"I don't like it when people say unkind things about Iquique. It makes me angry. Iquique is my home!" My daughter's fifteen-year old emotions were riding high as she said these words. I smiled inwardly thinking how much she sounded like me at her age. On the heels of her heated statement, she added one burning question. "Mom, where do you call home?"
Ask any missionary or missionary kid and they will tell you, that is the million dollar question. It is one I heard all my life growing up (especially on furloughs!) Nonetheless, it is a question that has returned to my mind of late. Recent conversations with missionary moms in different stages of life have supplied me with poignant thoughts on the subject. But in answer to my daughter's question, I simply replied, "When I was your age, I would have said Santiago. That was my home when I was growing up. But now, home is wherever my family is - where Daddy and you kids are. That is my home."
Even as I spoke I was keenly aware that this answer might suffice for now, but in just a few brief years will taste bitter on my tongue. This daughter of mine starts high school next month. Next year, we head stateside for our second furlough and after that - only two and half years until college. She and her sister are just a year apart in school, so "en un dos por tres" (as they say in Chile, or similarly "in the blink of an eye") they will be leaving "home." My kids will no longer all be wherever Daddy and I are. So then where will home be?
Our mission's regional conference early this month brought together missionaries from throughout Spanish-speaking South America. It was unscheduled, but one afternoon a prayer time for missionary moms was organized. We prayed for our children, many with tears. At least half the group had already let their children go, and as a parent looking towards that transition my heart was pricked with a premature sense of loss. It was only recently that I heard from my mom what my own parents went through when they delivered me to college and returned to the mission field as "empty nesters." My strong and stoic dad left my college campus and made it only a short ways down the road before having to pull off, pounding the steering wheel and crying, "I hate this!" At the time I never knew.
It is when these thoughts begin to swirl that I am reminded of two things. First, that I am not to be anxious about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34) because it is in God's hands. And second, that nowhere in this world is truly my home. As the writer exhorts in Hebrews 13:14, "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." How thankful I am for the hope of a Heavenly home!
There will be no goodbyes there. No furloughs or farewells. Everyone I love who has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ will be with me, forever. What a challenge to continue loving Him and encouraging my loved ones to do the same! Because someday we will all be for always, without question or confusion, truly "Home."