Sore Thumbs Find a Home

JoJo with friend in BoboWe’ve had a few conversations with our 2 younger boys, JJ and Elijah, about getting back into a routine here in Africa and eventually our return to the village (hopefully at the end of the month).  As expected, after a long home assignment, they’re not too thrilled.  Although they were excited about coming back to Africa while they were stateside, reality has set in and the enthusiasm has waned.

There are the usual complaints that eventually fade such as:

“I miss _____ restaurant/food.”     OR 

“I wish we had wifi internet so I could watch Youtube.” 

These are first world problems that we’re probably better off without.  However, there are other comments that pull at our heart strings and make us wish we could change our reality like: 

“I miss my English speaking friends.”  OR 

“Why can’t we go to boarding school like Micah?” 

Our middle son Elijah said the other day, “I like being unique in the United States, but not here.”

It took a minute for me to process what he said.  This statement came from my son who often has difficulty in verbally expressing himself.  Many times the words don’t come out right or the tears began to flow and silence his voice.  But, he spoke these words so clearly that I knew he’d been chewing on this cud quite a bit as of late. 

In the US he felt unique because he was a missionary kid.  He didn’t know many  other missionary kids in the US and definitely none in our town.  He stood out for a good reason.  Being an MK was a conversation starter that led to friendships.  These new friendships were made in a culture in which he was comfortable and in a language in which he was fluent.

This conversation then brought us back to a familiar topic about how different isn’t always a bad thing. 

The boys have been more reluctant this time to go out and make friends in our temporary town despite our encouragement to try.  Although they can’t verbally communicate very well (yet!), they can play soccer with the neighbor kids; they can go buy grilled corn from the lady down the street; they can pop over to the nearest ’boutique’ and pick up some soda for Friday night pizza.  These are all different things that they get to do because we live here. 

What you may not know is, my kids (and us too) get tired of being different and standing out in a crowd.  They don’t like it when kids point and laugh and sometimes give them the middle finger for no reason.  (That’s been happening a lot this time around for some reason.) They HATE it when kids corner them and try to pull down their pants to see if certain body parts look the same.  They don’t enjoy going to church and being forced to sit in Sunday school where they don’t understand much and where kids try to force them to dance during praise time.  (They both used to love to dance when they were younger, but alas, the self-conscience phase has begun.)  Having to shoo kids away from touching their hair and skin gets old after awhile.  (Thankfully us adults don’t have this problem…too often.)

So you see, we stand out like sore thumbs here in more ways than just the color of our skin and the texture of our hair.  We can dress like our neighbors and even speak like them, but we’ll never BE one of them.

There are days when I’m ok with that. 

But there are days when it stings and I want to stay inside and hide away.  There are the days when I’d like to shake the gawkers by the shoulders and attempt to “help” them understand where we’re coming from.  My kids feel the same way at times.  And as they get older, they’ll begin to be able to recognize these feelings and learn how to better deal with them.  It’s a slow process

The opposite of standing out or being different is to blend in.  When we’re in the US, we blend in much better…on the outside.  We speak and dress like those around us.  Who could ever tell that on the inside, we’re different.  After living in Africa, our hearts aren’t fully at home in the US anymore.  Sure, we’re more comfortable there, but in our hearts there is an Africa-sized hole. 

We’ve all heard, “Home is where the heart is.”  But what if you’re heart is divided between two homes?  We’ve always said, “Home is where WE (as a family) are.”  Well, now a part of our family is 5,000 miles away at school.  Now what? 

As I was pondering this and asking God to give us wisdom as we nurture the little hearts still at home, I felt Him say, “Home is where I am.” 

My mind reflected immediately on previous interactions with fellow believers here.  It didn’t matter if we spoke each other’s language.  As soon as we realized we had Jesus in common, we felt comfortable with each other.  There was no color, no social status, no ethnicity…just family.  The family of God.

That’s what home is. 

It’s peace, belonging, friendship, comfort and equality.  So any time I am in the presence of another Jesus follower, I AM HOME.  There are no sore thumbs at home.  When believers are together, we are all the same in the sight of God and should be in each other’s eyes as well.  We all belong.

Ephesians 2:19-22 The Message (MSG)

19-22 That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

We are where we’re supposed to be:  the fulfillment of a calling.  Our lives are lived in this tension.  We often struggle to make peace with the fact that these two parts of us will never be reconciled this side of heaven.  

And that’s OK because you know what?  It’s not about us.  It’s about HIM.

God has called us to stand out like sore thumbs for His sake.  God help us to live this out before my children and those you’ve called us to reach! 

As usual, God always gives me a song.  What can I say, I love music! 

This song by Nicole Nordman, “Not to Us” reminds me of why we’re here.  I like to call it my “Refocus Song”.  I hope you let it speak to you too! (Video clip is at the bottom of the lyrics.)

All the toil
All in vain
Every image of ourselves that we create
Every dream
Built on sand
Every castle slips away when tides come in

Let us not imagine
That we might have a hand in where the wind blows
Where grace goes
Let not any passion be for kingdoms we have fashioned in our own name
For our own fame

Not to us
Not to us
But to Your name be glory
To Your name be glory
Not to us
Not to us
But to Your name be glory
To Your name

Every beat
Every breath
Every broken road and every ordered step
Every loss
Every gain
Every spotlight
Every shadow
Yours the same

So let us not be fooled
And let us not be disillusioned
Let our eyes see You clearly

Not to us
Not to us
But to Your name be glory
To Your name be glory
Not to us
Not to us
But to Your name be glory
To Your name

Anything that’s good
Anything that’s true
Let it point to You
Let it point to You

Not to us
Not to us
But to Your name be glory
To Your name

No walls
No greed
No color
No creed
No right
No left
All You
No less

Not to us
Not to us
But to Your name be glory
To Your name be glory
Not to us
Not to us
But to Your name be glory
To Your name

Anything that’s good
Anything that’s true
Let it point to You
Let it point to You

Not to us
Not to us
But to Your name be glory
To Your name