Home is where the heart is
It has been eight years since we arrived in Turkey. Looking at our big family picture on the wall I realised eight years is a long time. The picture was taken just before we left everything behind to start a new life in a foreign country. Our boys were so unaware of what the change would mean to their lives. The five year old was excited, the seven year old a bit more aware of all the things that could be hard and the two year old didn’t have a clue of what was to come.
My husband and I were very much excited. We had received the vision for the unreached Muslim world during Missions Discipleship Training (MDT) in South Africa, but for ten years the door was kept closed. Then God opened the door very unexpectedly and in a miraculous way! After so much waiting and God opening the door we were so sure that this was our place and even hard times did not change our desire to be here.
As if it were yesterday I remember walking down the street and feeling like I was dreaming. At times it felt so unreal to have the typical middle eastern smells, sights and sounds right outside my door. Bringing our boys to school, going to the market for fruit and vegetables and understanding some words of this new language gave this hard-to-describe feeling of really being and living here. Even as we were still adjusting, it felt like home.
This feeling of being home has grown ever since. Turkey is our home now.
But what does it mean to feel ‘home’, I ask myself?
Home is where you make it. Some people can feel home everywhere. I would say I am one of them. My house is home. But that is not what I want to write about. Home has also to do with my heart.
Here, wherever I go, whoever I meet, my family and I are always the foreigners. We are often stared at and, even if we do our very best to be like the locals, we will always be the foreigners. Yet still this is home. This is where we have our house and our belongings. This is where we have our friends. This is where we know the songs in church. This is where we feel we belong.
As the boys grow older we have to be realistic, if not for ourselves, then at least for them. It could happen that we leave. I have to force myself to think about this every now and then but I don’t like the idea. I don’t want to be confronted with the idea of leaving our life here.
But there is more.
We also have our fatherland (I prefer this word as it is literally translated from Dutch and much more appropriate to me than homeland). Every two years when we go for furlough we experience culture shock. It’s strange to be back. We know everything and at the same time, feel displaced. As we speak the language, look like the locals and know the culture, people expect us to behave like them but sometimes we don’t. I remember last year I wanted to buy something but didn’t have any Euro’s yet. I told my husband that I didn’t have Dutch money. The look on the cashier’s face made me laugh! But most of the time I feel silly when people stare if we do things differently. In those moments we feel like foreigners in our own country. Yet at the same time there is this instant click with our home culture. This feeling of ‘coming home’.
And this is exactly why we struggle to explain where our heart is.
The last three years we have gone to Europe for ministry during the summer. It’s a great opportunity to visit our fatherland and see our closest family but also full of hard moments – time is just too short to catch up and meeting people always includes saying goodbye as well. Of course I do not want to miss the opportunity but at the same time I also don’t want to make use of the opportunity. How do you explain that?
This summer when we left our fatherland after two short weeks and having not seen many people, I felt like it was getting harder each time we visited. I felt torn apart, as I really wanted to go home, but didn’t want to leave everything behind again. Most of the time I just have to continue life and don’t give much space to my emotions, but this time I did. I cried. It aired my heart.
I am thankful for people who understand or at least try to, but because of their reactions it mostly feels weird to mention my double feelings.
Family and friends back in our fatherland would love for us to come back. But in Turkey it seems like people are always leaving. People ask us ‘you’re not leaving right?’ Or even plead ‘please don’t go back’. Most of them believe it is better and nicer in our fatherland and, if I think about the many more opportunities there would be for our kids; the fact that they wouldn’t have to be foreigners anymore, they are right. But they forget that this is my home. I don’t want to leave this life behind. Well, sometimes I do. It feels dishonest to only say that I always want to stay here, but it is also true.
I feel drawn to two sides. The locals here and the people back home. And even by my own feelings.
I remember we visited friends in Turkey in 2001, long before we moved here. My friend told me that every time she said goodbye to visitors, she would’ve loved to be the one leaving instead. I thought that was a very interesting statement, because in the week of being with them I had seen, as well as heard, that they felt very much at home.
Now I understand.
I am also reminded of Jesus. He left His home with the Father to live on earth. I imagine He felt at home in a certain way, He felt satisfied to live with the people. He loved the people with His whole heart. He wanted to be with them to help them to find the way to Father God, to rescue them. But without doubt, He also wanted to be home with His Father again.
I guess I have to get used to that feeling. I guess I need the feeling in a way.
Please Father, help me with this feeling and help me if I at some point have to feel home somewhere else again.