As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7 I was absolutely blindsided by the homesickness I experienced the first few days of orientation. I love my home, but I also love leaving my home to visit new places, so I never expected to miss my family so intensely. The jam-packed busyness of daytime kept my mind occupied, but the quiet stillness of night allowed thoughts of home and family and friends to overwhelm me. The loneliness was a physical pain, and my short five month term suddenly seemed decades long. In a really strange attempt to cope, I pretended to be origin-less, without a home or family to miss.
The homesickness led to a lot of questioning of what home is, what home means. My home is my family, my friends, my rituals. Sleeping in my bed, taking walks with my mom, eating dinner with my sister, doing school work with Rachel and Caroline, hearing my dad preach. These are barometers to my brain that gauge whether life is okay, that all is well. When stripped of all of those signals of comfort, I felt uprooted and incredibly scared. In the middle of those dark nights inside strange rooms, I begged the Lord to bind me up and to numb the pain. But, as always, He did me one better. Instead of immunizing me to homesickness, He taught me where my home truly is.
As Colossians 2 says, when we walk with Jesus we are rooted and established in Him. A relationship with Christ provides us with roots, with a home in Him. I can abound in thanksgiving because I belong with Jesus, who does not leave or forsake me. So while the people I love so deeply are far away, I can still belong in Africa. This is the truth the Lord repeatedly whispered in my ear as I struggled to fall asleep on the floor of an African family I had met two hours earlier. This is what He told me as I boarded a crowded bus headed to a village I had never heard of. These are the words He shouted into the terribly long silences of language barriers. When you walk with Me, you are Home.
Update: My roommates and I are finally settled into a flat and a routine. We received our first big design assignment, worked in a preschool (or creche) for orphans and vulnerable children in a nearby township, and visited a local Baptist church. We even adventured to Soweto for a little bungee-jumping. Not a bad first week of work, eh?