On January 12th, 2016, my wife and I were 32,000 ft somewhere above Central Europe. We had crossed the night before from Atlanta to Amsterdam, and we then had a short hour-long flight connecting us to Berlin. I had decided to read a chapter a day of Genesis starting with the new year. Accordingly, my reading for that day was Genesis 12. We were on our way to Berlin to get a taste of church-planting work, meet the current team, and pray with them. We heard all about it over the previous year, and finally, we were going to actually see it and make our final commitment to join.
In Genesis 12, God calls Abraham. God promises him unbelievable, supernatural and most-gracious blessings. Most incredibly, God promises to be with to Abraham. There are only two conditions: 1) Abraham must have faith in God alone, and 2) he must leave his city, his home, and wander to a land yet to be shone. It was a joyful and painful text to read as we descended into our eventual new home.
We arrived in Germany in May 2018, two incredibly short and yet long months ago from today. In fact, it was Lakewood that put us over the 100% to finally go. For my family, Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Hall County and the surrounding area have been home since the early 90s. My wife and I grew up there, graduated from high schools there, got married there, bought our first home, and had children there. It was everything you think of when you say “home.” It is also something you can take for granted pretty easily. In the most cliché way possible, we didn’t know what we had until we lost it. The Germans understand this concept quite well. If you look up the word Heimat in the dictionary, it will tell you it means “home.” Many Germans we know refute this translation. They claim Heimat is not translatable. To them, you cannot translate their idea of Germany, their home. One can only know it, live it and love it, or not.
I write to you about home because it is constantly on our minds as we seek to plant roots—to integrate into the ministry and community here in Berlin. It is our daily refrain, used in a variety of ways. It has been our prayer, hope, longing, hurt and joy. Since we moved out of our house in March, in anticipation of selling and hitting the road to finish raising support, our family has slept in 11 different places, moved 7 times, and searched endlessly for what will be our home. We expected to find an apartment here quickly once we hit the ground. We told our girls that we would have a new home as soon as we went to Germany. This proved far more difficult than expected.
With no rental history, high demand, a budget, and being obvious foreigners, we had a very difficult time finding an apartment to call home. Our prayer was for God to make our location clear and certain. We sought God’s plan and guidance on where to live. It is easy to pray this when you expect quick results. It is a lot harder when you feel homeless. Nevertheless, until we found an apartment, we were at a roadblock. If we wanted to apply for visas or school, begin language studies or ministry in our neighborhood, we needed an address. Everything hinged on our new “home,” which hadn’t been made clear.
Throughout this process, we have learned what home is, what it can be, and what it will be. For us, to be at home is to be at rest. It is the one place where you can be at ease and relax—it is yours. We have found, in no superficial way, that home can truly be anywhere. To rest in God, being at ease in God’s sovereignty and plan, relaxing in God’s arms is becoming home for us. We have never had to rely on God like we have the past two months. In that way, we are grateful for our homelessness. With this, home can be anywhere. We want Germany to be our home in every way. We want to dive in, be a part of the community and life of the people. Truth be told, we will never do this if we are clinging to our old thoughts and desires of home. Whether we like it or not, this season of transition—painful as it can be—is giving us the ability to truly be at home here. And so, we know what to expect.
We know that God has called us here, we have had a home before in Georgia, and we will have a home here. This will be our place of comfort, rest and trust. What is even greater, we are learning to be dissatisfied with all earthly homes. We loved Georgia and our life there. In the same way, we want to fall in love with Germany. Yet, at the same time, we want to maintain this newfound healthy reliance on God. We have never felt that the presence of God is home as much as we do now because we have never felt the need to rely on God in this way. We have never been as much at peace with God as we are now because we were so peaceful in our circumstances.
It reminds me of Luke 9:23-24, particularly “whoever seeks his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it.” These changes and transitions have been a healthy exercise for us to look to our ultimate and true home: our future with God. We did not have a longing for home in Georgia, because we thought we had it. We certainly have that desire now. Our prayer is that this longing will not be fulfilled by a place or building, but only and truly by Christ. We are in Christ and Christ is in us.
B & M