Where is Home?

Long, long years ago our grandparents had no problem when asked a simple question

“Where are you from?”

The answer was quite evident – as clear as the rising sun.

Their speech gave them away; their talk revealed their roots.

Today the answer’s not so clear.

My face, my voice, my intonation can keep you guessing,

mostly wrong – as to where I am from.

I was born far away in the North; I grew up far South,

My parents took me East; I moved to the West

Is there any place I still call home?

Is there anyone who still knows my name?

I’m only one of millions, moving around the globe

Some call me a TCK – a Third Culture Kid

Some say I am a nomad – moving from place to place

The seas of change have thrown me across oceans far away

I try to find a place to live;

I’m a stranger wherever I go.

A refugee, an immigrant, rootless, unplanted

Is there a place assigned for me?

In Psalm 139 the words of comfort I find:

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

There is someone who knows my name, however far I’ve roamed

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”
I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you. Isaiah 43
I have chosen you and have not rejected you. Isaiah 41:9

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. John 14:23

The Red Shoes

Kandy Lake

I was walking with my mother and my four siblings along the bank of the Kandy Lake on my way to the Assemblies of God Sunday School. I had not noticed the dark clouds. I was looking at my bright red shoes. My heart beat with pleasure as I walked along. These were my first genuinely new shoes. They were a gift for my fifth birthday. No one had ever worn them before.

Shining. Bright. Red. The color of the red hibiscus – which was called the “shoe flower” in Ceylon.

While I was concentrating on my new red shoes, it began to rain. My shoes got wet. By the time we arrived at the Sunday school, I was soaking wet – and my shoes were full of water. I had to take them off. The color had run. My feet were red. My shoes never shone again.

Shoes have often been a problem in my life. Many of my shoes had come as hand-me-downs in parcels, first from America, later also from Finland. My feet grew fast. Mother often had trouble finding enough money to buy proper shoes to fit uniform regulations at the Kandy Girls’ High School – which had classes from Kindergarten to University Entrance Level.

When I was 17, recently arrived in Finland, to my surprise a friend of my parents invited me to go shopping with her in Helsinki. She took me to a large shoe store and said,

“Now you can choose any pair of shoes that you like.”

“You mean I can choose a new pair of shoes for myself?”

“Yes. Just any pair you want.”

They were the first pair of shoes I could choose for myself, bought specially for me by a lady named Angel Laukila.

 

Some years later I was again in Helsinki, this time alone. I was looking for a pair of white shoes to match my white brocade wedding dress, sewn in India by a Danish volunteer. I found the perfect pair on sale, white satin wedding shoes – for just two Finnish marks.

My fiancee was to travel home from his missionary work in Thailand for our wedding. His mother paid for his flight. I had been working as a volunteer in India and had recently returned home from there via Thailand. We had exchanged engagement rings in Bangkok.

Again, several years later I had sore feet while walking along the Silom Road in Bangkok looking for a flat for a new missionary. My feet were sore because of the early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Through the years I could not find any shoes that relieved the pressure on the soles of my feet. I had tried dozens of pairs of shoes – trying to find something that might fit and wouldn’t hurt my already burning feet.

Finally, after moving to Finland after many years in Asia, I was granted specially made shoes with insoles adapted to my constantly changing arthritic feet.

The shoes could be a metaphor for my life. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church about wearing the right kind of shoes to face life’s spiritual battles.  The Swedish Bible uses an adjective to describe those shoes: beredvilligheten. Prepared and willing – or volunteer shoes.

I have not always been ready and willing to use those shoes. Maybe I was afraid I might get hurt.

Our Unbudgeted Wedding

My memories of our frugal wedding 27 March 1971.

I was a volunteer in India and my fiancé Håkan Enqvist was a young missionary in Thailand. Our romance began through correspondence on ordinary aerograms. After a short exchange of letters, his letters stopped coming for several weeks. When a letter finally arrived, the explanation was, he was without money. Not enough money even for a postage stamp. He and his Thai co-worker had survived on plain rice and fish sauce or rice and condensed milk. That situation was familiar from my childhood – and was the triggering factor for my decision to marry him.

 

When a Danish girl at the volunteer center heard about my plans to get married, she offered to make my dress. She was a seamstress. I found a beautiful white brocade material for a few dollars in Madras (Chennai). She created a lovely dress and refused to accept payment. She had been in a team sewing for the Danish Royal family!

