Redefining “Home”

Today we saw a mouse run through our apartment.

A room with a view at the Highlands Apartments.

A room with a view at the Highlands Apartments.

Lounging on the couches while discussing evening devotionals, the freeloader whipped its rent-free little body out under the hall closet door and into the darkness of the tiny bathroom. As one may expect, a lot of time was spent dramatically gasping and speculating on how to deal with the creature, giving it ample time to run away and haunt our dreams all night.

These past few weeks have been full of challenges; dealing with unwelcome mice gnawing through the shiny bags of pasta in the pantry being only the most recent one. In many ways these challenges have been conducive to personal growth: I’ve learned to live on a food stamp budget ($1.90 a meal), to acclimate to the Nashville heat, to become comfortable around those with whom I don’t speak the same language. I could not be more thankful for the way these challenges are opening my eyes to the true world around me.

Although I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity, sometimes I find it difficult not to nostalgically long for home, for the comfort of the soft hands of loved ones, the rock-solid mattress of my childhood bed, the beauty of a Lake Michigan sunset studded with so many stars the sky never darkens. For me, this week, the mouse was just another reminder in the seemingly millions I’ve been encountering over the last few weeks telling me that this place is different. Nashville, Tennessee is not home.

I spent the month of May studying abroad in Vienna, Austria, which means it’s now going on seven weeks since I’ve been home in Michigan. Last Monday I was beginning to let homesickness overwhelm me. That morning I accompanied Rebecca Swift, Siloam’s Behavioral Health Consultant, as she spoke with incoming refugees about their transition to America. The stories that were told that morning were heartbreaking. “Abdi” told the harrowing story of his escape from Somalia, a trip that involved driving across the Sahara desert, captivity, and several gunshot wounds which adorned his chest.

Abdi’s escape also separated him from his brother, the only family member to survive the violence in Somalia. “Diego,” a refugee from Cuba, had to leave his wife and two daughters behind as he fled to American soil. He hopes they will be able to join him in this country soon. After the death of her husband, “Hagar” was continuously sexually harassed by men in her community and forced to flee her homeland of Egypt, leaving her two sons behind.

As story after story was told I found my heart constantly tried and humbled by the grit and boldness of the refugees. They were facing a reality in which they could never return home, yet an Iraqi woman told me the day she moved to America was “the best day of [her] life.” I found contagious hope in the refugees last Monday that one rarely experiences in America. The example of these wise individuals gave me new appreciation for Psalm 90, “Lord, you have been our refuge in every generation” (HCSB). Our home is in the Lord—and even when there are mice, language barriers, and family thousands of miles away, the beauty of that promise will never cease to be true. For that, I am thankful.

Claire Johnson - CHI 2013 participantClaire is a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion.

3 thoughts on “Redefining “Home”

  1. Wonderfully expressed, Claire. You are learning well–from the refugees, from the Scripture, even from a mouse!

    As Christ followers, we have a lot to learn from the aliens in our land. There is a fascinating quote from church history about how Christians have viewed their identity as (and been recognized by others as) sojourners. The following comes from a second century epistle to a man named Diognetus:

    “The Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind either in locality or in speech or in customs. For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practice an extraordinary kind of life… But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvelous, and confessedly contradicts expectation. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign.”

  2. Thank you for sharing this, the beauty and the grit. Well said. It is a privilege when people allow us to walk the road a short distance with them. It is a privilege to have the capacity and space to be able to learn from adversity (yours and theirs). It is good to see you hold these experiences and glimpses of Christ in a sacred place in your mind to turn over like a stone in your palm. Keep these experiences with you. I’d love to meet you guys sometime this summer while you are here

  3. Beautifully written Claire and such a honest expression of your experience. I’m thankful with you for the Truth of Scripture and the loving redeeming sheltering nature of our God.

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