Home is the place where you settle, and for me, it is not the place where I was born. I have been in the USA for almost three weeks, a place that once was home. Home is in Northern Ireland with my family, cats, and my dog! Home is my church, friends, and the people I am in a relationship with.
I left the USA when I was sixteen and only came for a year, and what a year it was. Coming back here and walking the same walk to Weehawken High School and stepping on the concrete streets of Manhattan with its non-ceasing billboards and people has brought me back memories, some good and some not so good. But above all, this visit has been a time and place for resetting.
Chilean family don’t get offended! I was born in Chile, but Chile has not defined me entirely in the person I am. When people ask me where I am from, I often respond with: That is an interesting question!
Leaving a country at fifteen years old, a country under the dictatorship of Pinochet, where everything was uninformed and structured, where a culture of oppression was so strong and lacking culturally, was complex.
But that is the thing, growing up in that environment I did not notice as some did of all the things we did not have, like freedom of expressing different views and to respect and being respected by one’s views of life! It is only when you experience other cultures that you come out of the bubble when the eyes are opened, and your mind and heart enlarge!
There is nothing more diverse than humanity, with its different colours, languages, and cultures. I believe we were created to experience and learn as much as possible about the diversity of God’s creation.
Coming here (USA) defined me; at 15 years old, I was walking the streets of Manhattan, working with my cousin and then going to a high school where English was more less of a second language!! At 15 years old, this experience not only defined my identity but gave me a bigger vision and possibilities of what could be achieved. I met people from all over the world, and high school alone was, for me, the united nations. All my presuppositions and cultural bias were buried then and there, and I embraced my new reality.
The USA adventure only lasted a year, and I knew I changed, I was not the same. I could not get back to my school, and for a year, I studied on my own, like home-schooling. Then I could enrol again, and I went to a class where I was one of the oldest. I made many good friends there! However, I knew that it would only be a short-term stay, which lasted only four years.
I finished high school and college, and when I was 20 years old, I joined the missionary ship Logos 2. A place that was also my home, where I fit right in, where I did not experience homesickness, but I was able to embrace all the 33 plus different nationalities and the many cultures we visited around South America, the Caribbean and Europe. The place where I met my wife, we got engaged in Gibraltar and married in England.
I wonder what the Lord has planned for us, and I know his plans are good. When this sabbatical is over in the next few weeks and as I write, sitting drinking coffee, watching people passing by, as I will step out of the multicultural city of Miami – I did not realise how many Hispanics are here, which is great!
I will return home to a place which is very much still monoculture, and I will be challenged to conform to its monoculturalism, yet it is an opportunity to be prophetic and a blessing. To bring God’s heart for mission and reconnect people to him. As I write these words, I keep thinking of this verse “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.” (1 Corinthians 9:19–20 ESV)