This week’s guest blog is from Agnes Bruna, a lifelong mission worker who is a volunteer with Shevet Achim in Jerusalem. Here she discusses her own experience of that classic challenge for long-term mission workers: an increasing confusion about what ‘home’ is!
Soon I will be spending a month in the UK on vacation. I’m looking forward to it, though it will be the first time I’ll be in the UK without having a fixed address to stay. Weird!
It got me thinking about where home is. Jerusalem, where I live and work, has a surprising number of Dutch people and when people ask me where I’m from, I confidently say: from The Netherlands. After all, I have a Dutch passport to prove it, right? Actually, not so confident. My Dutch is slowly but surely disappearing. I have no idea what goes on in The Netherlands – I haven’t lived there since 1973! When I talk to Dutch groups about our work here, I get indulgent smiles at the mistakes in my Dutch.
So, do I identify with the UK? After all, I lived there longer than I lived in Holland. My English accent is (according to my wonderful American friends and co-workers) distinctly British. My children and grandchildren live there. And this is where I go, of course, for my holiday. The church I consider my “home church” is in England. On the other hand, less and less people respond to my blogs. I don’t know what is going on in my friends’ lives unless they’re faithful Facebook posters. I am very blessed that my children are good in staying in touch, through Facebook and Whatsapp, and some of my grandchildren are getting old enough to occasionally contact me on Whatsapp.
Or does the Middle East increasingly feel like home? I feel privileged to live in the historic city of Jerusalem. The Old City walls are very much a part of my daily life whether I go for a coffee at Christ Church café, try to find bargains in the souks, meet up with friends, or simply go to church. I know more about the workings of the Israeli government or the Palestinian Authority, I can now more or less confidently navigate Iraqis and Syrians (and the odd Iranian) through Israeli and Jordanian border crossings and airports, I have been several times in northern Iraq. My fluency in Hebrew has come back, I understand and speak more and more Arabic and Kurdish, and the culture here feels normal. Whatever normal is! Hey, I even found a reliable dentist here just behind the Arab Souk.
So what is home? To me home is where I find Jesus working in wonderful and mysterious ways. And where I find fellowship. And to me it doesn’t matter whether I discuss visas in Hebrew so we can save children’s lives, live in a predominantly English-speaking Christian community, worship in Arabic, pray for and with each other in multiple languages and styles, or back in the UK worshiping and praying with you all in English. As it says in Hebrews 13:14, John 18:36, and several other places, God’s Kingdom is not of this world. We do not belong here, even though Jesus has put us here for a time.
Where you go, I’ll go
Where you stay, I’ll stay
When you move, I’ll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I’ll love
How you serve, I’ll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you, yeah
I will follow you, yeah.