Living as Exiles, Longing for HOME
By Carol Lee
When I was a teenager, like other youngsters (I’m sure) I had imaginations about an idyllic future which included a small house with a white picket fence around it and a sense of permanence and family belonging. At the same time, having grown up in a Christian home, familiar with Scripture’s predictions and admonitions about end times and the “imminent return” of Christ, I secretly prayed that Jesus would at least wait until my idyllic future materialized before He whisked me (and us) away. “Please, Lord, let me, at least, experience some of the joys of this world.” My plans were firmly planted on earth. There wasn’t anything grander in my mind than living a happy, family-oriented life. The beauty and glory of heaven weren’t in my sights, let alone the permanence of eternity, with God, Himself, as my greatest joy and treasure. In terms of futuristic thinking, I could only see the horizon of “my best life now.“
Down the road a few decades, the horizon has changed along with my definition of “ideal“. Reality looks different than the dream of my “house with a white picket fence“. Mingled together with many happy experiences and wonderful memories of the family with whom God blessed me and the community within which I was nurtured have also been tears of painful separations and goodbyes, loneliness, empty-nest, stresses of forging community in a new culture, the weariness of hard work, seeing death up close, being confronted by the depth of my sin nature, disappointment in myself and others, relational difficulties, physical pain and signs of aging and general decline. This inextricable jumble of pleasure and pain has awakened me. God has used earthly trials and disappointments to shake my hopes loose from uncertain temporal happiness, constraining me to look for true joy and a home that endures. Never before have I longed this much for heaven.
Is my longing for heaven mere escapism –“the avoidance of reality by absorption of the mind in entertainment or in an imaginative situation or activity” (Dictionary.com)? Unequivocally, NO! The Lord has awakened me from reverie to reality–pain has spoken loudly, but God’s voice through His word, even more loudly! My longings have been transformed by the renewing of my thinking and values–through messages from faithful proclaimers and, primarily, through God’s word. I do not want to escape FROM something, but, rather, to be rescued FROM exile in a broken world TO a HOME beyond compare! I WANT to go HOME!
In a wonderful podcast message by Jen Pollock Michel ( https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/tgc-podcast/id270128470?i=1000426258922 ) called, “Searching For The Story of Home,” Jen speaks on point about the deepest longings of our hearts being a homesickness, a yearning for a home that was lost and which restoration will only be realized through Christ. She portrays our human story in four Acts: Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration.
Act 1: Creation as God’s gift of Home to humanity, where He Himself comes to dwell with His children in the Garden. God is a Homemaker, providing comfort, rest, community and shelter–and the wonder of knowing and being known and loved.
Act 2:The Fall–everything splinters as God’s people reject His rule, His provision and seek their own version of home. Adam and Eve are exiled from the Garden. Community and communion is broken–between people and God, and between people, themselves. This is a long story of exile and grief in a broken world which is awaiting a Savior who will come to bind the broken-hearted and bring them home.
Act 3: Jesus leaves His home and enters into our exile and our homesickness. “The Word became flesh and ‘pitched his tent’ (tabernacled) with us (John 1:14). He took on our forsakenness so we could be reclaimed. In John 14:23, Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you…” God has not given up on a vandalized world but, through Christ, makes a way for us to be reconciled with God and find our way out of exile to our new forever home.
Act 4: Jesus will return and take us to the Home he has prepared for us. Some of us have had a good story of home in this life. Many have not. Whether good or bad, our stories of home here on earth are not ultimate or lasting. God has made a way, if we believe it and accept it, for us, once again, to dwell with Him in rest and safety and community and in communion with Him. In God, our homesickness IS and WILL BE healed.
We, Christians, believe in the absolute reality of this story, but we do not often live as if we do. I cannot state it better than Jon Bloom in his article, Live Homeless, Homesick and Free. “The reason “home” always eludes you now is that you were made for another world. No worldly experience can satisfy your inconsolable longing. No relationship, no successful achievement, no possession, no amount of public approval will ever satisfy you here. The best these can do is give you a brief copy and shadowy glimpse of your true homeland. The best they can do is make you homesick for the better country where you belong, yet have never seen...The really good news is that you are a stranger and exile. The more you realize this, the more it allows you to travel light. It’s the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches that weigh you down and choke your faith (Matthew 13:22). But remembering that you don’t have to make your home here will lighten your load and open your spiritual airways.…Don’t waste precious time and resources trying to make earth your home. Instead, travel as light in your expectations and your possessions (material or emotional) as possible. And seek to take as many people as you can with you to your true homeland.“
For Jacob and me, to live where we are living and to do what we are doing has been to grapple with these longings and to make plans to “travel light in our expectations and possessions” in this life as we travel HOME to “a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.” (1 Peter 1:4). Every newsletter or blogpost also reflects our desire for you to join us in the journey, our hope that you would travel light and aim all your treasures at heaven’s purposes–to invest heavily in what is weighty in glory and goodness. It is not as important to us that you invest in Reaching Africa’s Unreached (RAU) as it is that you invest in eternity in some fashion or form. If every Christian would unburden themselves of living “heavy” in this life and free up their resources (time, money, relationships, belongings) for eternal purposes, there would be no lack in the Kingdom of God. We want you to see heaven clearly on your horizon and to live like you know it’s real and treasure it as better!
