I ﬁnd myself asking this same question every furlough. When we attended Mission Institute in France, some years ago, we were not the only missionaries looking at real estate brochures and wondering where we would live when we “stopped” being missionaries. So, it is not just us who feel that we want to put down roots, settle somewhere, have a place where we feel at home.
But where is home? I grew up in South Africa with German parents, am now married to a German, working in Bolivia, and soon to be moving to Argentina to start another six-year appointment. So the question of where on this planet I belong and where my home is at times becomes a really pressing issue.
While in the shower this morning thinking about all the thousands of little things that need to be taken care of when moving from one country to another, I had an interesting thought about this “root” issue.
I am a sentimental person, which means that it is hard for me to leave behind certain things in Bolivia that have a special meaning for me. One of those things is my garden. When we arrived in Bolivia, there were only weeds in my garden. Now there are rose bushes (there have to be roses for romantics like me), a beautiful jasmine bush, apple, pine and fig trees, erikas, marigolds, ivies, and a vegetable garden. It might seem funny, but I have already made offshoots of my favorite red rose bush and my jasmine bush to take with me to Argentina. And I am hoping that they will take root and grow there.
So here is the thought: I put down roots in each country we serve in, and wherever I live, I leave a part of me there (read Job 14:7-9). The work that we have done and the lives that we have touched cannot be uprooted. Ever! So, in vain |search for one country where I can say: “Here I belong, here are my roots”. My roots are in all those countries where I have started a garden, where we have lived and worked and become a part of the people we serve.
Jesus, the “root of Jesse” (Romans15:12) also put down His roots here on this earth and they will never be uprooted. He will forever be one of us and bear the marks in His hands, feet and side: “To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature” (Desire of Ages, p. 25). I will just have to wait for heaven to have that place which I can call home and where l belong. Because here on earth, my roots are in three countries.
Now, if you are like me, this answer to the question of roots is not entirely satisfying because I need to belong somewhere now, here on earth. This is where the Bible comes to the root of the issue. Isaiah 27:6 says: “Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots, and till the whole world with fruit.”
When I was pregnant with our little Bolivian son, Jonathan, people remarked at how I “blossomed.” Jonathan is our offshoot, our fruit. We do not aim to ﬁll the whole earth with our fruit, perhaps one more fruit in Argentina! But the answer is there. Family is where my roots are here on this earth. Where Martin (my husband) and Jonathan are, there I belong and have my home. I am rooted in my family, not in a place. I belong to my family, and my family is my home, rather than a place or a country. Now, that is an answer that I can live with!
By the way, another jasmine offshoot is doing very nicely in my mother-in-law’s garden in Germany, so I think one will take root in Argentina. What do you think?
This article first appeared in Global Connections, January, 2003. At that time, Thandi Klingbeil and her husband were serving in Bolivia Adventist University.