So Where’s Home?

So Where’s Home?

Ask a mission co-worker the question: “So where’s Home?” and you may need patience to await the answer.

Ask a mission co-worker the question: “So where’s Home?” and you may need patience to await the answer.

We missionaries are sojourners – born and raised in one culture, and seeking to nourish new roots in another.

For the past year and a half, our home has been in Lodz, Poland. Learning how to feel at home in Poland has been a part of our ongoing work. Feeling at home doesn’t happen automatically or easily. It takes effort and year-round seeking.

Holiday songs urge us to “Come home for the holidays,” or promise: “I’ll be home for Christmas.” It’s a time when we yearn for the familiar hymns and carols in our own language, worship in our home church, traditional holiday meals, and celebration surrounded by those we have long loved.

Yet each Christmas, more and more of us find ourselves somewhere besides home. Travel grows more costly, income shrinks, war and the business of war divide us from those we love, refugees, migrants, the relocated and the dislocated strive for a new orientation. The global marketplace often rewards those willing to crisscross continents.

Yet no matter how many new friends gather around us, and no matter how lovingly and hopefully we celebrate the season that heralds “Peace on Earth,” we may still feel like strangers in a strange land, seeking shelter outside the warm nest of a shared past.

So “Where’s Home?” for the Searles family?

This year, Mackenzie (21) is in graduate school in Oregon; Mick (17) is in high school in Michigan; Liz’s mother and brother are in New York, Doug’s sister is in Iowa, and we are in Poland.

Thanks to a generous family gift, our kids will both come to Poland (and so will Mackenzie’s boyfriend). We will worship with our local congregation here in Lodz. We will sing “Pospieszcie o wierni” while you sing “O Come all ye Faithful,” and “Cicha Noc” while you sing “Silent Night.” Mostly, though, we’ll sing carols we are hearing for the first time.

Our tree decorations: newly minted in China. The treasured family ornaments from years past are lovingly wrapped in toilet paper and stowed in Sioux City, IA.  Our table won’t include many of our favorites – candy canes, fresh cranberries, root beer, winter squash, or anything with peanut butter in it. These will be replaced by local Polish treats and delicacies – pierogies, mushroom soup, plum sweets, and kielbasa.

Nostalgic as we might feel for our fantasized or remembered Christmases past, the dislocations and migrations of recent world history aren’t really anything new. The Bible is full of travelers and refugees, prophets, seekers, wanderers, sojourners and strangers.

Mary and Joseph were, themselves, cut adrift from home at a critical time, yet they experienced the miracle of Christ’s birth in a stable in Bethlehem. Shepherds and wise men alike became traveling seekers in response to God’s call.

No matter where in the world we find ourselves, or in what condition, we are still summoned by angels to seek our center in the stable in Bethlehem. Amidst wars and rumors of wars, dislocations and relocations, financial loss or the loss of a loved one, illness, searing physical or spiritual pain – amidst all of these comes the Christ child – God’s promise of healing, transformation, peace, and a home spanning worlds and centuries for even the most troubled hearts.

“Come over to Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass.”  Come. See. Experience life made new.

Christ’s birth calls us to leave our sheep on the hillside and hopefully and joyfully follow a star to an earthy stable – a home for animals that yet houses a transcendent miracle. Christ’s birth calls us to recognize that the manger in Bethlehem is our heart’s true home.

Our Christmas wish for each of you is that in whatever circumstance you may find yourselves – even physically or spiritually thousands of miles away from family, the familiar, or faith itself – you can say with conviction: “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and mean it.  Home to the center to which we are called – Christ Himself.

May your Christmas be blessed first, and therefore merry !!
Liz & Doug Searles

Doug and Elizabeth Searles serve with the Evangelical Reformed Church in Poland.  They serve as mission workers for church growth and outreach.