Aliens and Strangers

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?

Photo by Jonas Verstuyft on Unsplash


  1. Kris Gnuse June 19, 2018

    Liz, this is incredible. Perfect. And hard in the right way. Thank you.

    1. Liz June 20, 2018

      Glad it was encouraging! So thankful to know our True Home is coming!

  2. Priscilla Young June 19, 2018

    Great thoughts Liz! Thanks! I resonated with all you said and remember talking with our kids about those very verses.

    1. Liz June 20, 2018

      That’s great! I am so thankful for that great cloud of witnesses, knowing we aren’t the only ones to have walked through things!

  3. drew and robin June 20, 2018

    I think this is painful to the point of death. a mother’s inclination is for her kids to be safe and happy and comfortable…..not longing for a better home in heaven or feeling out of place BUT God has even this. more than anything a mother longs for her kids to have a growing relationship for all eternity with Jesus. grateful all 5 of mine have this relationship….through the pain, loneliness, frustration, fear, hardship, as well as the easy, happy, good times. “through it all my eyes are on YOU. through it all it is well. be still my soul and rest in YOU…winds and waves still know YOUR name. it is well with my soul” love you honey.

    1. Liz June 20, 2018

      love you too!

  4. Spring June 20, 2018

    Thank you for helping me see my own situation differently. I keep thinking it will feel more like home soin. Even that feeling is a process ( I am realizing). What a privilege to feel at home with him always.

    We stick out in our culture primarily because of our skin color. People assume things about us that aren’t true. I realize this may never change. We do have to find a place of being okay with sticking out.

    1. Liz June 20, 2018

      It takes a while doesn’t it? I read somewhere early on that it can take on average 5-7 years to feel settled and at home in a new country. That’s a long time! But be encouraged by that. You aren’t the only one! And God in is sovereignty knew what He was doing when He made you the color He did and then sent you to your host countries. He has a plan for that. Ask Him to help you see what that might be. Hugs!!

  5. Charlene Benson June 21, 2018

    I’ve lived my whole life in the US but moved away from my home state at age 20 and lived in 4 different states since. Though I’m surrounded by people speaking my native language, I’m attempting to live by kingdom culture, not popular culture. I’m attempting to be like my Big Brother, not the Jones’s. I’m following the beat of a Christian drum, not the hum-drum of blindly following the crowd. I’m pursuing Kingdom gold, not earthly gold. These are challenges every believer faces no matter where we live. It’s definitely easier in some ways to be in my native country. Life is physically easy, convenient, and abundant. It’s also easier to be lulled into complacency, to ignore world issues, to disregard the suffering of others, to forget God, to chase after money and things.

    At the same time, I acknowledge, I don’t have the frustrations and struggles of navigating daily life in a language I have not mastered, with words whose meaning escapes me more than informs me, or with constant reminders of being a stranger in a strange land. On the outside, that is so much harder!

    1. Liz June 26, 2018

      You are so right! We all are to live as aliens and strangers, no matter what Jesus has asked us to do in this world. And living within your own culture can make that more challenging at times. Blessings!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.