I have been pondering the concept of belonging for many years now. My family and I are missionaries to Senegal, West Africa. We have lived outside the US for a total of 6 years out of the past 10 years. Before we left in 2003, I felt at home and had many friends here.
Since leaving the US, I have struggled with belonging. When I study God’s Word, He reminds me that I belong only to Him and my worrying about living up to others’ expectations is a part of me that He does not require. We are called to belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 1:6). All creation is His. Why do I struggle with this?
When I look to Him for comfort and love I feel true contentment. I know that I belong to Him, but my flesh still seeks man’s favor. I want to minister to the Senegalese but know that I do not belong there completely. No after returning to my home country I want all those feelings of not belonging to be erased. After all, this is the land of my birth!!
This time, after being home for six months, I have noticed that I do not want to belong in much of what is the United States. Don’t get me wrong, I do love my country but I feel more alien from it than ever have before. My family and I are sojourners, not quite fitting into the mold of either country in which we live, the United States or Senegal. This is similar to the Israelites and their sojourn with Moses to the Promised Land. As they were traveling, they complained and asked to return to Egypt. They did not realize that the land God had promised them was overflowing with milk and honey. That cannot be found on this earth.
Sights and sounds in Senegal are different than those in the United States. Five times a day the Muslim call to prayer is heard from different mosques in the town. Street vendors sell their wares while walking among the traffic. This is a way of life for most Senegalese. Our dream is for the Senegalese to realize that all those trappings are man-made and the God has a promised land for each of them.
In Senegal, my skin color has differentiated me from the majority since the beginning. But, I have noticed that they do not look at skin color as much as I look at it. Believers in Senegal are such a small percentage that our common belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior bonds us more than our outward differences separate. That is where I want to truly belong, with a group of Christ believers who work for His Kingdom!
So after all this pondering, I realize that whether I am in Senegal or the United States I will not belong. Only in the company of Christ am I home.
by Jennifer Dalenburg