It’s a difficult question. As my family prepares for “home” service this summer, in one sense we’ll be temporarily leaving home in Nairobi. On the other hand, the U.S. is our permanent home (so say our passports). But, then, where exactly is home in the U.S.? Anita and I both grew up in northern Illinois, but that was 25 years ago. We’re only visitors there now. More recently, we spent the better part of 15 years living in the St. Louis area, so that is a more logical place to call home, especially for our children. But, then again, that’s not where our youngest children have spent most of their lives. Emmanuel, who is almost three, only lived in the U.S. for 10 months, and he has no memory of it. Where is his real home?
A lot of my African neighbors and students are in the same situation. I commonly hear, “My extended family lives in rural Kenya, but I’ve come to Nairobi to earn a living on their behalf.” For a few of my students, the answer is, “My extended family is in Sudan; my wife, children, and in-laws are in a refugee camp in Uganda; and I live at the seminary in Kenya to study.”
Our Lord Jesus said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Mt. 8:20) We homeless are in good company! All who follow Christ, even if we live in a single town on earth all our lives, are a bit restless. Baptism is a rite of citizenship; it brings us out of the kingdom of this world and makes us citizens of the kingdom of God. (Col. 1:13-14) Where is home? Home for Christians is Jerusalem – the new one, that is. What the epistle to the Hebrews says about the saints of old applies to us today as well:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Heb. 11:13-16)