I wrote this post in 2017. On this July 4th in 2023, as I ponder my citizenship as an American, even as I have also applied to become a Kenyan citizen, these thoughts come up again. This is still relevant. Happy birthday America!
Since childhood, I have always had some challenge trying to figure out where ‘home’ is. Sure, I knew where I resided, but when people talk of home in the sense of where your people are from, that place to which you always return to reconnect with who you are and where your roots are, that poses problems. I always dreaded the question, “Where are you from?” Finally, I came up with an answer which was honest and yet tried to answer the question. I would say “What year?”
You see, I grew up in a military, and hence highly mobile family. My father was career Navy and we moved every 2-3 years. I can recall envying other kids who had lifetime friends because they stayed put for most of their childhoods and adolescence. I had to make new friends every couple years. In fact, I began to avoid forming deep friendships because being a shy girl, making friends was difficult, and just as I was getting close to someone, it would soon be time to leave, causing considerable pain. I found it less satisfactory but also less painful to just keep my friendships as warm acquaintances.
It doesn’t help that this mobile lifestyle continued after marriage because my husband and I became career missionaries shortly after marriage. I knew from an early age that I had a call from God to missions and I knew I was doing the right thing. I was doing what I wanted, too. Nevertheless, it does not make saying goodbye any easier. In our first 3-year term in Kenya, we lived in 5 different places. After a while, I became reluctant to fully unpack our things! To this day, I still get antsy from time to time, feeling like it’s time to start sorting through our stuff and pack up. Surely, it must be time to move again.
Though we’re more stable in our domiciles these days, there is still the question of where home is. Many missionaries say they’re going home when they’re returning to their country of origin. Fair enough. But then, these same missionaries are always glad to get back home when they return to their countries of ministry! I’ve done the same…many times.
I have finally come to the conclusion that home is truly where the heart is. It is not necessarily a geographic location, a nation, a country, or continent. It is where my deepest relationships are, my family, my spiritual connections. That means that in reality, I have two homes – in the U.S. where I grew up and still have family as well as friends and supporters, and here in Kenya where I have more family, a spiritual family with whom I work and relate with closely, and friends. I guess it’s OK to have two homes and I’ll proudly claim them both. When asked, “Where is your home?” I can say that I’m from America and I’m going home when we go on our occasional trips there to see family, friends, and supporters. But I live and work in Kenya and feel just as much at home (if not more so in many ways) when I am here. My heart is in both places.