In our sixteenth year of marriage, my husband's parents lived with us for three months on the mission field where we serve and where I was also raised as an M.K. ("missionary kid.") At some point my dear mother-in-law remarked that it had been most enlightening to observe me in this context. "I think I realize now that you are more Chilean than American," she said.
A traditional Chilean dish similar to a bean soup is called "porotos." As a teenager, more than once I was described as "mas chilena que los porotos" ("more Chilean than the beans!") I love my adopted country and have always taken it as a compliment when it is said that I speak like a Chilean or seem like one.
Yet there is a part of me that knows quite well I will never be fully a citizen of either my passport country or my adopted country. Both places have shaped me linguistically, culturally, emotionally and spiritually. My life is richer by having a foot in both worlds - which does not, however, mean that it is always easy.
And now this same heritage has been passed on to my children as well.
Last week, Chile played Argentina for their 1st place finish in the 100th Copa America (soccer) tournament. I have it on good authority that my eleven-year old son - who was watching the game at a friend's house - raced outside at one point, yelling in his near-perfect Spanish an invitation to chant the traditional Chilean cheer. He was rewarded with rousing voices from surrounding houses joining him for an animated rendition. This is the same son who has taken to calling us "Mamá" and "Papá" rather than Mom and Dad, and who recently made me chuckle by saying his teacher gives them time to "pass over" their tests before taking them. (In Chile, the word "review" is literally "repasar" or "to pass over.")
Most days we live comfortably in the world where we are, but today we felt the tug. My sister and her family, who live and serve a thousand miles south of us (but nonetheless in the same country!) arrived in the United States for their year of home ministry/furlough. We anxiously awaited updates on their travels but when my brother-in-law announced via Wh*tsapp that they were in Delaware with Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop eating Domino's pizza, my kids all groaned and cried, "We want to be there, too!"
Yet not long ago, one of these same kids announced, "I just want to go on furlough and get it over with, so I can come back!" It is the War of the Worlds in an M.K.'s life. I remember giving my parents a run for their money the year I turned sixteen and had to attend school stateside for one year. Every day when I exited the school van and trudged up the long drive to our missionary house, my mom would greet me hopefully and ask about my day. I'm afraid all too often I threw down my bookbag in disgust and proclaimed everything awful because I wanted to go "home." But eventually I made wonderful friends and memories that I value to this day.
Having a foot in both worlds can throw us off balance on a rough day, but on a good day it reminds us that neither place on earth is truly our home. Jesus told His disciples, "In my Father's house are many mansions ... I go to prepare a place for you." As children of missionaries our hearts may be torn, but Heaven is our final destination as children of God. What a wonderful day it will be when we are finally, permanently, wholeheartedly - HOME!