November 26, 2012

Home(sick) for the Holidays

Today, my husband and I received an email from our friends. “We look forward to getting home,” they said. “We are anxious to see what has happened while we have been gone.”

Not an unusual email, perhaps, in this season of over-the-river-and-through the woods.

The difference, though, is in the fact that our friends were emailing from Papua New Guinea, where they await a tiny plane to fly them out to their house in the jungle.

“Home,” for them, is not the Eastern United States, where their children and grandchildren live. It’s the small settlement, unreachable by road or Facebook, where the Lord has sent them, year by year, to proclaim the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Their email was a gentle reminder. A reminder to me, who walks into the grocery store and (I confess!) tears up to hear Bing Crosby pleading: “Please have snow, and mistletoe, and presents under the tree.” Home is where God has me.

But “home” for Bing Crosby, and for many people, is not always the place they are. Sometimes it’s somewhere else. Sometimes it’s with someone else. Sometimes it’s even a different time of life—a moment in the past that will never happen in the same way again.

We might be tempted to steer clear of homesick people--certain that we've got nothing to offer or that what we offer will be rejected because it won't measure up to "home."

But through the years, I've known some amazing women who have effectively ministered to others in their homesickness: like my friend who hosted an authentic German dinner (complete with mail-ordered ingredients) for a WWII bride who had never been able to get back home. Or another friend who keeps the senior sisters in nursing homes supplied with a basket of their favorite spices so they can have a taste of their own kitchens, even in a far-away dining hall.

The sadness of homesickness is a real trial that many people face, especially this time of year. I am thankful to Rebecca VanDoodewaard for her recent book, Uprooted, in which she explores many of the causes and remedies for homesickness. (You can read my review of Uprooted on The Aquila Report.)

The last chapter of her book is entitled “Helping Someone who is Homesick” and a few of her suggestions seem particularly useful for ministry wives. You likely know someone who is wishing she was elsewhere. Here’s how to help:

(1) Befriend. Share a meal, a shopping trip, a Christmas gift, a phone call. VanDoodewaard says, “What a homesick person most wants is to know and be known; to have people who understand who they are and still love them.” (p. 106)

(2) Invite. Ask her to come to church, a Bible study, a prayer group, a fellowship meal. This is an opportunity to minister to her soul, whether she is already a Christian or not.

(3) Involve. Give her a responsibility that uses her gifts. This is a unique opportunity for ministry wives who often have a sense of what needs to be done in the local church. Giving those tasks to a homesick person will help her to feel valuable and needed right where she is.

So, how do you help people to feel “at home” this time of year?

VanDoodewaard, Rebecca. Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians. 2012: Christian Focus. ISBN 978-1-84550-964-4.


  1. Thank you for this Megan. I realize each year that my sense of home was extremely attached to marriage as a result of God's command to "leave and cleave." I too have enjoyed discovering new ways to use this sense of home in a world where it is no longer relevant in my life. This is a great encouragement to us to branch out and thing of others specifically this time of year.

  2. You asked how we make people feel at home at our house. I giggled inwardly because we are just cleaning up after Thanksgiving week. Two of our college-aged children brought home friends for the holiday. One from Oregon, one from El Salvador/San Francisco, and another from Argentina in addition to the five of us made for a great, if busy, Thanksgiving. I find that making sure there is food available to them, a place to plug in their computers to catch up on school work and letting them rest is the best way to minister to this particular group. We didn't set a perfect table, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway. They needed a place to park and feel comfortable for the week. It's quiet least until Christmas break. ;)

  3. It is challenging for me to visit the place where I was born and raised and observe that no one has ever left...except me! I am over 60, but my parents still refer to that place as my "home." I try to explain that my children live far away from me, too. But, I don't think that is a comfort to my parents.

  4. Sweet Megan, as someone who has lived far from family on many holidays (and now probably always will!), I can personally testify that you have "hit the nail on the head" as it were. This year in particular as we realize that this is probably our last big move, I've looked at new friendships a little differently. A lady of a man Thomas works with called me up to do some Black Friday shopping (nothing crazy early!). Thomas was so confused why I wanted to get up early on a day I could potentially sleep in and go by socks half off.
    "Don't you see, someone has asked me to do something! Me, without the children, without you, just me!" I told him, and understanding began to dawn. :) The lady actually told me that she remembers moving to this place several years ago and how it took a year before she saw anyone she knew at the grocery store. The way she purposefully included me in something as small as going shopping for socks and to a craft store meant a great deal to me!
    I could go on with current examples of people from our new church, too, but suffice it to say: Women in the church can make a huge difference to new families. Thanks for this post! I'm going to keep this as a reminder for when I'm not "new" any more.


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