Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Homecoming is on my mind in this day and this hour. My wife and I, our baby girl and son to be born in July will leave the twin cities, our Bethel University, our Church Sanctuary Covenant Church, and the host of family and friends, to return home to the land of our birth, South Africa. For almost 5 years we have studied, worked and lived our lives in the context of the twin cities, USA.
Our family, friends and community are looking forward to our being home on a more permanent basis. It has been difficult being away from those whom we hold most dear. Now in this moment of going home, there is a bitter sweet, of leaving a place and space that has become home, in more ways than one. It is here in St. Paul, that we have experienced life as a married couple, having our first child, and developing as a family. It is here that we have further advanced and equipped ourselves concerning our learning, and here that we have dug deep in our critical learning and analysis of social constructs of injustice.
I have been questioned by people from South Africa as to the social justice focus, during my time in a home away from home. Some folk have been delighted to learn of the study and research, which I pursued in contextual, liberation and reconciliation theology. For within a western context, dominated by western Eurocentric theology, I have studied and developed thoughts and theological knowledge rooted in critical pedagogy. It has been my intention to understand my faith from the margins, and develop a moral ethic and approach that argues from, in and of the social cultural context of people who live with their backs against the wall.
The sad reality of life is that there are many people looking for a place and space to call home. I have journeyed with people who are born in the USA, and while I have realized it as a home away from home, there are those of first nation or Native American, African American, Latino and the grandeur of ethnicities and languages, class, gender and religion, who live like aliens and foreigners in the land of their birth and beginnings.
This notion of homecoming is discussed and wonderfully propelled through the gentle personality, work and ministry of my Doctor Father of Reconciliation Studies, my mentor and friend Rev. Dr. Curtiss Paul DeYoung. In “Homecoming: A “white” mans journey through Harlem to Jerusalem”, Curtiss speaks of his experiences of coming into places and spaces that have symbolized homecoming. In the introductory chapter he tells of journeying to Africa, and more specifically South Africa. Here as he prepared to take the microphone and address a 600 capacity audience of youth leaders from all across South Africa and Southern Africa, he was blessed with the experience and an overwhelming sense of homecoming.
In South Africa, where Curtiss was not born he comes into this faith inspired sense of homecoming, that allows him to be at home amongst God’s people whether he is welcomed to be at home or not. For there are those who are critical of a white north American male declaring that he has come home to Africa. But the feeling of homecoming and consciousness allows people to engage people, even when there is every reason to be divided.
Merrishia and I have sensed homecoming in living out our faith in a home away from home, even when people have asked, “What right do you have?” Our activism, advocacy and ambassadorship of God’s highest agenda Reconciliation, has been and is propelled by our confidence and consciousness that “every place I lay my head that’s my home”. Choosing to make home in a place away from home has allowed us to critically challenge places and spaces knowing that we speak out with a mindset that states, “this place and space belongs to me as it does to you”. We are members of a global family, where there are no boundaries and barriers, where there is no Jew or Gentile, Greek or Hebrew, male or female. We are people!
Homecoming is physical, but it also spiritual and emotional. Gandhi experienced homecoming as a guru and voice of reason in and amongst people from all walks of life, amongst the Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist. Malcolm X experienced homecoming in Mecca amongst the great diversity of Muslims that came of different ethnicity. Mother Teresa experienced homecoming in amongst the children that she served in India.
Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela experienced homecoming in her engagement with Eugene de Kock, who was a lead agent and prime evil of the militant defense force of the Apartheid government. In “A human being died that night”, we read of one who was oppressed by and a victim of Apartheid coming into the gracious space of realizing her humanity and coming home to her healing, in her dialogue with an oppressor and villain of Apartheid. The sense of homecoming has the power to prepare a space and place for people to be people, even in the most horrendous situations of oppressor facing oppressed.
Jesus Christ sensed his homecoming in the garden of Gethsemane. It is here that Jesus Christ came to the realization that his humanity was bound up in the humanity of world. Jesus was too lay down his life as a symbolic sacrifice, for people to be assured of a Homecoming. Jesus Christ in saying, “Father not my will, but your will be done”, signified that Jesus Christ understood “I am because you are”. Jesus Christ understood that his humanity was bound up in the humanity of God’s people.
As my family and I head home to South Africa we are hopeful that our homecoming will allow us to continue the work of continuing the struggle for homecoming to be the right of all our people. We must continue the struggle for homecoming to be the right of every child, woman and elder. We must continue the struggle for homecoming beyond political freedom to pursue economic freedom for all our people.
May we desire to live our lives with a notion and sense of homecoming that avoids dehumanizing the other. May our faith inspire us to create places and spaces for all people to experience homecoming!