I returned to Helsinki, Finland for a few months.

I needed shoes to match my dress. I had no income. Window-shopping led me to Stockmann, a large department store where there was a SALE sign. Almost empty shelves stared at me in the sales corner. Like a bright light, a pair of white satin shoes shone on one shelf. I tried them on. A perfect fit. The price – half a dollar!

My fiancé arrived from Thailand shortly before the wedding. We went to a jeweler store to buy a ring. They refused to accept any money when they realized we would be working in Thailand.

An unknown lady in my bridegroom’s hometown heard about the wedding plans. She wanted to make a gift for the bride. She was a skillful lace maker and produced a crown worthy of a princess.

The ladies of my fiancé’s home church made all the arrangements for the wedding.

The only expense for my bridegroom was a beautiful bouquet of scarlet roses with sprigs of lily-of-the-valley.

A heavenly budgeted life

Our”unbudgeted wedding” led to a “heavenly budgeted life”. We never could boast of riches, but were able to make life rich for numerous children.

1981

https://www.facebook.com/BethanyHome.lfcy/

 

Bethany 40th Anniversary

2 Corinthians 6:9-11 ...as unknown and well known, as dying—and look, we are alive! ... as going through pain but always happy, as poor but making many rich, and as having nothing but owning everything.

 

Piachaud Gardens, Kandy, Ceylon

THE RETREAT

By my seventh birthday, we had moved again. Since our arrival from Hong Kong to Ceylon just over two years earlier this was our third home. I couldn’t count the temporary homes in three different countries on three continents we had lived in the past six years, but this house felt different. Each step I took towards the house felt like I was walking in a dream. The house became a nurturer of my dreams. Mother sent our address to friends and relatives in Finland.

“THE RETREAT” Piachaud Gardens, Kandy, Ceylon.

I did not know the history of the house at the time, or why it got its name. I just knew it was home. It was my home only for thirteen months, but its impact has lasted a lifetime.

The Retreat

A book- A Key to the Future

The former occupants of The Retreat were Swedish missionaries Einar and Anna Johansson. They had fled with their five children from China to Ceylon just a few months before us in 1949. They shared a Swedish teacher, Marta Persson, with the Bjorkenfors family who had four children. The fact that they had a teacher was one reason why Mother chose to take us to Ceylon. She did not know when she made that decision about the school in Kandy that would form my identity for years to come.

The Swedes had left a behind a book by Elsa Beskow “VILL DU LÄSA” – Do You Want to Read. It had beautiful pictures. I found in it a story which led to important choices later in life. I wanted to learn to read that book. Mother’s native language was Swedish. She taught me. I had read several books in English before I started school. Our home language was Finnish.

Elsa Beskow’s book

Parcels from America

Sometimes we received packages from churches we had visited in America. Once, among all the clothes and dried foods was a post-order catalog. My nine-year-old brother and I studied the pages with pictures of children’s clothes. Can there be so many lovely clothes for children? I wondered. My mother sewed most of our clothes on her hand-driven Singer sewing machine. Some of our clothes came in parcels, but they were never as beautiful as the pictures in the catalog.

  

“If there are such a lot of cute clothes for children, we must have a lot of children when we grow up!” Emmanuel said.
“How many should we have?” I asked.
“Twelve, I think is good. Six boys and six girls.”
“Why six and six?”
“Well, Dad always has so much work to do, so he would need more boys than he has to help him put up his tent for tent meetings and preaching. He has only three of us.”
“Yes, and Mom has an awful lot of work every day, and she has only Mary and me to help her here at home.”
Since we agreed on these matters, Emmanuel went to mom and asked, “Can a brother and sister get married when they grow up?”
“No, that is impossible. A brother and sister can’t marry each other.”

We decided to pray for each other to find the right person to marry – and for the twelve kids, each one of us should have.

 

A Refugee Kid is also a Third Culture Kid/2

Just Another Afghan Kid

Just another refugee kid Pixabay

Continued.

My mother has tried to teach us the old traditions of her family, but it is difficult to follow old traditions when we live in fear all the time. We are afraid that some neighbor here in the slums will tell the police that we live here illegally. Where can we go? The years of my life pass without hope. I kick stones along the road just to hide the anger in my heart. Will we ever be able to live together as a family, together with my father?

