We arrived at the apartment we had rented, sight unseen, that our new co-workers had acquired for us. It was located on the 2nd floor of a 6 story condo in Singapore, a short distance from our ministry’s office.
We slept that first night on mattresses borrowed from our new friends. The next morning, sitting on the cold tile floor of the dining room, we wondered if our belongings had arrived from our last international location. We prayed, “God, please bring our stuff today!”
Five minutes later, the doorbell rang; it was the Sante Fe moving company (sometimes God answers quickly!) Five hours after that, thanks to full service movers, everything was in place. Aside from pictures on the wall, it looked like we lived in that new tropical home.
I wandered around it in a daze. It looked like home, but it didn’t feel like one. The air was heavy with humidity, the skies scattered with clouds (a novelty, after leaving a land of near constant pollution). I stared out the window at the condo swimming pool that felt indulgent compared to the developing country we had left. The squeals of our children’s laughter echoed through the rooms as they met new neighbors and began bonding.
And yet, my heart ached for our previous home. We had moved to Singapore to serve at our ministry headquarters for that part of the world. This new place, a home outside of the country where we were called to minister, felt like exile. My body, my family, and my belongings were there, but my heart was not.
And in leaving that former home, I had lost much of what I felt defined me; friends, my role in ministry outside the home, the places and people that were familiar to me. I felt untethered, unknown, and left grasping for a solid place.
We thought it might only be two years. “Two years,” I thought, “I can exist here for two years.”
But God didn’t want me to just exist there. He wanted me to be at home.
A new friend wisely observed my inclination to hold back in this regard, and encouraged me, “You need to count your losses, and your gains. Then, focus on your gains.”
So I tried. Though there was much to grieve in the loss of our old home, God had given us a new one. Kentish Green is the place of our daughter’s first memories. It is where we began our homeschool journey. Our children learned to swim in that pool. Those first friendships developed into lifelong ones. We too, developed friendships outside in the courtyard, watching our children play while we ate together.
It was also in that home that God taught me that I always do have a solid place. While I instinctively looked for home outside of myself, He called me back to rest in who He says I am. Through books like Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning, and Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri Nouwen, He told me again and again, “You are my child. Stop looking somewhere else to find your true home.” When I felt insecurity creep in, I spent hours laying on the homemade Americana quilt on my bed, re-reading quotes about my identity in Christ, telling myself, “This is who you are, this is who you are, this is who you are.”
We spent five years in Singapore, so I’m thankful for my wise friend who encouraged me not to drift through that time. Instead, God gave us a home through an amazing community in that condo, in the context of a beautifully diverse culture that welcomed us.
While God provided an external home there as He always does, I am most grateful for what He taught me in those years about remembering where my truest home lies. No matter where He takes us, I learned there to claim my solid ground in every earthly home He gives.
Gina Butz has served in ministry for over 20 years. She planned to spend three or four of them overseas, but ended up staying 13 years. She and her husband are currently raising two third-culture kids and an imported dog in the exotic land of Orlando, Florida, where they serve in global leadership for Cru. She blogs about being wholehearted at www.ginabutz.com and loves to connect on Twitter @gina_butz.
Welcome to a guest series I’m calling, “Home: Musings and Memories.” I’ve invited writers from all over the Internet to share their stories from home—in part, because I’ve just released a book called, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home (IVP, May 2017). I believe home is our most fundamental longing, homesickness our most nagging grief. Most of all, I believe that the historic Christian faith has something to say about that desire and disappointment.
The story of Jesus is a home story.
Thanks for joining me and these other fantastic writers in our search for home—and the God who makes its hope possible.