Some two hundred women filled the church auditorium. They obviously had it all together, judging from their manicures and chic jewelry. And the evening gathering had a theme, Home Where I Belong. As soft music started to settle the crowd, my eyes sprang a slow leak. I knew that those southern belles would never understand why in the world I couldn’t keep my emotions under control.
I joined them as a visiting missionary. Unknown to them was that in less than ten years our family had moved seven times, including setting up our home in three different countries. We had just returned to the U.S. for a short furlough, plopping ourselves down in this unfamiliar community. The moves and changes had swept me along like a swift current, battering me against the rocks of where I belonged and where I was going next. On more than a few days I had whispered Dorothy’s famous observation, “Well, Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!”
HOME and BELONGING haunted me like two giant question marks. I no longer lived in Kansas. My wheat field roots had been jerked up long before. I wasn’t even sure I felt like an American anymore. And regardless of our attempts to adapt to cultures and customs of Europe, I had experienced plenty of reminders that I wasn’t really German or Austrian or Hungarian. Sometimes I felt suspended somewhere over the Atlantic.
I finally pulled myself together and got through the rest of the meeting. The next few months even turned out to be a time of spiritual renewal as I signed up for women’s Bible studies and joined the choir.
But no sooner had we returned to our home in Hungary, than a hard-to-explain restlessness crept in. I began feeling a strange uncertainty about this country I had learned to love, language struggles and all. “What in the world does this mean?” I pondered. We were back in our own house, back in our place of sharing Jesus and living out our calling. But the ground beneath me was trembling.
Within a few weeks, my husband received a call asking us to return to the USA and assume a new leadership role—requiring yet another move. More severed ties with close friends and coworkers. More teary goodbyes. More transitions. Again.
As I began to think about yanking up roots and facing farewells, the Lord’s words to Joshua at the beginning of his new leadership role gently reassured my heart: “Do not be dismayed, do not be afraid. As I was with Moses, I will be with you. Only be strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:9-10 NKJV) Don’t worry about the places or changes I am calling you to—just focus on my presence: I am your God, your Rock, your Fortress, your Deliverer, your Strength. I WILL BE WITH YOU.
For over a decade the Lord reminded me of His promises and His presence while planting us in a corner of the Pennsylvania woods. And then He uprooted us again. Moved us to a faraway state, a new community full of unknowns.
Another opportunity to put my questions in His hands, to relinquish my dismay, to give Him my fears. More of His whispered reminders to trust Him.
He must have had a twinkle in His eye one evening when I slipped into the back of a women’s meeting at our new church in Georgia. Sophistication plus…with Deja-vu nails and bling. And southern accents.
I took a deep breath and smiled. The One who carried me across oceans and back was there, too, right beside me. Holding me steady. Right where I belong.
Jo Beth Loftis has followed her adventure-loving husband around the world and back again more times than she can count. For more than a decade she made a home for her family in Central Europe. Though she still keeps her suitcase next to the nightstand, Jo Beth is a stay-at-home mom and Grammi at heart. She’s passionate about encouraging younger women, especially those who serve cross-culturally. She is a lover of books, chocolate, and music. Her present roots are flourishing in the land of magnolias and crepe myrtles slightly south of Atlanta. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.