Where is home? What is it like to work a decade or two in a nation and then leave … and then return for a visit? We asked One Challenge global worker, Cherie Bulger, to share how it felt to return to Africa for the first time after departing in 2016. Here’s her story.
14 + 2 = ?
I recently had the opportunity to return to the country I had called home for 14 years. My husband David and I lived in South Africa from 2002 – 2016, until we sensed the Lord releasing us from our ministries to accept positions at the US-MC. In May 2018, I returned to South Africa for the first time since moving to the USA in 2016. I wasn’t sure what to expect emotionally … did I miss South Africa, and would I want to be living and doing ministry there instead? How much has changed in two years? How have I changed in two years?
I had two weeks in-country to reconnect with friends and ministry colleagues, and to visit the ministries in which I was involved. I was pleasantly surprised at how it felt so normal and familiar to be back in South Africa. It didn’t feel like I had been gone for two years. It was natural to drive stick-shift in a right-hand drive vehicle and to drive on the opposite side of the road from the USA.
I easily remembered how to find places and how to take shortcuts to avoid traffic congestion. I made a point to eat at some of my favorite restaurants, and to purchase South African grocery items that I can’t find in the USA to take back in my suitcase. Hmmm, I used to do that on US home assignments – I filled my suitcase with grocery items to take back to South Africa!
I drove through my old neighborhood and passed the house we lived in during our time in South Africa. My reaction surprised me. I didn’t miss living in my previous home, a home surrounded by a six-foot security wall and electric fencing. It was a good home that served us well and provided us with good memories, but I no longer felt an attachment to it. I had learned to let it go.
It felt comfortable to slip right back into relationships and to have deep and meaningful conversations, including with our former OC teammates. My relationship tank was filled and my soul overflowed.
Satisfaction and Joy
I visited the ministries in which I was involved. My heart was encouraged with a sense of satisfaction and joy, as I observed young South African men and women in whom I had invested now leading the ministries I had entrusted to their care. I’m elated to report the ministries are growing and thriving in my absence. There is much to celebrate.
After my two-week visit on South African soil, my heart is full, content and at peace. I sensed the Lord confirming in my spirit that my life and ministry in South Africa was significant, and that I had much impact in those 14 years … but South Africa is no longer my home and it’s okay to leave and come back as a visitor. I think I will do just that!