There comes a time in every missions trip (at least every missions trip that I've done, and that's quite a few) where you're ready to return home. That's usually about two weeks into the trip or when you're nearly finished with all you've set out to do. I've hit that time. I'm homesick.
Oh, I plan on using the strength God gives me to preach tomorrow morning. I intend to minister with every fiber of my being until I step off the plane and into Bonnie's arms. And, to be candid, I never look forward to the plane ride. It's going to be long and uncomfortable. But I will eagerly endure the cramped seats and hour upon hour of boredom "for the joy set before me,"— being with Bonnie again. Sleeping in your own bed should never be taken for granted, either. Nor should eating familiar food or being able to understand the conversations around you.
Please don't misunderstand. I'm grateful beyond expression that God in his mercy (and his mercy endures forever) allowed me the privilege of ministering in his name to his people in Africa. These men hold a special place in my heart. I wish I could stay and minister to them on a full-time basis. In admitting that I'm homesick, I'm merely admitting that I'm fallible and weak, like everyone else.
If you've ever been on an extended missions trip, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, then I pray you will think kindly of me just the same.
Yet returning home after this trip has a special tang associated with it that I've never known before. You see, due to circumstances at my former church, Bonnie and I have been forced to sell our home. God, in his mercy, sent us a buyer just before I left. When I return home, Bonnie and I will begin packing our things in earnest. We have already begun the process of giving things away, those material accretions that accumulate like barnacles on a ship. But we've done all this before.
What is different is the uncertainty of the future. For you see, for the first time in my entire life, I don't know where to call home. When I was young and after I enlisted in the Navy, it was my parent's house. When I wed my darling bride, it was Navy housing or the apartments and later the houses we purchased as we moved from one duty station to another. When I entered civilian live, it was our first house in Oak Grove, MO, then our second in Peculiar, MO. Another move and it was Grand Rapids, MI.
Now we're moving again, only this time the future is veiled. We have no idea where God is leading us. That he is leading us is certain. But his will, so far at least, is a mystery.
I have to confess that, in my weakness, this realization—that I had no where to call home—bothered me. To have no part of the country serve as an anchor to a life that has been (admittedly) lived as a nomad, is a new experience and not a pleasant one.
Thankfully, God has blessed me with a godly wife who knows my weaknesses and loves me all the same. She suggested that I read Philippians tonight before I went to bed, which I did. As I read the familiar words, I was moved anew by Paul's statement in Phil 3:20:
But our citizenship is in heaven.
I have stated hundreds of times that we possess a passport to a kingdom that is still future. This kingdom will be a physical kingdom inaugurated and established when Christ returns to the Mount of Olives. In stressing this, however, I sometimes forget that I have a home even now. My citizenship is in heaven where my King is in waiting (Psa 110:1).
Thus, I have a home. The anchor for which I long I already possess. My king is preparing a place for me even now (John 14:2-3). As a result, despite the circumstances which tempt me to lose my focus, I shouldn't let my heart be troubled (John 14:1). And it goes without saying, I suppose, neither should you.