I write today from the safety and comfort of the home of a dear friend and colleague, Pete Grassow. I was invited to join him and his congregation at Plumstead Methodist Church for worship this morning, helping to lead the services and to share with them why I have returned to South Africa.
I was greatly blessed by this congregation the last time I was here, and this morning was no different. This congregation has generously offered to pray with and for me throughout my time in South Africa, and I cannot begin to express my gratitude of having a congregation that I know I can call “home” even from so far away from the places I have understood to be “home” before. It brings me back the very question of what it means to be “home,” and of the struggle I face every time I am asked where my “home” is.
Certainly, a piece of my heart will always lie in the place my family still lives and where I once attended and graduated from high school. The same is also true of the places I lived and that shaped me so much as a student during both undergraduate and graduate studies. Even before returning, I somehow knew that I had a home in South Africa and I have often referred to my friends here as family, though I never truly anticipated the day would arrive when I would return and be able to greet them again in their “home.” I am glad that I was wrong.
The degree of questioning what it means to be “home” has significantly increased since the two years of the Ride:Well Tour. Through these long journeys I have embarked on, what I have discovered is that I have somehow come to find great comfort in the strange or otherwise unfamiliar places I find myself in. A few weeks before I left to ride my bike this summer, I moved out of my apartment and turned in the keys, officially making me “homeless” with no residence of my own to return to. I visited with family and friends until I flew to LA to begin the tour. Every time someone asked me where home was on tour, I wanted to say, “I live right here,” as no longer had a physical place to call a home of my own. I had come from Chicago, but I knew I would not return there. Where would I return to? I did not even know until the final week of tour where I would be moving to after we reached the Atlantic Ocean. I therefore wanted to claim the moment, not to let go of or forget where I’ve come from, but to embrace that if “home is where the heart is,” I can be fully present and at home wherever I am. I have certainly come to care for my team as family, so why can we as a family not make a home wherever we are?
Home. It is where I can feel comfortable and safe, be secure in who I am but never cease to be challenged. Where I can feel understood and risk being vulnerable. Where I can love and be loved. Where I can know that no matter what the day brings, there will be people around to get me through the nights.
I am really far from the place I refer to when I am asked where “home” is. Yet days like this, days when I know that I am home in a place far, far from South Dakota (or Iowa or Chicago), I am reminded of what an incredibly blessed life I have. I am reminded to count my many blessings, and I am thankful for the many people and places who have made this journey possible.