Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)
TITLE: A hundred family homes
By Sharon Kane
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Boxes and bin-bags have always blighted our married life. As newly-weds we shared our dingy one-bedroom flat with sack-loads of second-hand clothes for the outreach project among the homeless. They in turn competed for floor space with boxes of beautiful items skilfully crafted by the poor in exotic lands that we sold to the wealthy in our own country. Was it home? We slept and sometimes ate there between the demands of our dual professional lives, but when God called it was not difficult to leave. We moved to an exotic land. There we lived with the poor, learned their language, ate their fare, and fell in love with Africa. Our home there was blissfully uncluttered by junk; thanks not to our piety but to the miserly weight allowance of the airline. It became filled instead with the precious cries of our first child.
Two years later we moved back to the rat race of modern Western living. Unwillingly we made the concrete jungle our home for the next six years, though we spread that time among three different houses. The third house was the only one that we have ever bought. There we planted a garden, got to know the neighbours, hung Christmas lights on the fir tree in the front yard, and had friends to stay. In our cosy bedroom our third son was born. Yes, that was home. Then God called us to move again. Emptying the house we shipped what we needed, gave away anything remotely useful to neighbours, crèches, schools, churches and charity shops, and still left 47 bin-bags of junk sitting in the back alley.
Probably the happiest two years of our lives followed. Returning to Africa we occupied a spacious house in a large overgrown plot. Here the interminable boxes found their place in the study and did not intrude on our family space. We were stationed in a rural mission hospital in the mountains. The grass was green all year, the log fire and sheepskin rugs kept out the winter cold, and the children romped all day in the freedom of the mission lanes and woods. The garden gave us food on the table, and a profusion of fragrant flowers overflowed the beds. We erected climbing frames of hand-hewn logs for our boys, and they played wheelbarrow races on the lawn. Baby number four arrived; we now had two children who were born in our native land and two in our adopted country.
But the political landscape changed and our white skin was no longer universally welcomed. Armed gangs began roaming the area, shooting, robbing and raping with impunity. Wisdom did not allow us to wait and find out how far down their hit list we appeared. We moved in haste, stayed with friends in the city, and only later organised for our worldly goods to follow us. Tearing up my own little nest in my own sweet time had been painful enough; having it ripped from me was gut-wrenching anguish. Something inside me died that day and in its place a glorious realisation was born. In recognising myself a stranger and alien on earth I found my true family home. In the four years that have flown past since then we have rented five houses and lodged with other people three times. The houses have been spread over four cities in three countries on two continents. Some have been palatial beyond our wildest dreams, others cramped to the point of nerve-jangling intolerability. Not one has been permanent and neither have I allowed myself to consider them so.
Now we are going ‘home’ on furlough. We will stay in another house that will not be our own. We will do our utmost to make it a place of rest, safety, family fun and happy memories. More houses will doubtless follow, but none will be home. I will know I am home when I arrive in my Heavenly Father’s house, free from thieves and bandits, from tears and pain and, wonderfully, from the clutter of boxes and bin-bags of ‘stuff’.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19:29 NIV)
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (Jn 14:2-3 NIV)
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