Home Hunting

Since 2020, our family has moved all of our belongings five times to five different houses, stayed in too many hotels to count, and slept on the couches, beds, and floors of all our closest relatives.

We’ve been looking for “home” in one way or another for the last two years. Our TCKs often ask questions like “Which home do you mean?” or “When can we go home?” or “Where are we living again?”

We are orderly, scheduled people, and these many moves were not part of our goal-setting, high-reaching, productivity book-reading ministry plans.

As the Proverb says: “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

I know many of us are tired of talking about how covid changed things. But our family’s many moves weren’t just the result of the global pandemic.

Despite covid, we managed to stay in our country of service in our “sparkly house” throughout all of 2020. We loved our sparkly house. It was a huge answer to prayer and has a story of its own. We wanted to stay in that house, serve our people, and participate in their sufferings alongside them.

The strict covid rules, however, meant that our whole family could never leave the house at once. We ended up taking our kids on “dates” to the only grocery store in town one by one. We worked creatively to make home the most fun we could, despite no grass or yard and only a small cement pad on a dusty, busy street to get “fresh” air. We started to look earnestly for a new home with more outside space for our kids.

At the very beginning of 2021, we found a house with a large dirt yard and fruit trees. We were so thankful to find a home that could be a haven for our six children!

My newest baby was just two weeks old when we packed up everything and moved. The kids mourned the loss of their favorite “sparkly” house, but we renamed the new house the “new sparkly house,” and life seemed under our control once again. We could again put down roots and make our plans.

Then on February 1, 2021, we woke up to the news that a greedy military leader, citing election fraud, had imprisoned the rightfully-elected leaders. He was taking over, and the country was slipping into chaos and civil war.

After a few weeks of escalation, violence near our home, and the evacuation of US Embassy staff, our organization made the difficult call for us to evacuate as well. Less than 24 hours later we left our home with only two suitcases.

Our six-week-old baby still didn’t have a birth certificate or passport due to the covid restrictions that had prevented us from traveling to the closest US Embassy.

Three days of little food, a lot of praying, multiple embassy trips, covid tests for the whole family, and God’s presence being our only comfort in the big city, and we were on a flight back “home” to America. Except America didn’t feel like home.

Evacuation was not part of our ministry plans. How could we serve our people and suffer with them if we were a world away?

In America, we rented an apartment near our organization’s headquarters for six months. It was small and cramped, but there was a great tree to climb out front, and so it became our “climbing tree house.” Six months came and went, and we still weren’t sure what we should do. Finally, we decided to continue waiting in uncertainty nearer to our supporting church, so we bought a house in that area, sight unseen.

I was still struggling to feel at home in America, but at least I could have a place to call my own while I “waited to go back.” We bought the house after watching a three-minute video a realtor sent us. It almost didn’t matter to us what the house looked like; as long as we could buy it and own it, we could make it our home and develop a new plan. But how long would this temporary plan last? How long would we have to wait to go back? Could we ever go back?

Somewhere in all that transition and travel, my father died, and I felt like I was losing my childhood home and my current home all at once.

I am a planner, and none of this was in my plans. I am a scheduled, predictable person, and this was all unexpected, upsetting, and out of control.

I am also a sentimental collector of personal relics. I want to hold on to my past by holding on to the things that remind me of the past. I have almost nothing from our Asian home to hold on to. I have almost none of my father’s possessions to hold on to. Home was slipping through my fingertips.

I didn’t want to grieve the loss of my identity, the loss of my home, the loss of my father, all in the span of a few months. I didn’t want to wait indefinitely for things to change, for things to heal. I didn’t want to be stuck in America with nothing to do besides pray. I wanted to live incarnationally alongside our people.

It wasn’t just my plans that felt unproductive. I felt unproductive. I felt useless. I felt misplaced. I felt lost. A disillusioning fog set in and covered my life in total grief.

I started believing lies. If I didn’t have a home, I couldn’t feel at home. I couldn’t make a home. I couldn’t rest in the peace of a home. Maybe I would never fit in or be welcome anywhere. Maybe I would never have a home and never feel at peace again.

Satan’s lies cut deep, and it took time to uncover them, unpack them, and uproot them from my heart. Through the power of God and the avenue of healing prayer, I began to see the lies and let go of control and resentment, grief and loss.

I began to heal, and the fog began to lift.

I opened my heart to serving people who were right in front of me, and I kept praying for our friends who were far away. I allowed others to serve me in my grief and to see the hurt I was experiencing. I mourned. I grieved. I repented. I prayed.

I began to have hope again. I began to have peace again. I began to see that I could feel at home and make a home wherever God called me and whatever unfolded.

And then something amazing happened: we were able to make decisions and move forward.

My husband and I, after prayer and much discussion, decided that although we could not return to our host country because of the military coup, we could continue our ministry from a neighboring country in Southeast Asia.

Opportunities seemed to open up. We finally had a trajectory again.

And this is when our purchased home, unnamed for nearly a year, got the name of the “smiley-love house” by our kids. Hope is a powerful thing.

Fast forward to now. We’ve recently arrived back in Southeast Asia. We moved not knowing anyone in this city. We lived in hotels for two weeks while we were finding a home. It’s taken courage and perseverance. It’s taken God’s mercy and the prayers of many, many people.

But God did answer our prayers, and He has been with us. We had a tangible sense of His peace guiding us. We have found a home, our “nature house.” It is a small house with a giant yard that our kids can play in, an amazing answer to our kids’ many prayers for a house with “nature.”

I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that God has provided us with a home here. But it isn’t this physical home that is His greatest gift: His greatest gift is His presence with me, telling me that I am home because I am with Him.

In my Father’s house, there will always be a place for me. No matter where I go or what happens to me along the journey, He will always be there, eager and waiting for me to return to Him. In His home I am always welcome. He is running to meet me, and His arms are open wide.

Our “nature house” probably won’t be my last house. I’ll need to look for another someday. But I never have to feel lost anymore, because Home is where He is, and He is always with me.

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Julie Jean Francis

Julie Jean Francis has lived as an alien and stranger in Southeast Asia since 2012. With her husband, she serves among a large, unreached people group. Together they raise their (many) Third Culture Kids. Julie is the author of Bowing Low: Rejecting the Idols Around Us to Worship the Living God and its companion Bible study. When We Called Myanmar Home is her first picture book especially for TCKs and those who love them. You can find her online, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

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