One year ago I took a trip to Sri Lanka with World Vision on a mission to find sponsorship for children in desperate poverty. But while I expected to learn about the challenges and triumphs of programs in a foreign country, what I didn’t expect were the things that I learned about myself in the process. I went there as a stranger to a strange land but I returned as no less of a stranger to the place that I now call “home.”
You see, I grew up in a place not that unlike Sri Lanka, a beautiful tropical place full of people who live simple lives with few possessions. These are people who work hard and laugh hard and love big. In Sri Lanka I was again reminded of the lessons I had somehow forgotten of the value of community and the pure joys of sharing meals and stories with others. Being there awakened an old homesickness for an island paradise that I haven’t seen in over a decade and uncovered an unhealed grief for the loss of the friends and neighbors that were my world.
But when I returned and began to process all these things, I realized something else: this sense of loss is also shared by so many people that I know. This disquiet and grief also follow the souls of many people who have left the tribe of their church, their school, or their family in search of spiritual freedom. We who have left our homes and kinfolk sometimes have to grieve them. So many friends are now are wandering from place to place like spiritual and cultural nomads, trying to find a place that they can call home and a family that will put its arms around them and tell them that they are safe and loved — if such a thing can even dare to be imagined. So few seem to be finding it.
I don’t know if I’ll ever make it back to my island and movement of time can be so unkind to those of us who treasure our past. As places and people have changed “home” has now perhaps become just another word for an empty place in my heart. But through that pain I seem to also hear a voice calling gently, reminding me of a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Perhaps there will be home at last some other day.