By Suresh Portillo
I – a San Franciscan who was born into a loving Mexican family, who left for the mid-west to go to college a little over a year ago, and who recently got back from a Summer of Service (SOS) in France – sat at the Pioneer ministry headquarters in Florida as people shared about their summer experience, knowing that they were all going home after this time of debrief.
I, however, didn’t get to go home; I actually came back to Northwestern, to school.
What’s taken me a few months to identify within my own heart, through my own personal debriefing, has been something of great importance – Home. I’ve come to understand that home is not just where you live, where you come from, or where you spend your time. But if this is true, where or what is home?
The very first week I was in France this last summer, our team met a missionary kid who grew up in the Czech Republic, but went back to the US for college. His name was Rich. As the team was getting to know a little more about him, Rich shared something that affected the rest of my time in France and has affected my life since I’ve been back. He said that after going to college and going around to different parts of the US, he would live in the US for a time, but not for the rest of his life. His reason? Simply because “it’s not home.” Europe had been home to him, and it will continue to be his home.
One of the reasons I ended up in the mid-west was that, when I was applying to colleges, I was looking at places both outside of San Francisco and outside of California. Why? I had the same feeling as Rich: I didn’t feel that California was home.
Had it not been for two months on a different continent, with team members from different parts of the US and surrounded by people from all around the globe, I wouldn’t have been able to figure out this part of my life and truly reflect and realize, as Rich came to understand, that the US (not only California) had not been home. As a result, I was stuck asking myself, where will this longing be satisfied? This caused some unsettlement in me since, apart from this summer, the US had been the only place where I had lived and that I had experienced. I thought that’s what made a home, home – the familiar; the comfortable; the knowledge of.
With my family being originally from Mexico, I always knew I was living life in the middle of two cultures, I just didn’t know where. What’s more is that for some reason unbeknownst to me, I always told my parents growing up that I wish I had grown up in Mexico. Perhaps because Mexico is where I first learned to speak and to communicate with others. Though, because I have very little memory of Mexico due to only ever being there about six months when I was four, I don’t really know what life in Mexico is like. However, it’s a place that God continues to put on my heart, and, even so, given that I’ve mostly experienced Mexico through family and friends, I still cannot be 100% sure that Mexico will be the place I have always longed for.
What I can be sure of is that God has used family and friends (in California, at NWC, and in different parts of the world) to show me glimpses of home. For that reason, I’ve learned to find home in relationships rather than in commonality.
I know I will never truly feel home until God takes us up to his holy presence, but for now I cherish the little pieces of home he’s showing me through family, friends and those around me.