By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
I craned my neck back around the airplane seat and said to my husband “you realize everything we own is in the belly of this plane, right?”
There were 15 green duffel bags full of everything we owned in this world. We didn’t have car keys because we didn’t own a car. We didn’t have house keys because we didn’t have a house. We didn’t have a phone because back 7 years ago all we had were flip phones and you couldn’t just swap a SIM card in and out. It was a primitive time.
But we did have a call. We had felt God’s pull to Latin America since before we were married. So we packed and sold and stored. With two preschoolers, we climbed aboard that plane, prepared to live as aliens and strangers in this new land.
When we landed, a guy we had only ever emailed, picked us up, took us to a house we had only ever seen online, and said “Welcome Home!”
The next day, another language school student took us to get groceries. I remember trying to figure out if the bag of flour was white or whole wheat. I couldn’t read the packaging with my limited Spanish, but I knew lots of color words thanks to all the Spanish board books we had been reading to our kids, so I asked a man in the baking aisle “este es café o blanco?”
“Is this brown or white?”
He looked at me with a peculiar look, probably wondering what kind of alien I was. Then it dawned on him what I was trying to ask.
“Café” he said.
Success! At least I now knew what whole wheat flour looked like.
By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.
Over the last seven years, we’ve made a home here. It didn’t come easy or quickly. I remember calling my best friend back in the States crying “No place in my house feels comfortable! It feels like I am camping all the time!” I really like camping, but I like coming home too.
But little by little, week by week, year by year, it now feels like home. God has given us community, something we cried over and prayed about for years. We have a cozy house with comfortable furniture. We’ve added more kids to this tribe and all of them know Costa Rica as home.
Things don’t feel so foreign. Well, ok, most days things don’t feel so foreign.
There are still things that point to the fact I am a stranger here. There was a presidential election just a few weeks ago. A lot of it I didn’t understand, even with asking everyone I could to explain the candidates and the issues to me. Even if I had understood the issues, I wouldn’t have been able to vote. I am an alien.
There are ways of thinking that still seem as foreign to me as the night we stepped off the plane. And I am one hundred percent certain there are ways I think about life that seem just as strange to my national friends. I still dress different. I have embraced big earrings, but not high heels when picking my kids up from school. I am that immigrant mom with really bad Spanish. I still don’t serve beans and rice with every meal and I send weird foreign food like sandwiches in school lunches.
For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Over the years I’ve come to be really thankful for this strangeness, this not quite fitting in, no matter how many mannerisms I change or how much language I acquire. I’ve come to see it as a pointed reminder I am an alien and stranger in this whole world. It’s not my home. There are ways of thinking and doing life that shouldn’t make sense to me in light of that Eternal home. Everything should feel little uncomfortable and temporary here. Like camping.
I am looking forward to that city that God is building. More and more I find myself homesick for that better heavenly country. Oh for the day when we will all be Home for good! Until that day, I’m thankful He is my familiar in the midst of this foreign world.
And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. –Hebrews 11:8-10,15-16
How about you? What is the thing that most points to you being an alien in your host country? What makes you feel like an alien in this world? How has God been your familiar in the midst of the foreign for you?