Longing for a Better Country

by Amy Medina on May 10, 2015

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It was May of 1989.  I was 12 years old, and my family was getting ready to leave the country where I had spent most of my childhood.

We were leaving Liberia to go back to California for a year-long home assignment.  We packed up our house and put all our personal belongings into the spare room.  Another family would stay there for the year we were gone.  The plan was that we would return in the summer of 1990, and would stay in Liberia for my four years of high school.

But during that year we were gone, a civil war broke out in Liberia.  It got worse.  And then it got catastrophic.
And finally it got so bad that all the missionaries were evacuated.  The compound where I grew up was bombed.  Many Liberian friends were killed.  We never returned.

We lost everything.  Everything we owned was in Liberia, and it was all looted.  I lost my dog, my bedroom, my sixth grade journal, the painting my grandmother made me when I was born, and my childhood treasures.  More significantly, I lost my home country, my identity, my innocence.

I never got to say good-bye, either to the country or the people I loved.  Liberia haunts my dreams; it remains an unfinished part of my life to this day.

I grieved deeply for Liberia at age 13.  But we were forced to move on—and quickly.  We were reassigned to Ethiopia; I was off to boarding school—all in a period of a few months.  I grew up; I went to college, and shortly after I was married, God brought my husband and me to Tanzania, east Africa.  I was thrilled!  Back home in Africa, at last.  I figured all of the holes left in my heart from Liberia had been filled.

It wasn’t until the spring of 2013, at age 36 and after 10 years of life in Tanzania, that I realized that the ache of Liberia had never left me.  We were leaving Tanzania to go back to California for a year-long home assignment.  I was packing up our house and putting all our personal belongings into a spare room.  Another family would stay in our house for the year we were gone.

As much as I was excited to visit California again, anxiety swelled within me.  The feelings were too eerily familiar to what I experienced as a child–packing up, leaving everything behind, assuming I would return.  I found myself worrying that the same thing would happen again….that I would lose everything.

It was a mostly irrational fear.  Tanzania is a far more stable country than Liberia was in 1989.  But after losing Liberia, and then being evacuated from Ethiopia in 1991, I realize that you never really know what’s going to happen in Africa.  I was forced to come face to face with the loss I had experienced so long ago.

We went on that home assignment, and we did return to Tanzania last year.  In many ways, it was a healing experience for me, to return.  But if there is one thing this life has taught me, it’s that I must hold loosely to everything.  Everything.  I can’t put down roots anywhere; I will never find stability.   Even if I spend my whole life here, I will never be allowed citizenship of this country.  I will never be allowed to own property here; I will never grow old in one house.  I may someday have to evacuate with the clothes on my back.  Or, I could just get robbed blind.

I’m reminded that I can’t love this life so tightly.  This life is not all there is, and it’s definitely not worth fretting over.  After all, can I ever ensure the protection of my earthly treasures?  Even if I was to live my entire life in one house in America, would I be guaranteed stability and safety?  It’s just an illusion, and my transient life as a foreigner helps me to remember that reality.

Liberia, Ethiopia, or Tanzania are not my home, but America isn’t either.  I will always be a foreigner, until that Day when heaven meets earth and all is made new.   So I set my sights on things above, and relax my grip on my possessions, my country, my identity.  They were never mine to begin with.  The whole reason I am living in Africa is because I want to store up treasure in heaven.  May I never try too hard to cling to the things of this earth as well.

 

 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

 

amhAmy Medina has spent almost half her life in Africa, both as an MK in Liberia and now in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, since 2001.  Living in tropical Africa has helped her perfect the fine art of sweating, but she also loves teaching, cooking, and hospitality.  She and her husband worked many years with TCKs and now are involved with pastoral training.  They also adopted three amazing Tanzanian kids along the way.  Amy blogs regularly at www.gilandamy.blogspot.com.

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About Amy Medina

Amy Medina has spent almost half her life in Africa, both as an MK in Liberia and now in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, since 2001. Living in tropical Africa has helped her perfect the fine art of sweating, but she also loves teaching, cooking, and hospitality. She and her husband worked many years with TCKs and now are involved with theological training. They also adopted four amazing Tanzanian kids along the way. Amy blogs regularly at www.gilandamy.blogspot.com.
  • Loved this piece, especially your line about “relax my grip on my possessions, my country, my identity.” I’ve grappled with this notion of home and identity for a long time and found varying measures of peace about it all… mostly rooted with remembering to relax my grip. Thanks for writing.

    • amy medina

      Thanks, Lisa.

