Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Missionary (10/19/06)
TITLE: Not My Home
By Anita Neuman
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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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