[Somewhere in the skies over Reykjavik, Iceland]
Last week following the New Year—and during Epiphany to be exact—I finally had the opportunity to go home for a while and spend a couple days with my family. Doing what I do (not sure if vocation is the right word anymore) means that I often don’t spend the holidays at home with my family. Therefore, when I do get there, I find the time is very precious if somewhat limited. This year, even more so.
I quite appreciated James Schaap's earlier post about his house that was his family’s home because I could easily relate. In my case it has much less to do with a particular structure, rather it is the place they exist. For me home is the farm where I grew up. Raised there as third-generation, the place is incredibly significant—the fields, the woods, the pond and creeks—all hold tremendous memories and have a special hold upon my life. Our part of northeast Ohio was originally settled by Connecticut Yankees as part of the Western Reserve—land grants that were given to Revolutionary War veterans*. The family that had first received the farm kept it in their possession many generations until my family purchased it in the mid Twentieth Century. As such, our family is only the second one to have the deed in their name. So in some ways, the farm also makes me feel a connection to my community and family’s history.
My parents had moved off the farm some years back with only my grandparents remaining. My grandmother passed about seven years ago and my grandfather a year ago this past Thanksgiving. Now the farm has become my obligation and the family has many decisions to make regarding its future. Thus, my return “home” this last visit included not only family gatherings but also attending to various legal and financial responsibilities. My family, like many farm families, have left the farm. Jobs, careers, education, and spouses and simple economics have moved us about and none of us remain to return to the farm. Suffice it to say, it is not clear what will happen with the farm into the future. An old friend from grade school days has been farming the land for the last three years, but as for next season, that remains to be seen.
My first religion class while I was an undergrad at Hope was an introductory to Biblical Literature taught by Dr. Allen Verhey. I’m sure the class taught me many things, but one that has stuck in my memory was the professor oft repeating the verse, “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous." (Deut. 26:5) It struck me then how this wandering people so closely identified themselves with a place—both an ancestral place from whence they came from, and eventually a “new” ancestral place where they were going. It strikes me still. All to say, place is important. Home is important.
[Dubai Airport, U.A.E.]
Fresh from my very short visit home I am setting off to take a three-week mini-sabbatical. Not sure if mini-sabbaticals exists, with all the academics on this blog, I’m sure you can correct me. But in any event, being bad about always taking my vacation week, I’m using accumulated vacation time to visit friends and colleagues—[JP and Katy Sudararajan, RCA mission partners working with Audio Scripture Ministries]—who will provide me a kind of inter-cultural immersion experience in south India. And I write this entry in transit to Bangalore where my adventures begin! I’m quite looking forward to seeing India up close and personal, and especially getting an insider’s perspective as JP grew up in Bangalore and is Indian. His wife Katy is North American and they spend their time between Holland, Michigan and Bangalore, India. They also have two of the most beautiful and intelligent children, who being bi-cultural are being raised to appreciate their two homes in very different locales.
Now full disclosure here: Katy and JP are not simply fellow RCA clergy colleagues, they are very dear friends, so much so, they are like family. Therefore, to travel to Bangalore and to see JP’s childhood home is, well not just cool, but relationally significant too.
I’ve now arrived in India! After 20 hours of travel, a little bit tired, but very happy to be here. Katy and I first met at a freshman orientation dinner our first days at Hope. Some years later during our seminary days, she and JP joined me at my home for dinner. As I type this now I’ve just met JP’s parents and grandfather, played with his children, and am now sitting at his family dining room table finishing up this post. I’ve come home. To their home at least. And it’s good to be home.
I look forward to all the learning and experiences they will share with me from their home here in Bangalore over the next three weeks. Let the adventure commence!