There is now less than one week remaining of my time at Soddo before I start the journey to the US. Though the work has remained busy, I’ve had some time in the last few weeks to reflect and try to prepare myself for coming back to the West for a while. I’m definitely excited about being reunited with my family and look forward to the break, but there is a sense of uncertainty about stepping back into my old culture. Given I’ve only been here for one year, I can only imagine how people might feel after coming back after four or five years away.

As I reflect on it, I think the sense I’m trying to convey is one of homelessness. But I’m thankful for it because it is a sense of homelessness that is, in fact, more proper than the comfortable familiarity I felt before. Peter writes in the Bible that Christians are “strangers and aliens.” The writer of Hebrews says that people who have put their faith in God have “confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went 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 a city for them.”

These words of scripture are not new to me but this last year has taught me a new level of experiential understanding of them. God led my family and me to a foreign land and He’s been stripping away stuff that separates us from Him. If you’re curious to know how hard you are clinging on to something try either letting go or, better yet, having Someone rip it out of your hands. It hurts but, in the end, gives freedom. This time has brought me closer to my Father and I feel more keenly than ever that no place will truly feel like home until I’m with Him.

I’ve written and communicated to friends that one of the challenges of coming here was the sense of “This is it? This is what I was working towards?” For thirty-two years I was on the conveyor belt of education. One step led to the next… high school, college, medical school, residency and preparing for the mission field. All along the way there has been a nagging hunger, an itch I couldn’t scratch or a sense of missing something. I’ve always suppressed that feeling, though, because there was always a hope that it would finally click once I “arrived.” Well, I finally arrived but the warm fuzzies of deep, abiding contentment stood me up! It was quite a punch in the gut.

As is often the case when God leads and disciplines His children, the pain and confusion drove me closer to Him. I’ve spent a lot of time this past year contemplating what is really valuable and important in life. For me, the list has become shorter but much deeper. Walk deeply and intimately with God through the Holy Spirit in Jesus. Eat and drink with friends with a cheerful and thankful heart. Work hard and, whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might. Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given you under the sun.

I still feel the hunger. I still feel the itch. I still know that something is missing. But now when I feel it, I rejoice in Christ because He has set me free. The thing for which I hunger is coming, just as surely as Jesus is on the throne of heaven. I will never know satisfaction until He comes back, but then I’ll know it forever. America isn’t my home any more than Ethiopia is. My home is coming and, each night when I lay my head down and pray to my Father, I’ll smile and know I’m one day closer.

family in atlanta