Here, we recount our investments–yours and ours. Here, also, are ways in which you can invest again–or even more–or for the first time. We are very grateful for all of you who have given to RAU. Please continue and increase if you can. If you are not a financial supporter of RAU, we earnestly ask that you, too, would consider supporting the mission and vision of Reaching Africa’s Unreached. Thank you!
1. This new year, 2022, allowed us to resume our primary calling of Pastoral/Leadership training. It was a joyful thing! We were able to host 48 men here on campus (though some came from their homes each day). [The average cost which is invested into each attendee per module comes to approximately $50/person! This includes food and lodging and all the resources that are provided.] Pastor Jason Van Bemmel with Forest Hill Presbyterian (PCA) Church and Bob Brown with New Covenant Presbyterian (PCA) Church traveled safely with minor inconveniences from Maryland. Their efforts were no less than heroic–having travelled for 3 days and then getting up the day after they arrived to teach for 9 days in a row, all day and often into the evening! Their focus on this first of five modules was “Grounded in the Gospel“. This retreat was a blessing and encouragement to many.
Here is one story in particular:
“I am very grateful to the Lord who provided me with this unique opportunity to go and get this biblical training from Reaching Africa’s Unreached. I have never attended such a training where the teachers are so knowledgeable and are able to help the participants learn and understand everything like that. The detailed explanation of the topics caused my understanding to grow and helped me to begin doing things differently. I am now using the knowledge I got from the training to bring transformation into my family and the church of Christ. Before this training, I was the only person in my family who could lead prayers and everything in our evening devotion. My wife Salama being from a Muslim background would just come and sit to wait for me do everything but after this training, I got the skills to train others on how to lead devotion. I started implementing what I learnt with my own family and helped my wife on how to organize and lead family devotion. This time my wife is able to organize and lead family devotion, so I don’t have to worry when I am away from home these days. Our 3 years old daughter Bint Thomson Kezzy has also learnt a few words of prayer and always requests that she is given the chance to pray. We give her the chance to pray and then continue with the devotion. From this training I was able to learn skills of counseling others who have challenges. People with different challenges now come to me for counseling and I am able to encourage them with the word of God. Everyone in our community are now calling me with the title “pastor” which was not the case in the past. So I really want to thank Reaching Africa’s Unreached under the leadership of Jacob and Carol Lee for thinking about strengthening the weak Church in West Nile more especially the church in Aringa through such powerful trainings to equip the young generation for effective leadership. This is the only way through which the weak church can be strengthened and this way it will become salt and light to the world.“Kabaya Thomson
2. Renovations, though they don’t “look like ministry“, make every aspect of our primary calling easier and helpful so that when, down the road, visitors come or others take the step of joining us long term we are ready for them. Lydia’s House is getting its finishing touches as a residential building for a small family. The Pavilion is almost completed and will be a lovely area to host guests who come to see the Demo Farm and the other things that are happening at RAU. We have an amazing crew that keeps this place running smoothly and who are capable when things need ‘fixin‘!
3. Gospel resources continue to be sent out to strategic areas. They include Arabic and English Study Bibles, Arabic Christian literature and some English literature as well. Currently, RAU has focused on the Republic of Sudan and an Arabic Bible School in Kampala.
Some upcoming events and prayer needs:
- On February 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 9th, Lanek Pollicap, with World Vision-Uganda, will be bringing groups of farmer/leaders from the nearby Refugee Settlements to our Demo Farm to learn about: Micro irrigation (drip irrigation)–thank you, M.A.R.S., Vegetable production (Box gardens), Soil and Water conservation, and Tree management. Approximately 680 farmers will come on 4 separate days. They will be divided into six different groups. On each of those days the groups will be divided into 3, Zakeo–box gardens/vegetable production, Paul–drip irrigation, and Jacob–Mango and soil management and the groups will rotate through each module. On the 7th and 9th there will be two groups each day. This will challenge us but we are trusting the Lord and our preparation to help us. Such opportunities always remind us of the generous support of M.A.R.S. (Missionary Agricultural Resource Services) and how they have stood with us these many years.
