Something Missionaries and Minorities Share in Common: Lament for Home

By R.J. March on September 08, 2016

“Home is acceptance,” she said, describing her dad’s first sold out concert in March 1998. Her father is the Detroit musician Rodriguez who now regularly travels to foreign countries to play sold out venues that hold over 10,000 avid fans. Even still, few know about him in his home country. Rodriguez’s daughter was visibly moved as she watched her dad, “who lives a modest life, no glamour, on stage, playing and singing for his fans: it was seeing him as he really is, a musician.” And so home is acceptance: being appreciated for who we really are.

It is a powerful encouragement when people really get us, especially if our daily lives are commonly filled with experiences of being misunderstood or unknown. In the Oscar-winning documentary Waiting for Sugar Man, the daughter of Rodriguez offers a profound definition of home as acceptance, which reminds me of what I experienced this past weekend at a unique and remarkable conference.

The Leadership Development and Resource weekend is a Labor Day conference known as “LDR” led by African American church leaders who are often working cross-culturally in multi-cultural congregations in almost all white denominations. This gathering filled out a spectrum of race and culture—a people who were united by their desire for biblical teaching and a common commitment to creating loving church communities.

The theme of the conference focused on the “Household of God”—a fitting theme for I noticed many of the attendees likened the weekend to a happy family reunion. A precious taste of home. The event reminded me of the recent Serge conference earlier this summer where missionaries gathered from all over the world for encouragement and equipping before being sent out again.

Home, for many of us who work across cultures, is difficult to talk about. We have given our heart to peoples and cultures, distant from our own. “Where is home for you?”—a dreaded question for any missionary. But this weekend’s conference helped me appreciate how deeply difficult this question also is for people who work cross-culturally in the United States. They risk the acceptance they have known in their “home culture” to minister in another culture (or cultures) in obedience to God’s vision for the Church, the Revelation 7:9 picture: In this verse we see a depiction of God’s diverse Church from every tribe, nation and tongue, worshipping as one–united in Christ, accepted because of Christ, at home in the Household of God. It is a glorious and compelling vision—well more than that, a reality that we the Church are even as we are also becoming such a community.

Yet, as we make our home in God’s Kingdom we become not quite home in any culture, an outcast, with sometimes vague and other times piercing hunger pains for an elusive sense of acceptance–a sense of home. When we seek the Kingdom first in this way (Matt. 6:33), we feel that this Kingdom is both already and also not yet.

There is much to lament when we leave our familiar home to go where Jesus leads. There are no detours around lament if we are to embrace the beauty of this calling. Christians who live and work cross-culturally in their home countries and international missionaries alike are on a hard road that Jesus also walked–often misunderstood, sometimes maligned, constantly forgiving in order to love. These cross-cultural workers show the way forward by calling every Christian to a different home, a Kingdom where diversity is an occasion for unified worship, not an occasion for segregated Sundays. With this in mind, I offer the following lament, the fruit of reading the Psalms and Jeremiah 29 with a homesick heart—a heart that I confess seeks to find a home in consumerism over contentment, a rusty relationship with Christ over a risky one, and platitudes about humanity over costly love to a particular human. But here–let me now try to engage God’s promises afresh as He helps us all to fix our hearts on reconciled relationships in a restored creation, God’s coming Kingdom, as our home.

A Lament for Home

O Lord, you told us to build houses and settle down,

            Plant gardens and eat what they produce,

Marry and have sons and daughters,

            And to seek the peace and prosperity of the city.

We have made Babylon a home. 

 

O Lord, you now tell us, “Leave Babylon.”

            Will we forsake our gardens to the weeds to eat what we carry?

Our children are uprooted and become unknown,

             We enter dangerous territory as migrants.

We have left Babylon our home.

 

Our enemies taunt us – “Fool! You throw away your career!”

            Their soil is rich and they hoard bushels of ripe fruit.

Their great grandparents live next door.

            “Who looks after your children?” they scold.

They grow rich in Babylon. 

           

Comfort invites us in, the smell of fine leather furnishings –

            “Stay” she says, “settle here.”

Comfort guarantees safety, the walls are strong, arsenal stocked –

            “Stay” she says, “settle here.”

Comfort has silken sheets, the beds are made, the hearth glows –

            “Stay” she says, “settle here.”

 

Those who stay in Babylon wake cold and alone,

            For they have forsaken the LORD.

Those who live to consume are consumed,

            For they have forsaken the LORD.

Do not be betrayed by Comfort,

            Forsake not the LORD of all comfort.

           

How long O LORD until we reach green pastures?

            Those who hate you grow rich upon the poor.

How long O LORD until you lead us beside peaceful streams? 

            Those who hate you terrorize the poor.

How long O LORD until the wedding feast?

            Our enemies despise your call!

 

But you, O Lord, do not let those who follow you go hungry,

            We have never seen the righteous forsaken,

            Or their children begging for bread. 

We will wait for You to raise the festal shout.

            We will extend your invitation.

            Surely, we will feast in the house of the LORD forever!

 

O Israel, fix your hearts on Zion,

            Change the address of your hearts to Zion.

O Israel, our Host longs for a full house,

            He makes you His Household.

O Israel, come home.  

 

 

 

R.J. March

About R.J. March

R.J. studied Philosophy at Furman University and focused his research on the ethics of globalization and minority perspective. He has integrated this research with service on Serge teams in Ireland, London, and Southeast Asia. R.J. is interested in how technology shapes community and has worked as the Digital Media Specialist for Serge and the Director of Communication for Global Counseling Network. You can find his other (digital) handiwork at rjmarch.com. R.J. holds an M.Div. from Covenant Seminary. R.J. and his wife Carolyn and their two children reside in Seattle where R.J. is the Assistant Pastor of All Souls Church of Seattle.