From our 'Foreign Correspondent'


From our 'Foreign Correspondent': - "Where is home?"

Leanne Dartnell

Driving conditoins in Canada have been hazardous!

We left 32 degree weather in Malawi on November 30th and arrived to 1 degree in Toronto on December 1st.   Actually, that was a gentle introduction to the Canadian winter – especially this year!

Before December was over, we had been through a snowstorm that left 20-25 cm of snow, a major and very damaging ice storm, and record low temperatures.  The ice storm left us without power for 36 hours – not something we expected to face in Canada! It was almost as if we were being ensured that we had a full and complete experience while we were here!  Despite the negatives, I find that severe winter weather tends to bring people together, even if it’s just to share the challenges we faced throughout the day, so I don’t find it especially difficult to adjust to (except keeping warm!). Spending precious and wonderful moments with our families supersedes any and all environmental challenges.

What I do find myself struggling with while at ‘home’ in Canada is continually being humbled by my ignorance of new cultural norms. A store clerk asks me for my email address so the receipt can be sent to me. I look at him blankly and mutter that I would like my receipt in hand please.  I feel dumb. Trying to figure out new internet-based TV systems is another humbling experience.  Some days it’s more the ‘electronic monster’ then the simple source of news and cheap entertainment it once was. 

But even the dumb and humbling times I can get over eventually. The harder waters to wade through are my feelings of not quite belonging. We attend our ‘home’ church and we re-connect with friends there but we never feel quite ‘in’.   We spend the first few Sundays catching up on all the changes since we were there last – who’s left, who’s new. We listen to what went well and more so, what didn’t go well. Despite this, we still feel like visitors. We’re not part of the routine. We’re not a cog in the wheel.

The church sign that says it all!

Being considered the only ‘missionaries’ in a small group leaves us feeling like the odd ones out. No one can relate to our life any more than we can relate to theirs now.  We’re put on a pedestal and revered for being brave enough to be a part of the Great Commission to distant lands. We’re embarrassed and unnerved when this happens. We don’t like being put on a pedestal – we really just want to be one of them, to feel like we’re part of the group, all living for Christ wherever God has placed us; all participating in the Great Commission right where we are. 

It’s easier to belong in Africa – we’re a small group of Christians working together and though we have different cultural and church backgrounds and varying personalities, we learn to live and work together. We need to rely on each other – there are few other places or people to go to. Here in Canada, one has limitless people resources to choose from.  There isn’t the need to stretch beyond the comfort zones and cooperate with others despite differences in opinions, backgrounds and socio-economic status. It sometimes saddens us to see the great array of choices that are so widely exercised – so much so that cliques are formed and divisions are built within the church.

We know we are absent and live so differently, but we still want to feel like we are part of a whole.  We also know that’s difficult. That’s one of the sacrifices we face being in full-time ministry so far away.  Sacrifice is not the environmental or socio-economic status or health risks of where we’re living – it’s being separated from our family and giving up our place in the church community of our home country. After a while we start asking ourselves, “Where is ‘home’?”