November 26, 2009

Nov. 26: Distant second homes

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By Arienne Johnson, a senior history and Bible and religion double major from Herndon, Va.
SCRIPTURE: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture
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DEVOTIONAL:
Traveling is such a funny thing. Two summers ago I went to Senegal in West Africa for Goshen’s three-month Study-Service Term (SST). During my time there, I experienced an amazing transition from stranger to family member; from American to adopted Senegalese. What an incredible blessing it was! Despite language and cultural barriers galore, I formed deep connections to the people who welcomed me into their lives.

But returning from a place that has become a second home is never an easy transition, and for me the end of SST meant saying goodbye, perhaps forever, to mothers who had embraced me as a daughter and to sisters who had supported me as a sister. When my Goshen life resumed in the fall, I faced a very new understanding of what it meant to feel “distant.” Back in the United States, it was shocking how the people and places I had been so attached to in Senegal were suddenly entirely inaccessible.

Paul knows what it is like to feel distant. He had lived among the Thessalonians to help establish their church, but his departure left him with that familiar feeling of disconnectedness. But after Paul sent Timothy to check in on the community, he brought back encouraging news of a flourishing congregation! Despite Paul’s departure, the Thessalonians were thriving in faith!

It has been over a year since I left Senegal, and I just received an e-mail from one of my host sisters telling me of her university plans and sending greetings from her (our) family. Like Paul, my heart overflows with joy to hear that the people I love are doing well. Though I am disconnected from them, I continue to pray for my Senegalese family, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the time I had with them!

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SCRIPTURE: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 (NRSV)

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

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Comments (12)

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on family and distances. They are especially meaningful as I spend this Thanksgiving holiday away from so many of my family and friends. Yet I rejoice to know that we are all celebrating gratitude together today, and that in the eyes of God our parallel lives are connected on the same small planet.

    Ann Hostetler November 26, 2009 |
  2. Thanks for sharing, Arienne. I’m sure your Senegalese family is just as grateful for the time you spent with them!

    Karen Sommers November 26, 2009 |
  3. Arienne,
    As I prepare for this Thanksgiving Day, your words are soul food to me as I long to be with my scattered family, which now includes my SST family of 30+ years, friends from college, my own mother, brother, sister, nephews, nieces, and many others. Like you and Apostle Paul, I am full of gratitude for such an amazing extended family.

    Jim Brenneman November 26, 2009 |
  4. I really liked this because it brought a persons life in connection with the Bible Thanks it inspired me!!!!!!!!!!

    Robert November 26, 2009 |
  5. I am grateful for the scripture, and for the reflections which touch my life where I feel God’s abundant grace.

    Jim Nelson November 26, 2009 |
  6. Arienne,
    Thank you for an excellent meditation. By any standard, I am a Senior Citizen. When I
    graduate from college in the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s (from a titular Christian university), we had virtually no social consciousness. You and your classmates of
    similar values are the hope of our world.
    Thanks again.

    Frank Moore November 26, 2009 |
  7. What a “fitting” message for the day when many people wish they were with family, friends, etc. and it just isn’t possible except memories and extending greetings.

    Karen Flaherty November 26, 2009 |
  8. I found the story in your meditation most fitting to the scripture that followed. Thank you. It is the perfect ending to a day spent with two of my daughters and their families.

    Marjorie Neufeld November 26, 2009 |
  9. Hey Arienne!
    Remember your family from CA days. We miss you all. We are back in CA having a great weekend with the kids. Wish you would be close by. How grownup all you kids are! I’m proud to say I know you. Thanks for the devotional. Love and prayers to you and yours.

    Marie Schmidt November 28, 2009 |
  10. This is a beautifully written, pertinent and moving illustration of her point.

    David Caylor November 28, 2009 |
  11. Your spirit and words speak to so many. I love you.
    yomama

    Mom Johnson November 30, 2009 |
  12. dear Arienne…
    thanks for such a meaningful sharing.I’m a doctor from kerala.I had gone on 1 month mission trip to the hills of Nagaland in North-Eats India just after my graduation -in june of this yr. It was like your trip:)

    but one thing which i fail often in doing is praying like St.Paul… for the Thessalonians or you for the Senegalese… thankyou for the inspiration.God bless you.

    your sis
    In Jesus & Mama Mary
    Anna

    anna December 9, 2009 |