Nov. 26: Distant second homes
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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!
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.