I sit on the Sydney to Newcastle train and feel like I’m living inside a Peter Allen song. This is the final leg of a journey home from Izmir, Turkey that saw me pass through Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney. I can’t wait to see Sandy and the kids. “I still call Australia home” is running through my head and I feel like bursting into song.
I find there is nothing like returning home. In the last two weeks I have seen incredible things and met inspiring people. I visited the ruins at Ephesus and walked the same roads as the apostle Paul. I could sense the fear the people of that city felt when Christians came with their gospel proclaiming there was but one god and lord. The city was surrounded by thick walls to ward off attacks that would see the citizens carried off into a life of hard labour as slaves. Inside the walls were a series of temples, with the gods’ pleasure securing the safety of the city. Little wonder there was fury at Paul, for surely in the minds of many his gospel would cause people to neglect worship of other gods and so threatened the security of the city.
I was at a conference where I heard stories that inspired me. I met people from the Baptist movement in Romania who were running services for the gypsies despised by many; African baptists doing community development among their people; Lebanese and Jordanian Baptists ministering to the millions of refugees flooding their homelands. Learning that there are more refugees than citizens in Jordan certainly put the refugee debate in Australia into perspective!
Yet as rewarding as these experiences were, to me there is nothing that compares to coming home. Home is where I belong, the little patch of the planet that is my patch, the people to whom I am husband, father, friend. Home is the space where things are familiar, the culture the one that I share.
But my return is tinged with the reminder that home cannot be for me the place to retreat from the world, but the place that gives me the grounding from which I engage. For if my experience highlighted that Australia, and more particularly a certain house in a certain street in Macquarie Hills, is home, there is a wider sense in which the world is home and those Romanian gypsies, Turkish Muslims, Zambian farmers, and Syrian refugees are my sisters and brothers.
Welcome home. It’s nice to have you back, and reminding us that our neighbours include far more than just those living next door.