And thus you shall greet him: Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.
Samuel 25:6 (ESV)
Thinking about “home,” especially during this time of year, conjures up an image of curling up on the couch with a comfy blanket, a big mug of something hot to drink and my dog curled up next to me, with nothing to do and all day to do it.
But actually, that isn’t what “home” is about for me. I learned its true meaning when I thought I was just helping chaperone my kids for a church trip called Appalachia Service Project. Pretty straight forward, as they say: Making homes warmer, safer and drier.
Sure, we made things warm by insulating floors, ceilings, and walls. We made things safer, fixing holes in floors, replacing broken joists and building stairs where teetering cinder blocks once stood. And things were certainly drier after we dug drainage ditches, patched roofs, and hung siding. But those are houses. “Home” comes from the other tag line. ASP is a relational ministry, with just a side of construction.
Warmer is the homeowner who barely cracked the door when I first knocked on Monday, shared her fears and distrust of the neighborhood on Tuesday, but by Friday had half her street in her front yard as we said our goodbyes. It’s where a mother and daughter were brought together, by chance, at the big picnic and finally made amends. It’s where a teen met her grandmother for the first time in her memory. It is John “The Appalachian” who said that seeing our kids come down and just love on a whole community gave him hope for the future. It is the sound of 115 voices singing “Country Roads” and “Lord Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary” in a circle on Friday.
Safer - Getting away, unplugging and putting faith into action, “home” is this safe space where a freshman disclosed her struggles with autism to the homeowner, a retired teacher, who was instantly excited to tell her how special her brain worked and all the amazing things it could do! It was where powerful, unconditional love from total strangers was the rainbow after a flood submerged their entire town. It is where our youth are able to be themselves and where they learn to accept others right where they are, just the way they are.
Drier - Nope. Put quite plainly, we cry a lot. We cried tears of joy when a family saw one of our teens knew sign language and fervently used her for the next two hours to interpret so they could talk with their deaf child. Joy mixed with sadness as two high school boys cried in the van, overwhelmed after throwing the first birthday party a 10-year-old ever had. Tears of compassion when a grief counselor was in just the right place, though she never did one bit of construction. Her shoes outside the front door reminded her crew she was inside with a widow who needed someone that week. Tears of grief as I listened to bluegrass gospel at the funeral of a friend I made. And tears of all these emotions mixed together that I keep wiping away from my face trying to describe to you what I doubt I could ever convey.
Home is anywhere the struggles we face are made okay by people walking the path of Jesus.