With each year that passes, that dream drifts further and further away. Here in this stinking slum, as I try to avoid the piles of trash and slimy black sewage, it is hard to dream at all. I try to do all I can to help my mother and sister survive. I search for jobs so I can buy food. Sometimes, even after working long hours loading sacks or sweeping floors or whatever work I can find for the day, I might not get paid. So we all go hungry. Some bosses know that I can’t complain to anyone since I am here illegally.

When we were in my mother’s mountain village I used to look up at the stars every night and dream of what it would be like to live in peace and prosperity somewhere. I dreamt that I would study to be a teacher so I could inspire the children to plan for a good future for themselves and their families in our country, where grapes and plums, pomegranate and oranges would grow all over the hills.

School in Afghanistan – Pixabay
Rainbow of Hope – Pixabay

 

My father sends us money whenever he can. Each time, I wish he would also send renewed hope of getting us out of Pakistan and to a new country, that he has received his residence permit in that country far away, and that we will get permission to join him before the next Norouz – our New Year celebration. When that happens, I know my mother will start singing again. I can remember her songs of sunrise and hope and new beginnings, and her songs about peace. She will start collecting fruits and nuts that she will dry in the sun. When we join my father she will make the Haft Mewa, or Seven Fruit Salad.

http://slideplayer.com/slide/10725099/

Now I must go and find someone who will teach me proper English. I watched a man setting up a blackboard behind the market place. He saw me. I was not just another refugee kid. He asked me if I wanted to join his class.

My father will be happy when I show him what I have learned. It can’t be long now before we join him and our family’s hope is fulfilled.

A Refugee Kid is also a Third Culture Kid

Just another refugee kid

You might find me in one of the overcrowded stinking slums outside a big city of Pakistan or Iran,  or up in the mountains hiding from the latest danger. If I describe myself, it won’t help you much in your search. I do my best to look like any other kid, so the police will never find me and send me across the border. My name is Omid, and I’ll be fifteen my next birthday. My father gave me my name, which means Hope. The birth of a son brings hope, he said. I don’t know what he meant. Hope is something I lost when he left us once again to try to find somewhere for us to live in safety.

Just another Afghan Kid

It is four years since he left us in my mother’s village in Afghanistan. We waited and waited for news after he had left. We hoped that maybe next year we would be together again. Next year has come and gone four times. My baby sister could not yet walk when our father went away. Last year my mother decided to take us to Pakistan. We could not live in her relative’s home any longer. We joined a group of refugees who also had to flee from their homes. This must have been the fifth time in my life that I had to flee from one place to another. I can’t even remember what happened the first two times.

I sometimes dream of a home where can live together in safety. I don’t care where that home is, just that we can be safe and live without fear, without bad dreams. I have to stay here and take care of my mother and my sister. Women and girls cannot live alone in this country or our country.

My mother has told me stories about my father. “When you father was fifteen years old he had to flee from his home in a mountain village to Iran. He traveled all alone to find work to support his aging grandparents. If he hadn’t fled he would have been forced to join the rebels and fight the Russians, and his grandparents would be left starving. He always came back home hoping that he would find a peaceful place for his family. Each time he returned there was a new war, and he refused to fight. That is why he always is on the run. They would kill him otherwise. He has always longed for peace. He has been in several countries, trying to find work and trying to make a home where we could live in safety.” Mother repeats that each time I complain about him leaving us.

Just now he is in a small country somewhere in Europe seeking asylum for himself, and as he says, for our whole family. Europe is very far away from where my mother and I and my little sister live. Sometimes I have talked with him on our cell phone. That is our only link with him. Mother always cries after she has talked with him. Sometimes even she thinks he has abandoned us.

I remember a short time of peace when my father took us back to Kabul, the capital city. It was quite frightening to see the ruins of bombed houses. Father said we would be safe now. His cousin knew one of the rulers of the city who had promised to take care of us.

Father had returned from Europe. We might have been able to join him there if his cousin had not asked him to return. There in Kabul, we lived in a nice small house with a tiny garden where mother quickly planted some of her favorite vegetables. Coriander grew quickly and gave a distinct aroma to our food.  I helped her tie strings for the yellow and green beans to climb the fence. Tomatoes, cauliflower, and eggplant grew in that small garden. I saw my mother was happy again.

