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Home Is Everywhere.

Story and photos by Skyler Cumbia.

Not often do we think about what home means. It means different things to different people, I suppose. To some, it is the house they grew up in. To others, it is the state they are from. And yet to others, it is wherever their shoes reside.

During the past year or so, I’ve struggled with defining “home” for myself. Whenever I returned to the States from being in another country, I would have so many mixed emotions. Only now have I begun to sort through those feelings. Even so, it is still hard.

Home Is EverywhereI almost feel I have done a disservice to people by telling them my at-the-time feelings. It’s hard to relate deep-down feelings associated with a trip; nor is it easy to simply share your soul with everyone you pass in the hall at church. Had I not truly learned valuable lessons, it would have been easy to relate every feeling and facet of my trips, but because of incredible and personal things God showed me, it was difficult to do them justice.

We are similar to trees. Their trunks, along with every branch and twig, are visible to the observer, but the most important part of the tree is underground, unseen. Like trees, as we grow spiritually, our roots grow. To share some of those spiritual lessons and personal experiences is like exposing your roots for all to see – vulnerable and uncomfortable, even painful.

Home Is EverywhereMany have asked me to recount the most memorable moments of my time abroad. I tell them some cool stories or list some pretty wacky foods that I ingested, but who am I to say that one thing I did was more important than another? No act of service is seen as greater than any other, in God’s eyes at least. But in man’s eyes there is no lack of praise for one like me – world traveler, teacher, missionary, etc. People are quick and ready to pat me on the back and wish me well, but what I’ve found to be true over the past year is that I am no better than the smallest GA giving her 25 cents to the missions offering. In the grand scheme of things, God doesn’t care about how many countries I’ve been to, what crazy foods I’ve eaten, or how many people I’ve prayed for. He cares about the motives behind my actions. As stated in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” God only cares about the love for Him and for others that I demonstrate every day. I can travel all over the world and do all of these things, but if I don’t truly love God and love others, I will never be effective.

Here are some important things I discovered while abroad.

Home Is Everywhere1. We can never pray enough. We have a tendency to become “regulars” at the drive-thru of prayer. We expect God to know our order and then we just leave. He wants to have a strong and hearty relationship with us, not one based on sides and sauces. One way to build this type of relationship is to ask God questions. Unlike humans, God does not get tired of our endless questions. He wants to have in-depth conversations with us. In my experience, life becomes clearer and more meaningful when I talk to God often. Sometimes I don’t even say “amen” because I feel like it allows the conversation to continue throughout the day. “Amen” seems so final.

2. Love appears in ways we do not expect. I learned that love isn’t always as it appears. In my blog, I described an experience I had with a child in Haiti. In that story I related the amazing ability of God to completely change my view of that little boy. I learned love can be found anywhere. And often it’s not the act that defines it, but the absence of action. When we are called to love those who are hard to love, it is nearly impossible to turn straight to love. First we have to stop being annoyed by them. We have to create the absence of that emotion before we can put anything else in its place. We’re often overwhelmed with God’s commands and don’t know where to start obeying. Well, that is one place to start.

3. Peace can exist anywhere, and in any situation. We can be surrounded by agitating events and still be at peace. In the same way, we can be in a relaxed environment and not feel at peace. Peace is a state in which we are aware of life’s difficulties, but are also keenly aware of God’s presence and we intentionally trust our past, present and future to Him.

So, one last thought.

We would do well to remember where our true home lies. Sometimes I think we put too much stock in our physical environment. Our setting often dictates our attitudes toward others and life in general. If we allow God to control our response to our surroundings, we can feel at home anywhere. In the process of discovering this, I struggled with knowing where my true home was. I knew where I was from, but these countries had also become such a part of me. I finally had to realize that none of these places is my true home. Heaven is my home. My true and final resting place.

But while I am still roaming this earth, home, to me, is anywhere my feet and my family – biological or spiritual – reside. Home is where God is. Which is, well … everywhere.

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By Susan Beach. Photos by Philip Delano, Tommy Pusser, Nancy Pettigrew and Susan Beach.

“Closed to pilgrims from 12:30 to 2:00.” It took me a moment to realize the sign on the church door was for me.

I hadn’t thought of pilgrims as 21st century folks – running shoes instead of sandals, windbreakers in place of rope-cinched robes. I certainly hadn’t thought of pilgrimage as part of my trip to Israel.

marketplaceBut if a pilgrim is a seeker, then I qualified. I went seeking connections to Jesus’ earthly life. I also found connections to other Christians, to other faiths, and to my own faith in a fresh way.

In Walking the Bible Bruce Feiler says that what you see is less important than what you experience. I needed that advice. I needed to close my eyes to the build-up of centuries of daily life, politics and war, so I could experience a small part of what Jesus experienced. When I remembered that Jerusalem was probably just as tourist-choked during His visits there at Passover as it was for me in 2014, my view of the Old City completely changed. Men hawking their wares to tourists pushing to get to their next destination – all were distractions. But knowing that Jesus wouldn’t have looked at them with annoyance demanded more of me; I needed to connect to them with His kind of love.

At all the significant places of Jesus’ life, our group read the appropriate scripture and sang hymns. Those mini-worship services became surprising high spots in each day for me – surprising because the familiar verses became fresh, surprising because I felt a new sense of belonging to our group. And surprising because of the joy we all experienced as our worship blended with and connected to that of other Christian groups, also finding high spots in their day.
group worship

hamsaJerusalem means “city of peace,” although that’s certainly not been my image of it. Christians, Jews and Muslims disagree on so much, yet I met some who are seeking peace. And I believe there are many more. The souvenir I most treasure from my trip is a hamsa, a hand-shaped object, once a pagan symbol of protection but now used by all three peoples of The Book as a sign of peace and welcome. It’s a visible reminder to me of my promise to pray for and to connect with people of these faiths that call Jerusalem home.

baptismIn preparation for this trip I prayed I would find a new way of following my faith. I could never have guessed how that would happen. On the first day our guide mentioned the upcoming opportunity to reaffirm our baptism vows. Previously I had only heard about rebaptism, a concept that didn’t connect with me. But reaffirm did connect. My husband looked at me and said, “That’s like reaffirming marriage vows. We can do that!” Doing this together was a deeply moving experience. Although our baptisms had been more than 50 years ago, they remain significant experiences in our lives. But this opportunity added dimensions we’d never thought of – choosing verses that have particular meaning for this part of our lives, renewing our commitment to follow God’s plan, reading each others’ verses as part of the service, eyes on each other as we were dipped in the Jordan. In many ways it reaffirmed both baptism and wedding vows.

Part of the definition of pilgrim should be that itineraries may change and expectations may not be met, yet God answers the deepest prayers of our hearts when we are available for a journey. I will continue to claim the title of pilgrim.

Author’s note:
This is one story; there are 34 others. To hear them, ask any of the following who were on this 2014 trip to Israel: Sarah Bailey, David Beach, Susan Blanchard, Sandra Bollinger, Bev and Jay Carroll, Lyn Cizek, Alice and Joe Cizek, Martha Cloe, Ann Cook, Carol Cremeans, Roberta Damon, Mary Ann and Chip Delano, Philip Delano, Cari Duvall, Effie and John Farmer, Dale Hamilton, Jackie Morsink, Becky Payne, Nancy Pettigrew, Pat Pierson, Jack Pusser, Skylar Pusser, Shearer Pettigrew and Tommy Pusser, Karen Smith, Ruth Szucs, Debbie Tipton, Joy Townsend, Lynn Turner, and Patty Whitfield.

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