  • Wow. this brought tears to my eyes. I’m a TCK who never got to go back to any of the places we lived. As adults overseas, we also got evacuated on short notice (15 minutes!!!)… After a number of years in constant transition, we finally set up house in Texas, and it was very healing to me to have all my “things” around me again. Bottles of shells I picked up on the beach in the Solomons. Carved animals from Africa. Pottery from Papua New Guinea. Photos of friends and places precious to us. I’m grateful for the gift of those visual reminders of this life, lived scattered all over the planet.

    • amy medina

      Thanks, Kay. I feel blessed that my parents have always come back to the same house, so I do have a place in the States that feels like home. I worry that my kids don’t have that….and I hope that maybe someday we will.

  • Beth Everett

    So beautifully written. Thanks for sharing.

    • amy medina

      Thanks, Beth.

  • Erin

    Thank you for this. Your words have been a gift for me today.

    • amy medina

      Thank you for encouraging me, Erin!

  • Elizabeth Trotter

    Amy, you know how I’ve raved about this piece privately! Every time I would re-read it, I would cry again. I am so honored that you would allow us to publish it here. Thank you for telling your story so honestly and with so much hope.

    This morning I was reading in Tim Keller’s “The Prodigal God,” and he talks about our longing for home, our longing for heaven — for we were made for Eden, not for this broken down place our sin has made the world. And I just broke down for the Longing. Oh how I long for heaven some days. I’m thankful there is such a place where we will not be the foreigner, where we will be with God and be at Home always. Thank you for reminding us of that, especially in those times when we can’t go back to what we’ve lost.

    • amy medina

      Thank YOU, Elizabeth! I appreciate you so much!

  • Joy

    This was incredibly timely for me. I am a TCK too and lost many things due to fire, robbery and abrupt relocations. I live overseas with my family and we were just robbed and our home ransacked last week and so many of these emotions bubble up from the past when I thought that they were already healed but once again I find myself at the feet of God, wondering if he will take it all away and if I will make it through another loss. Sometimes the losses seem unbearable. Your article was timely because I needed the reminder that there is no such thing as stability no matter where we are and I am reminded again to willingly accept the mobility of the life God has called me to. He will see me through, he always has, and he alone can never be taken from me and he alone will never leave me and he is enough. Thank you for this.

    • amy medina

      Wow, Joy….how awful! I am so, so sorry. It’s easier to write these things than it is to really make them go down into our hearts. Praying that God’s supernatural grace is with you in these hard days.

  • Marilyn Gardner

    Beautiful. As a TCk I connect at so many levels with this. I love the last paragraph. It is reminiscent of that beautiful CS Lewis quote “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Thank you –

    • amy medina

      Thanks, Marilyn. I love that quote too.

  • Christina

    Whenever I read pieces like yours I am reminded of the verse in Hebrews “For here we have no enduring city, but we eagerly await the city that is to come.” Thank you for sharing your story.

    • amy medina

      Amen!

  • Richelle Wright

    Lovely, lovely piece. Thank you for sharing it. It is my prayer as we’ve moved out kids, walking them through so many transitions (although not nearly so traumatic), that they too grasp this truth.

    • amy medina

      I agree, Richelle….I pray my kids get it too.

  • Thank you for sharing Amy, this is a very good reminder, keep blessing us with the work and mission God has installed in you. BTW You have a very talented son (Josiah), he plays football & basketball very well!

  • Tim

    I spent nearly all my childhood and several years of adulthood in Colombia, Honduras, and Costa Rica. I returned for good in 1995 and took a career job in the US. When I started visiting Colombia again a few years ago, I discovered that I had a huge hole in my soul that these visits began to fill. Home is home no matter how long you’re away. I hope you can visit Liberia at some point and have closure.

  • Rebecka

    Amy, you are speaking directly to me! I was there, too. I grew up in Kuwait and was living there as a teenager in 1990. Went back to the States for the summer, and Saddam Hussein invaded a couple of weeks before I was supposed to come home. I never got to go back, never got to say goodbye. We lost almost everything, too. My mom was still there and got out with nothing but a suitcase filled with irreplaceable photos. But you’re right – there is a comfort in living as a foreigner. On one side, wherever we are is home; but we’re still reminded daily that we won’t really be Home until Jesus brings us to heaven!

    • amy medina

      Thanks for sharing, Rebecka! That was the exact same timing when I was in Kenya at boarding school….I remember that the school was worried that the conflict would spill into Africa and we all had to have an evacuation bag ready. So sorry that it meant so much loss for you.

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