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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Missionary (10/19/06)

TITLE: Not My Home
By Anita Neuman


We decided we should get away for a few days. Away from the filth of the city, away from the pressure of communicating in a still foreign language, away from being conspicuously white. Heeding our colleagues' advice, we packed up the kids and some clothes and made our way to a retreat centre outside of town.

It was beautiful. I had no idea so many different kinds of trees could grow in the same place. Pine trees, banana trees, cacti, and innumerable unknown (to me) species thrived on the compound. The grounds, located on the side of a mountain, sloped steeply down to the lake. Stairways linked cabins, dining hall, sports court and swimming area. Flowers bloomed everywhere, delighting our senses with their intoxicating aromas and exotic colours. An orchestra of birds gave us a foretaste of heaven with their sweet, echoing songs. Our arms and legs, which hadn't seen the sun in months, delighted in its warmth, even as the cool breeze tickled and teased.

We enjoyed a western-style lunch cooked by hands other than mine, and made polite small talk with the few other guests.As soon as we could inoffensively excuse ourselves, we invaded the lake. A floating swimming pool provided safety for our daughters while my husband and I lounged on the deck.

Again, we were awestruck by the unfathomable beauty surrounding us. We were also dumbfounded by the clash of cultures that insisted on assaulting us, even in the midst of our tranquil vacation. Along the shore, a woman beat her laundry against the rocks. An older man and a young boy paddled out to set their fishing nets. A herd of cattle ambled down a steep, rocky path to drink their fill. A pelican drifted by, eying us suspiciously. Then a motor boat roared to life and pulled a water-skier past our deck. And a party started on the opposite shore, its music distorted by over-amplification and distance, yet still disturbingly recognizable as Michael Jackson.

Reality had interrupted our moment of utopia, and we submitted, somewhat begrudgingly, to the possibility of some imperfections in our holiday. With that concession made, we were able to joke about our unrealistic vacation expectations and trade them in for actual fun. We swam and canoed, played catch and read books. We went hyena-hunting after dark and went star-spinning before bed. We ate way too much and let our kids have caffeine. We had a bonfire, played dominoes, and climbed all those stairs countless times. And as vacations are wont to do, this one wore us out with all its "rest and relaxation". By the third day, we were ready to go home.

As I packed up our belongings and cleaned out our little cabin, it struck me that "home" is a rather obscure concept. We have a home on the other side of the world that is waiting for us until we finish our term. We have a home back in the city where we have settled and made friends. But neither of those places seemed real to me as I breathed in the floral scents drifting in on the breeze and listened to the call and answer of the birds in the trees just outside the cabin door. There I sat, in the middle of what must surely be the closest thing to Eden man has yet discovered, and I longed to return to streets laden with beggars and homeless children, dizzying and death-defying traffic, pollution that constantly assaults the ears and the lungs, and a language barrier that tries to thwart all attempts at ministry.

My understanding of heaven as home was suddenly more concrete to me than it ever has been before. This world is not my home, but while I'm here, there's a job to do. And someday, when I'm enjoying constant warmth, endless worship music, and complete fullness of joy (this time without having to sleep on a lumpy pillow or tend to scraped knees), I'll be able to make small talk with souls who are there because I invited them to come home with me.

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This article has been read 1238 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 10/26/06
Amen! Thanks for this wonderfully written reminder. I needed to hear it again.
Amy Michelle Wiley 10/29/06
Wow, I can't believe you don't have more comments! What a touching story with a wonderful point and well written. Welcome back to the challenge--I've missed you!
Aylin Smith 10/29/06
Beautiful and what excelling choice of wording.
Donna Powers 10/30/06
A moment of peace like an oasis in chaos. This was lovely, restful and well written. Thanks so much for writing it!
Donna Haug11/02/06
Anita! Way to go, girl!!! I was with you all the way. I loved some of your descriptive phrases throughout. eg. "the cool breeze tickled and teased" and so many more. Great job.
david grant11/03/06
This is a lovely and well written work. I think the reason our comments came late was because of the "heavy" paragraphs. This story is like a beautifully detailed painting. Each paragraph is an adventure in word color and texture. Wonderful! But most of us are skimmers and we read the easy pieces first. But don't change and write down to us, continue to work to bring us up and open our eyes to the beauty of a well written work. I give a DAVEY for the beauty of the language you have painted into this work. Well done.