She did not have time to gather in the harvest when we had to flee again. My father’s cousin was shot, and the Taliban was looking for all his relatives and friends. My baby sister was born in a cave somewhere up in the mountains where we were hiding. We returned to the village where my mother was born. It was not safe even there for my father to stay for longer visits. He said that one day he would find a safe place for our family.

The Search for Safety

To be continued.

First Visit to Grandma

Two swallows flew high in the sky. The forest was full of birds’ chatter. All the migrating birds had returned home and were busy with their young. I got a glimpse of a white two-storied house behind a dark spruce fence. A white picket gate stood open.

“This is where we go in,” said Mother. Purple and white lilacs filled the air with their scent.  Scarlet roses surrounded by blue and yellow pansies stretched their stems to welcome us. Grandma was in the kitchen where she had just taken a sheet of golden brown cinnamon rolls from the oven. After giving me a welcoming hug, she let me taste one of the warm rolls. The crunchy crushed almond on top and the sweet, spicy filling just melted in my mouth.  A glass of juice – made of Grandma’s apples from the tree just outside the kitchen window – made me feel like a fairy tale was coming true: a story Mother had told me over and over again.

A fire was burning in the large kitchen stove where Grandma fried meatballs in a big black frying pan. The savory smells from the kitchen made me hungry. Grandma said, “I’ll need some more potatoes from the vegetable garden and some sprigs of dill to go with them.”

Aunt Elna said, “I’ll get them,” as she took a black enameled bucket which stood by the door.

I noticed the buckets in the kitchen. My mother explained: “This white one with a lid is only for clean water from the well outside. That brown pail is for dish-water. The black one is for leftovers.”

Grandma asked Mother, “Anni, do you remember where we used to keep the lingonberry jam in the cellar? That goes well with the meatballs. Could you get me a jar of it and bring in some milk too. Take Lisa with you. Oh, I almost forgot. We must have the pickled herring to go with the new potatoes. There are some jars at the back of the cellar which I prepared just for Midsummer .”

I went along with Mother out the front door and around the house to the steps which led down to the cellar door. A big rusty key sat in the lock. She let me turn the huge key.  As the door creaked open, a musty smell rushed out, along with a blast of cold air.  Mother switched on a lamp. The dim light revealed rows of labeled jam jars from last summer, 1952, the year Grandpa had died. There was strawberry, raspberry, red and blackcurrant, and of course the dark red lingonberry jam, which we had come for.

Mother showed me the jars of herring. I went to get one.  A new experience was waiting for me – to taste the pickled fish.   The milk cans stood on the floor under the shelves. Mother took one of them. We were ready to leave the cellar.

I ran out to see where Aunt Elna was digging the ground.  She had the bucket half-full of small pale baby potatoes. They were the first potatoes of this summer, enough to cook for our arrival. Elna asked me, “Could you take a few sprigs of dill over there.”  I was not sure what she meant. I had never seen any dill plants before.  She came over to me and said, “Here it is. It tastes lovely with fresh new potatoes.” A new fragrance rubbed itself into my hands when I broke a few green sprigs.

They could have said No

Empty stable

MARY

You could have said, No,

When the angel came

And asked you to bear a child –

A gift from God

You could have said, no.

Who am I?

I’m too young and

Far too weak

To accept responsibility

For life from God

The risk you faced was real

To be despised – rejected – even stoned

Who would believe that it was true,

That this child has come from God?

You took the risk

And you said: Yes.

Whatever it brings

Pain or distress

I’ll put my trust in God

With tears of joy

You see the Child

The King of Heaven

In a manger

The Gift – Life – God

Wonder

JOSEPH

You could have said no.

It was just a dream

There are no angels

Mary is

A disgrace to her family

A shame for her bridegroom

– A fatherless child

Is not your responsibility

Yet you believed that it was true

You responded – you said,

– Yes.

To a marvel, you could not understand

The miracle was born.

A tiny baby

With ten fingers and ten toes

no teeth and no hair

Then all the choirs of heaven sang

The stars shone brighter than before

Shepherds left their flocks at night

Kings traveled from afar

Joseph, You were a part in this

Just because you said,

– Yes.