While in South Africa, I have been receiving letters and cards from my home congregation in the United States. It is great hearing from my church family at my home in the U.S. Receiving the precious letters has caused me to reflect on home especially as Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas approaches.
We've probably all heard it said that “home is where your heart is.” Certainly, by that definition, my home is in Mechanicsburg where I grew up. I love my family dearly and am indebted to them in many ways for who I am today. I also love my home congregation dearly as they have been there with me for my spiritual development and nurture. So clearly, my home is in Mechanicsburg.
However, my home is in more that one location if we are to believe that “home is where your heart is.” For I also love my friends from college dearly. There were there as I struggled, as most college students do, to define who I am as a person. We have shared laughter and tears together as we walked together to discover who we are. So my home is also at Bucknell with my friends.
My home is also in Ouanaminthe, Haiti, where I accompanied a non-denominational Christian school for two weeks prior to going to college. My friends from this time helped form both my ecumenical and international awarenesses. We grew close through the ups and downs such experiences tend to entail.
I also have homes in the UK, Slovakia, Hungary, Jerusalem/West Bank, Argentina, and Mexico, even though I have never been to these places. A year-long experience such as YAGM inevitably creates bonds that last a lifetime. The YAGM volunteers in other countries are like family to me. I will have a home wherever any one of them happen to be.
Kimberly, Bloemfontein, Soweto, Bonaero Park, Masealama, Loskop, Embalenhle, Bishopstowe, Umpamulu, and Carolina also serve has homes for me. The other ELCA-MUD volunteers have become a family for me as we learn and grow this year alongside God's people in South Africa. We shared our Thanksgiving together this year along with Brian, Kristen, Khaya, and Brian's parents. They have helped me learn to expand my support base beyond my nuclear family.
I also have a home in Durban. Since arriving in Durban almost three months ago, I have experienced wonderful hospitality everywhere I turn. I am beginning to understand what it means to be a part of God's Family in a whole new way.
The creche has become a home for me in Durban. The children are as little nieces and nephews to me. I love them dearly and enjoy learning with them. Jonathan and Elise, the other volunteers at the creche, are like a brother and sister to me. We have bonded while working and while experiencing the very rich culture that Durban has to offer. Sandra, one of the teachers at the creche, is like a mother to me. She is always looking out for me, whether it making sure I'm being fed physically or spiritually through the many rich cultural offerings available in Durban. I love those everyone from the creche dearly and know they will remain a part of my family long after this year is over.
The student YMCA where I am staying has become a home for me. The students are like my brothers and sisters. We are growing together as we share God's love and our gifts with each other. The pupils we are tutoring at the Y-Zone recently started in Cato Crest are like cousins. I enjoy being able to revel in God's love together with them. Dina, the manager of the student Y, is also like a mother to me. She makes sure that I have an opportunity to experience all that Durban has to offer. More importantly, she is helping me to grow spiritually. I look forward to our conversations together as they always provide me with a new way of looking at things.
I am also feeling at home in ELCSA, my host church. My first Sunday in Durban, I was invited to join two choirs at church. Since then, I have participated in conferences, workshops, sports days, and joint services with my siblings in ELCSA. At these various events, I have grown closer to Children of God of all ages. The hospitality shown by my hosts, and our plentiful opportunities for growing together have helped me feel like a true part of the family.
In the first half of November, I had to deal with a lot of sickness. During that time, my family in Durban showed me a lot of support as I fought to get better. Being forced to rely on them was a humbling experience for me. But it also made me realize on another level what having a family in Durban truly means. Thus, my sense of home in Durban was reinforced during this time.
I have experienced a strong sense of ecumenicalism in Durban. This has provided me with opportunities to walk alongside of members of God's family from many different backgrounds. This has served as a reminder that we really are just one giant extended family; we may disagree over things from time to time, but ultimately we are all working together as something much bigger than any one of us – God's family. This brings to mind the analogy that Paul draws of the Kingdom of God being one body with many parts. Therefore, I can find a home with people of many different beliefs despite our differences.
Ultimately, the reason I have found so many homes is that my heart belongs to God. Therefore my home is in God. This means that I have a home anywhere that God is. Since God resides in all of us through the Holy Spirit, this means that my home is anywhere a Child of God is. Thus, my home can be anywhere on earth.