- On February 20th- 26th, a teaching team from ABWE will arrive for the 2nd Module of RAU’s Pastoral/Leadership Training. They will present a chronological, Biblical theology of the Old Testament with a Good Soil curriculum called, ABWE’s “Roots of Faith: OT“ and certify all those attending to teach that course. One of the future modules will be the New Testament version of that same curriculum called, “Roots of Faith: NT“. Other future modules will be focused on the fundamentals of the faith and church leadership as well as basic economics and continued training in “Farming as a Business“.
- Paul George, co-worker and friend, will leave for a few months, starting March 10, to take care of business at home and then return to serve with us. His presence and burden-bearing has been a blessing and encouragement to us and the whole RAU team as he maintains a servant’s heart, working in the gardens, teaching at churches and persevering in prayer.
- On March 8th, Andrea (a young lady interested in Missions) will arrive with her cousin on a “come and see” visit. Pray that travel would be safe and that God’s calling, however that may look, would be confirmed in her heart.
- The container full of ESV TruTone Global Study Bibles is en route and should be nearing the port of Mombasa, Kenya. From there it will make its way by truck to Kampala where it has to pass through the URA system for clearance before a truck brings it to RAU’s campus. Pray for its quick and safe delivery! Also on the way coming is Christian Book’s container with Christian Literature and hundred’s of thousands of dual-language tracts–Ma’di-English, Aringa-English and Arabic-English. Christian Book International Outreach has been a gracious partner of RAU by piggy-backing many of our resources in their containers.
- Zorah (our staff member with a heart for children’s ministry) and his wife, Josiane ,welcomed “Keza Iffeni” into the world. She is precious–and she is a gift to us all. Please be praying for her. Josiane recently noticed a white glowing dot in her right eye and it appears to be a congenital cataract (rather than the more serious “retinoblastoma” which we were praying it would not be). The final diagnosis will be next week. Please be praying for all three of them. You can imagine the emotions that such news stirs in new parents’ hearts!
- Please be in continual prayer for other families to be called to come alongside of RAU full time! In working partnership with ABWE, we have been encouraged by some possibilities. We long for faith to become sight in this endeavor!
- Continue to consider contributing toward new boreholes for surrounding villages who are in dire need of clean, accessible water. Our new goal is to do 22 boreholes in 2022. Funding for 3 of them has already been given and one of the three boreholes is already complete (in our neighboring village of Afoji). This would bring the total number of boreholes placed in villages through RAU to 45!
- Continue to pray for the pastors and leaders (as well as those who sense that calling) of this West Nile region, particularly in the Metu Mountains, Obongi, Yumbe and for those in the Refugee Settlements from both South Sudan and the Republic of (North) Sudan. Pray that the Lord would supply their needs according to His riches, that they would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that they would be inspired and encouraged to keep up the good fight, persevering in tough places and circumstances.
- Church Building projects in the Metu Mountains: generous donors through “With God” ministry, led by John and Angela Howarton, have provided the funding to completely finish out Ayaa Baptist Church in Ayaa, Metu Mountains. Transport of building materials is currently in process (no easy matter in the Metu mountains). Ayaa Baptist will serve as a training center for the churches nearby. We are also praying and asking for donors to give $15,000 to finish out the church in Gbari/Arapi so that it, too, may serve the churches on that end of the Metu Mountains as a training center.
- Continue to pray for evangelism outreaches in markets and villages with the goal od seeing churches planted.
- Pray that door would be open to resume Christian-Muslim dialogs in Yumbe with Imams and Sheikhs.
Jacob and I want to express our deep thanks for your prays and interest and for your financial investment in all the various ministries done through RAU. As you can see, the needs are great (and even bigger than what has been mentioned). We urge you to participate more and more–not for our sakes but for the glory of God and the good of the people we serve! May the Lord bless and keep you in His grace.
Carol and Jacob Lee
Love and Blessings from both of us!
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The greatest evil is having the gospel and not doing everything within our power to get it to those who do not have it!
Sowing seeds of love and kindness should not be separated from preaching the gospel of sovereign grace but completely intertwined with it!
When at least 35% of the world; “the unoccupied fields”, have no access to the gospel, we (believers) must all do all we can to reach them. We who are saved owe the gospel to every lost person, most especially the 2.4 billion who will not hear unless someone breaks into their “unoccupied field” with no thought of their own life!
I am sure that none of us will say when in heaven that we prayed too much, we sacrificed too much, proclaimed the gospel too much, and were too passionate to get the gospel to those who have little to no access to this gospel of grace. Let us together press on to make it our ambition to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named! Our goal in our gospel witness is to take our eyes off the “risk” and place them on the cause for the risk. When God compels us like this he often will not tell us the risks…after all there are no risks for the all-knowing, all-powerful God. So let us be AMBITIOUS (Romans 15:20) to see that ALL are reached with the gospel of grace (Romans 1:16) in ALL places…there are no closed doors to the gospel, just some which are more difficult to go through!