I am currently in the Southwestern corner of Germany where I am spending Christmas with my big sister. She is a woman I respect more than most and it is a joy to be in her part of the world. I remember visiting this little town two years ago, about this same time, and thinking she would fit in here nicely. I’m not going to take credit for her being here, but I do know that some words along the way about what a perfect fit she was for the missionary school in the little German town must have contributed something. She is now in her second year of teaching at Black Forest Academy and let me tell you, she is exceptional.
Kristi has been teaching ever since she graduated college and I was able to sit in one of her classes for the first time yesterday. I was amazed by the way she moved about the classroom with such ease. Standing in front of the class, she somehow collects the attention of twenty sixteen-year-olds and convinces them that literature is the best thing that ever happened to them. The kids perform skits to remind their classmates what different stories are about. As a boy playing John Proctor in The Crucible hangs himself with a scarf and a girl tapes a red letter “A” to her sweater to represent The Scarlet Letter, I realize just what an excellent teacher Kristi is. These students have developed a passion for books and words and stories and authors and she gets to share it with them. What joy it must bring her to spend every day reading books with students she truly loves.
Later that day, my father and I sat in on her choir rehearsal. Not the school choir, oh no. She is in the town choir with a group of older German women. The youngest by twenty years, she stands out, but she also somehow fits in. She sings beautifully and converses entirely in German with these women. She laughs with them and explains where they are in the music. She has learned another language and has chosen to challenge herself by joining a town choir where English speaking is simply not going to happen.
How did she do it? How did she get the confidence to pack up and move her life across the world? I never thought I would be able to do that, yet as I watch her living here, I can see myself doing the same. Not to Germany, though. A strange realization has come across me as I realize that I would be far more comfortable moving to Rwanda than to Germany and I am trying to figure out why.
As I watch Kristi navigate this little town and converse with shopkeepers and townspeople in German, to me it looks like the most challenging thing in the world. Yet put me back on a plane to Rwanda and I will learn the language, learn to drive a stick shift and pour my heart into that place. How is it possible that I feel more at home in a place where I stick out more than anywhere else in the world? Why do I feel out of place in this little German town when I fit the part so well? With my blonde braids and my wool sweater, no one should guess that I don’t belong here. Then I open my mouth with my English speaking and they all realize that this is not my town. I am not a part of this world. I have come to find that I am part of another world. I am part of a world where it is always 80 degrees, where skirts must go below my knees and where every child walking down the street will look at me and say, “Good morning, teacher!”
If I were to choose another home, it’s strange to me that it would not be this little town. It’s hard to believe that the snow capped Alps, the bratwurst and the countless kinds of cheeses are not the things that make my home “home”. Home is, I am coming to find, in the heart of whatever I am doing. Right now, home is at SPU where I lead a wonderful group of people to put on a worship service every week. Home is in my house of ten women who pour their lives into one another. Home is in my studies of civil society, microfinance and global health. But perhaps someday soon home will be found in an apartment in Kigali where I continue to write the hearts of those who have stories to share. That is where I find myself most comfortable and I think God made it that way for a reason. Only time will tell exactly what that reason is, but for now I will be happy in the home I am still in.