Where I'm From: Finding Community & Identity On The Mission Field
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Has anyone ever asked you the question, “Where are you from?” For me, this question is a difficult one to answer. Although it may be an easy question for most, it is a bit more complicated for me. My life has been shaped by so many different people, places, and experiences that just one answer does not suffice.
I’m a missionary kid. My family and I partner with an organization called Poetice, a vibrant family of Jesus-followers living in Choma, Zambia, actively transforming cities through the revelation of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. My parents, my two brothers, and I are part of our on-the-ground team here in Zambia. We are originally from the United States, but Zambia is home. By home, I mean the place where I have built community. It is the place my heart longs for and loves, the place I have been called to for this season of my life. And I love it.
Missionary kids like me have been gifted with such unique perspectives. We seem to fill a hundred different roles, and it’s hard to define us. Personally, this has been a challenging aspect of life for me to embrace as a missionary kid. It isn't easy to shape your identity if you’re unsure where you fit in. It isn't easy to feel a semblance of home when you are not sure what to call home. People constantly come and go throughout your life, so you feel your heart is pulled in a thousand different directions. However, it’s a thousand times worth it.
Though my identity has been hard to ground, I have become stronger since allowing Jesus to teach me who I am instead of creating my own idea of who I think I am. I have learned to allow Him to make wherever I am feel like home. I now define home differently. It’s a thousand different places all at once, which is what’s beautiful about it. Home is the place here in Zambia where I live with my family – where I’m rooted and known, and where I live my day-to-day life. But home is also with my friends – those from southern Africa just as much as those who live in the US. So yes, though it may be a difficult concept for someone who is not in my shoes to grasp, what I hope you understand is that “where I am from” is so much more than the building in which my family lives.
Despite the struggle, the joys of my life far outweigh its difficulties. One of the most notable things I have gained from living this adventurous life of mine is perspective. Because of the unique and blended exposure I’ve had to the Zambian and American cultures–which are radically different–I am able to be a bridge between the two. It’s beautiful. I can immerse myself in two cultures that are entirely opposite and, at the same time, learn so much from both. Learning from the Lord wherever I am has allowed me to welcome others into the learning process, just as I’m a part of it myself.
I believe that my generation ought to be exposed to something other than their normal. I would never deny anybody, especially a teen, the chance to immerse themselves in a different culture. Whatever its challenges and obstacles, it is a priceless opportunity. Change requires willingness. When you are given a chance to step outside of yourself and your bubble, you will tend to realize how much you are missing, and you’ll no longer be blind to how blessed you are. A common misconception regarding mission trips is that you go just to help others. Sometimes, trip-takers can assume that it is their responsibility to solve all of the problems of their host culture. This is somewhat backward. May I explain?
When a person goes on a mission trip, their primary purpose is hopefully to show Jesus’ love to others and demonstrate this love as they serve on the trip. This is awesome, don’t get me wrong. But there is a missing piece to this puzzle. Sometimes, without even realizing it, our goal can be to fix everything we encounter that seems different because it’s easy to deem that which is different as bad. But that’s not always what should happen. Just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s bad. It doesn’t mean that it needs to be fixed.
I have seen many people land as one person and fly out two weeks later as a different person. So what happened in that time? What happens is that the Lord encounters them. Even if they are not expecting it, the Lord uses this unique cultural context to “shock” them in a good way, revealing things to them that they might miss in their typical setting and day-to-day life. And because they have encountered the Lord and have received His love, they can then show His love to those around them – on their mission trip, but even more importantly, in their home. At school. At work. To their parents. This is the point of a mission trip.
My goal is to never be able to answer that elusive question, “Where are you from?” Where I’m from does not have coordinates on a map. Where I’m from is bigger than even the word “home” can describe. I know that not everybody gets an opportunity to experience this amazing reality, but for my part, I will encourage those who do to take that leap of faith and go for it. To step outside their comfort zones and their “normal” to face something new and–because of it–to see the Lord move.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” – Isaiah 52:7
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- When it comes to missions, what do you have in place that allows your students to step outside of their comfort zones?
- What do you think are some ways to expose students to different cultures without having to go far away?
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