Eight thousand miles from home … but still at home

“Don’t worry,” my mum told me, as I packed my bags for America. “This is going to change your life for the better. I promise.”

As I sat through the 36 hours of travel from my home in Lusaka, Zambia to a boarding school for Christian Scientists in St. Louis, Missouri in the US, all I could do was repeat her words to myself. In spite of her reassurances, I was worried. 

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I thought of my family and friends back home in Zambia. How would I live without them? How was I going to find home and a sense of belonging in a place that was totally unfamiliar?

In Lusaka, I had been known as loving and kind because of the “forever smile” I always had on my face. “Busiwa,” someone had observed once, “it’s so easy for you to make friends. You’re always happy and helping everyone all the time.” I wondered, Would this “gift” that I had of never meeting a stranger be enough to make new friends in my new school?

How was I going to find home and a sense of belonging in a place that was totally unfamiliar?

Once I got to school, I was with my mum for a few days before she flew back home. I thought I was doing OK with the adjustment, but once she left, I felt like I had completely lost my sense of home, and like I was never going to belong. 

One night, when I was feeling quite stressed out with schoolwork and was thinking about home a little too much, I realized I could handle this homesickness by praying as I’d learned in Christian Science. I talked to my house mom, and she shared a helpful passage from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. It says: “Home is the dearest spot on earth, and it should be the centre, though not the boundary, of the affections” (p. 58).

My house mom was very supportive, and she comforted me as I sat there thinking about this passage. I asked God to help me understand this bigger sense of home—home as a spiritual idea, rather than a place—and to help me feel at peace. It occurred to me that no physical distance could determine how close to or far away from home I am, because home is an expression of God’s love for us and therefore must be everywhere. I can feel God’s love anywhere, because God is everywhere. So I can also feel the security and comfort of home wherever I go.

I felt so sure that home is within me. And also that all the joy, comfort, and love that I could ever need were surrounding me.

When I was struggling, I also called my mum and told her how I was feeling. She reminded me that my Father-Mother God is always with me, and that the blessing of this school opportunity couldn’t bring any sadness with it. God loves me and doesn’t cause me to feel sad, lonely, or agitated. And God has always been the source of my happiness, so I couldn’t lose that by going to a new place. My mum also encouraged me to think about how much my life had changed for the better because of what I was understanding through Christian Science, and how being at this school was helping me grow closer to God. She told me that when we pray our way through something challenging, we grow spiritually and become more prepared to handle anything that comes up in the future.

Hymn 278 from the Christian Science Hymnal was very helpful to me as I continued to pray. I love the first two verses: 

Pilgrim on earth, home and heaven are within thee, 
Heir of the ages and child of the day. 
Cared for, watched over, beloved and protected, 
Walk thou with courage each step of the way. 

Truthful and steadfast though trials betide thee,
Ever one thing do thou ask of thy Lord, 
Grace to go forward, wherever He guide thee, 
Gladly obeying the call of His word. 
(adapt. © CSBD)

That hymn summed up the whole idea of what home really is in a way that I had never considered before. One day, as I read it again, I felt such overwhelming peace and love that I knew right then that I had been healed of homesickness. I felt so sure that home is within me, just as the hymn says. And also that all the joy, comfort, and love I could ever need were surrounding me, and that God was guiding and protecting me every step of the way.

I have since found my smile again, as well as many new friends. And I can not only say that this experience has changed my life for the better, but that I am even happier and more grateful than before because I have truly found home.

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