If I am completely honest, I think I spent our first two years in Central Asia longing to go home to our home country (or even to the USA where we had lived for a short while). I would pray: Your will God but deep down I was hoping that His will was that we wouldn’t be here long.
Now that we have lived here for a while, something has changed. I’m not sure what it is. I still have days of high culture stress and I still get frustrated with my poor mastery of the language, but something inside of me has shifted.
My husband visited our landlords who live two doors from us, to pay rent and the conversation they had went something like this:
Landlord: How long have you been living in our house now?
My husband: More than five years.
Landlord: Really? I thought it was only three and a half years! We’ve learnt how to trust each other.
My husband: We so appreciate that we’ve been able to stay so long. Friends of ours have had to move three times in the time we’ve lived in your house because each time their landlords needed the home for themselves or relatives to live in.
Landlords: Yes, that won’t happen with us (they live with their daughter). Although when our grandson gets married, he will need a house (their grandson is ten years old now!). But actually, when he gets married then he and his wife can just move in with your family and his wife will be your kelen (daughter-in-law who does all the housework and cooking in this culture)!
My husband and I laughed when he told me about this exchange, but there really is a sweetness in all of it. Our landlords are content with us living in their house and they can see us being here for a lot longer. For our family this house is our home. When did that happen? When did this house filled with furniture I didn’t choose (and never would!) – this house painted with whitewash and sparkling, beaded Central Asian style curtains hanging in the windows – start feeling like home?
I was watching my son play in his under 12 basketball game and one boy completely missed a pass. A friend sitting next to me said: “These boys have many years playing together to get this right. By the time they’re in high school they would have been playing basketball with each other for so long that they won’t miss a pass like that.” And in that moment the longing for my son to be able to continue playing basketball for this school was so strong that it felt like an ache and I found myself silently praying: “Lord, please can we stay till our kids finish school here?”
When did this place become home? When did it happen that instead of longing to leave, I have a longing NOT to leave?
We often quote from Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’" (NIV). This life in Central Asia is very different from the plans I had hoped for, but despite this, my family is not being harmed and God is using it to prosper us. This is so different from what I ever imagined home to be, but it is good because it’s what God has given us; we are part of God’s story.
Once again, I find myself kneeling before God and praying: “Your will God, however long you want us to serve here.” But now, deep down I’m hoping that it will be His will that we stay for many more years. I know that being here is temporary, we are still strangers in a foreign land reliant on visas and the kindness of a foreign government and reliant on the support we receive each month. But ultimately, we’re fully reliant on God, He brought us here and He will keep us here until He calls us elsewhere.
Where has God called you to live? Does it feel like home? What factors help a place feel like home for you? How is God prospering you in ways that are different from what you had hoped and planned?
Beth is from the global South, and she loves the ocean and cold Christmas dinner on a hot day around the pool. She is married to an adventurer, and they have three wonderfully unique children.