“Where are you from?”
That question used to stress me a lot because I couldn’t answer with any one country name. Over time though, I have learned to recognize whatever place God has set me as home. At this point in my life, my answer is “Hong Kong,” where I have been serving as a missionary for nearly two years.
I’ve always lived a multi-cultural life; I grew up on the foreign mission field in Mexico. Every time my family went back to visit our passport country (US), we would be busy visiting friends and supporters, and attending prayer meetings and churches to share about my family’s work. As a younger kid I enjoyed those trips because they usually meant getting spoiled by people who cared for me and my sister, and who wanted to bless us with things we couldn’t get where we were based.
I mainly grew up in and around Mexico City. Life was enjoyable, but sometimes I wished I could live in the US and have a “normal” life. In my child’s mind, I thought everyone in America was rich, and whenever I visited I couldn’t help but notice how my family friends seemed to live very comfortable, well-to-do lives. I wanted that. I thought it was what a normal life looked like. I knew it was certainly abnormal for a family to relocate to another country.
Then, when I was 10 years old, my life was turned upside down when our family moved from a large metropolitan city to a small town in the jungle with a population of 2,000.
I remember how my heart hardened towards God after that move. If we had to move, why couldn’t it have been back to America, where we were originally from? I felt like things went from bad to worse for me, and I blamed God for it.
Turning to full rebellion against my parents and the new church they were planting, I decided to stop being a Christian, since it meant following a God that didn’t really care about what I felt and wanted. In my foolishness, I started watching pornography online behind my parents’ back to show God I didn’t care about Him or what He had to say.
I became more and more dishonoring of my family, and purposely caused them grief through my rebellion and outbursts of anger. In church, all I could do was sit with a cold heart and hardened face. I was going down a dangerous road, and I knew it.
The thing about sin is that it gnaws away at our hearts—and we either pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of it, or we let it devour us. By the grace of God, I was moved towards conviction. I reached a point of realizing my life would be futile apart from its Creator, who gave it to me in the first place. I also knew the fulfillment and satisfaction I wanted in life could only be found in following the will of God for me.
About a year after I started rebelling, I repented before God and my parents, and finally gave my life over to Him.
Who am I?
Even after my conversion though, trying to figure out where my identity lay, and who I was, was an ongoing challenge. It caused me much insecurity, and I felt lost and misplaced.
I lived in seven countries before turning 20, and I tried to find myself in each of them. I tried finding myself in the friends I had in each country, in who my parents were, in my participation in ministry, in people’s opinions of me, and in my personal accomplishments. But each of these failed me.
With time though, I came to understand the truth of who I really was. The truth I learned is that I am a sinner, just like everyone else, and the same grace that others needed is the exact same one I need (Romans 3:22-24). I am not “different” or “misplaced” from anyone in that regards.
No matter where I am in the world, God wants to work in me, change me, grow me, and love me just as much as He does the next person.
My identity lies in God and everything He says and thinks of me (Jeremiah 31:3). I may be a missionary’s kid and a pastor’s kid, but my first and true identity is in being a child of God.
Where is home?
So then, is there any one location to call my true home?
Yes, there is, in fact.
We belong to Jesus, and just as He is not of this world, we are not of this world either (John 17:16). Our home awaits us in Heaven at the end of this life. We’re placed on earth to proclaim the power and gospel of the Creator of the universe, and after He has accomplished all His purposes in us, He will take us home to Himself (John 14:1-3).
And yet, we still have our own journeys to travail before we reach our ultimate Home. As I said before, we’re placed on earth to proclaim the gospel, and God assigns all of us to different locations in the world to help bring about that mission. As humans, we crave to belong somewhere, to have a place of safety and familiarity. Truly, the only place we will find those qualities is in where God calls us to be. For me, that is what home is.
What is my culture?
Knowing that one day, there won’t be language barriers, cultural misunderstandings, or geographic separations, but that we will all be together, side by side, standing as one, worshipping the King of kings—it is a breathtakingly beautiful comfort.
As a teen, I was so wrapped up in my own “culture,” clinging to it and believing it made me who I am. But while we are meant to glean from the cultures God plants us in, as Christians we’re called higher and deeper into a specific kind of culture, a mentality that this world rejects: Kingdom culture (Romans 12:2).
The culture we are to live by is the one God has spoken for centuries into the hearts of those who follow Him: the Word and all the commands therein (Deuteronomy 11:18).
Being a missionary kid, I realize how my life and experience growing up was a privileged one, as I got to see firsthand the power of God changing lives and doing miracles. The testimony I have to give is one of forgiveness, grace, and hope—not only what I have seen in the countries I lived in, but also in my own personal life.
This has in turn birthed in my heart a desire to bless and minister to those in and outside of the church, so that they might be a part of the mighty work of redemption God is working in this world through each of us—His children. That is the purpose that I’ve found in Christ.