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.