This week I am in eastern Ukraine, near Donetsk where I used to live.
It is difficult to hear the stories people share of their lives since the war started. While it has been tough on those from cities affected by the war, it has been tough on those in cities near the front as well. These cities have accepted those displaced, even though many of these cities were struggling with adequate housing and jobs for their own.
On this day, I heard from a grandmother how her daughter in law, a mother of a four-month-old, left her husband and child and abandoned to them. Then the grandfather and father of the boy died, leaving the grandmother as the primary caregiver. She told me “she lives for the now four-year-old boy, even though she no longer wants to live.”
Another woman from a village near the Donetsk airport shared with me the horror of losing her son and husband due to the war. Then losing her home and everything she owned. Again, she is struggling with going on.
I spoke with a man named Vladimir. I sensed in my heart a man struggling to find his place in life after his wife has died and being displaced from his home in Donetsk. He is 72, still looks relatively healthy. He cares for his 82-year-old displaced sister in a village near the town. Many of the healthcare volunteers spent time with him, praying for him, shedding tears. I was moved by his story and how our people responded to him. The pastor of the church encouraged him to attend services on Sunday.
Over the last four years, I have lived in a sense of “displacement.” I had to leave a place I called home for almost four years. I still long to return to Donetsk, even if it is just to say goodbye. Yet, when I hear these stories of heartbreak and loss, it occurs to me that home is not a physical place.
As a missionary worker who has spent more than 18 years living in different lands, I have tried to create a home wherever I have lived. I am tremendously thankful for Southern Baptists who give so generously to provide housing for me.
Yet, on this day, I have even a greater understanding for me of what home is. Home is not a place. It’s what I make of it in my heart and life.