurts to be uprooted and move. But what a blessing it is to have so many people to say goodbye to. What a blessing it is to love people so much that it feels like your heart is being ripped out when you leave them.
What a blessing it is to know I am surrounded by my family in Christ. I will always be home when I am with them. I can know that someday my homes will all be combined, because all my family in Christ will be together.
What a blessing it is to know that I can be settled even when I am uprooted from a place, because my identity doesn’t come from where I am from. My identity doesn’t come from what my passport says or where my family is in the world.
I am settled, because my identity comes from the fact that I am a citizen of a different home. My identity comes from the fact that I am home when I am with the one I love the most in the world. He is my home.
Because my Jesus lives, I know I will get to spend eternity with Him. I’ll finally be completely settled; I’ll finally be home. Because He lives, I know someday I will be embraced again and I will get to hear for the first and last time, “Welcome home, Abby.”
I can’t wait for that day.