“Welcome home”, the customs agent said, as he firmly stamped our passports in the Miami airport ten months ago. We were arriving back in the U.S. from Bolivia to start a year of ministry vision sharing and support raising. That greeting, “welcome home”, is a hard one for missionaries to hear and process. Another one that is hard to understand is, “Home is where the heart is”, as we have split our hearts between two countries. We often feel like we are leaving “home” to come “home”. As we prepared to come back to the U.S., we packed up and stored our belongings in Bolivia, handed over the keys for the mission house to the couple renting it for the time we would be gone, and passed off the mission vehicle to our ECM co-workers in Cochabamba. A strange sense of “homelessness” set in as we realized we no longer had keys to anyplace or anything. As we started our deputation travels we quickly learned to cherish those words that were offered by so many, “Come on in and make yourself at home”.
From the time we have been able to stay with our parents, siblings and other family, to the house provided to us by Oregon City Evangelical Church where we stayed almost three months in the winter, to the countless warm and cozy spaces offered to us by gracious hosts along the way; we have been blessed to be welcomed in with loving arms everywhere we have traveled. Even in these places where we didn’t possess keys and our names were not on the mailbox; we felt “at home” for the time we were there.
We have also spent a large portion of our time this year in what we are calling our “home on wheels” (a 2006 Blue/Green Dodge Caravan with North Dakota license plates). This “home” was provided through the ministry of Grace Corporation. Grace Corporation is made up of one retired man in North Dakota who has a fleet of 19 vehicles that he rents out to missionaries on deputation at an incredible low rate. We cannot express what a vital ministry God has called him to create which we know has been a real answer to prayer for us and many others.
Countless hours and miles have clicked by traveling the highways and byways of the U.S. We have gone as far westward as Oregon and as far eastward as New Jersey and then numerous places in between. The van has been more than just a way to get us from point A to point B, however. It has been our closet, storage room, kitchen/dining room, playroom for the girls, movie theater, prayer room and altar. We know it is just a machine but it now holds many memories from this year of our lives. It could tell you stories of loud VBS songs being played, times of laughing together, temper tantrums being thrown, some tears along the way, times when it heard about the ways God provided and blessed in big ways, and moments of prayers being lifted as God rode with us through this journey.
We’ve heard people talk about the many sacrifices missionaries have to make in going to a foreign land, learning a new language, and being far away from family. While all of that is true…how many people can say they have places to call “home” all across the country and a comfortable, reliable, “home on wheels” to get them to those places and dear people? God is good. We are so grateful for His provision and the ones that He uses to give us those safe places.
So the next time you’re in your car with your spouse and kids and someone yells in that whiney voice from the back seat, “Are we there yet?” just smile, set the cruise control, and say, “Welcome home”; for if home is truly where the heart is, then I guess you take it with you.