Place residence

A Place Called Home | Adventist Review

“House.” There are few words that evoke in me the kind of passion carried by this word. I realize that not everyone feels warmth when this word is spoken, but isn’t there a deep yearning in every heart for the warmth and safety of a place called home?

Our Creator, who knows this desire, has promised us through the ancient prophet Isaiah: “My people will live in peaceful abodes, in safe houses, in peaceful resting places” (Isaiah 32:18, NIV ).

Shortly after moving to Wenatchee, Washington, my family and I joined friends at the nearby Waterville Fairgrounds for a Mark Schultz concert. One of his songs, “When You Come Home,” really spoke to me. In the chorus, Mark’s mother utters these reassuring words:

When you come home
No matter the distance
Run through the door and into my arms
This is where you are loved
This is where you belong
And I will be there
When you come home

It was the fall of 1955, and an impatient 4-year-old peered over the dashboard of a flatbed truck as it zoomed west through the hills of central Massachusetts. The truck was loaded with all the earthly goods claimed by his mother and three brothers. Bernie, student and family friend, was doing a good deed. After all, this family, whose goods he was transporting, consisted of a single mother of limited means and her four young boys.

I was that 4-year-old perched high enough in the seat to allow me to see through the windshield of the truck that was taking us from South Lancaster to South Athol, Massachusetts, about 40 miles west. My mother, Marian, had searched and found a home that she knew would be a suitable place to raise her growing boys.

A place called home

Bernie had barely applied the emergency brake when I bounced off the running board and rushed for the front door. We were all eager to explore our new home in the countryside. It seemed so much bigger and nicer than the Quonset hut we had left behind. Mother’s prayer had been very precise. Dear Lord, help me find an affordable house that will have enough space for a garden. Let it be near a place where we can go swimming. She had grown up near the Columbia River in White Salmon, Washington, and loved swimming. “And, Lord,” she continued, “let it be near an Adventist school where my boys can go and learn about you from the Bible.” She believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord had led her to the Burnham house nestled in the village of South Athol, for she fulfilled all the desires expressed in her prayer. It turned out to be a great place for me and my three brothers, Tim, Wes and Mark, to be raised.

The address was 5568 South Athol Road, the place I would call home throughout my childhood and into adulthood. I swam in a nearby lake, skipped stones in the pond, attended church school three miles away, and did my part to help control weeds in the garden. And it would be the place where Mother lived for 62 years until she rested at the age of 94.

Judy and I met in the fall of 1974 while attending Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster. She grew up in Melrose, Massachusetts, just north of Boston. Although our environments were very different, we both enjoyed the stability and security of home. She had lived at 45 Cleveland Street for as long as she could remember, just as I had lived at 5568 South Athol Road.

The two-story house where Judy and her sister Jackie grew up had been the family home since she was two years old. For more than four decades, it was home to his parents, Ron and Carolyn, until they moved to their lakeside home in Maine in the late 1990s.


Judy and I were married in 1976 and made our home at 25 Wright Street, about a mile from New England Memorial Hospital, where we worked.

Since then, due to my calling as a minister, the road to “a place called home” has taken a few twists and turns. “Home” has become a somewhat elusive term for me and our family. Judy and our three children, Adam, Lindsey and Ronilea, share this same sense of ambiguity. Let me suggest a few reasons for this.

With some furniture from our respective homes, donations from friends and help from Judy’s father to redecorate, we were able to “set up the house”. Judy had the ability to transform a simple home into an inviting place. She would do just that many times over the years that followed. Our wishes had included “for better or for worse”, but we didn’t know how long and how often we would need to endure the stress of a move.

Our landlords, who lived directly below us, repacked our bins when they thought we were using too many bags and entered our apartment when we were away without asking our permission. There have been other similar intrusions into our privacy. It was not a “there’s no place like home” experience for a newlywed couple, and a move became necessary in a very short time. In terms of longevity, we’re off to a less than ideal start.

In the years that followed, we experienced the challenges of being part of a ministry that is, by design, itinerant. Long-term housing was not always readily available in our new area, so something temporary was needed. These were times of joyful anticipation waiting to see what God had in store for us, but also times of emotional and physical stress. Finding accommodation, enrolling children in a new school, transferring checking accounts and finding a new medical team took patience. I admire Judy for how she came through these stressors with strength and dignity.

In 1998 we were living in Melrose. We loved the people and our ministry at Greater Boston Academy, but as a family we were ready for a new adventure. When I received an invitation to serve as a youth and family pastor in Wenatchee, Washington, we went!

A new adventure

After we moved to the Northwest, our family made occasional “home” trips back to the East Coast. After a few years, however, we noticed that we said, “We are going home,” not when we were heading east, but when we were heading west. We laughed about it, because for a moment we didn’t know where the house was or in which direction! Thus, the elusiveness of “home”.

One day, during a conversation with our teenage son, Judy asked, “Where do you call home?” He quickly replied, “Home is wherever you and Dad are.” We liked his response. Isn’t home the place where we can be with those we love? Jesus clearly longs for us to be home with him.

“And if I go away and prepare a place for you, I will return and take you with me, that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3, NIV).

Our nomadic journey, while challenging, has resulted in some major blessings. For example, wherever we pitched our tent, we discovered many incredible people. They are warriors of prayer, confidants, companions in adventure. They’re beautiful, and they’re broken people like us, and they’re more valuable than they realize. If we had established deeper roots and raised our children in the same place, I suppose there would have been benefits, but I can’t imagine life without the many truly remarkable people we now call friends.

We also had the chance to experience the beauty and diversity of the cultures and regions we saw. In Boston, we lived history by walking the Freedom Trail. On the rocky shores of Cliff Island, Maine, we felt the spray of salt water on our faces. In the Pacific Northwest, we sailed through the Strait of San Juan de Fuca spotting whales, while white-capped peaks loomed in the distant Olympic Mountains. From our home in northern Idaho, we could see moose, deer, bears, and other wildlife. These adventures were only possible because we were willing to step out of our comfort zone.

The ultimate blessing that has come from the many transitions we have made as a family is found in this reality: As a pastoral family, we have often been reminded that this world is not our last home. Our home is in paradise. This thought is expressed in another song:

My home is in heaven, it’s just waiting for me,
And when I get there, how happy I will be!
My home is in heaven, where the rent is free,
For Jesus paid it, on Calvary!

Yearning for our true home

I can identify with Abraham of old, who often had to “pull up stakes” since the life of a shepherd was so itinerant. Moving his family from place to place in search of water and pasture for the herds was not an easy life.

“By faith he dwelt in the promised land as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise; for he looked for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:9, 10).

Deep in Abraham’s heart was the desire to exchange the temporary home of a nomadic shepherd for a permanent one.

When Jesus comes and it’s time to go home, if we have remembered from the beginning that our earthly home is only temporary, then it won’t be at all difficult to “lift up the stakes.”

Is the chaos and strife that is breaking out all over the earth hurting your heart and making you want to be with God more? The Bible is filled with hope that we will experience this reality.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Rev. 21:3, ESV).

The Greek word metawhich is translated “with” or “among,” is used three times in the above passage, which I think underscores just how much God desires to be with us.

The ultimate reason for wanting to return to heaven is that Jesus himself will be there.

In the closing words of Schultz’s song, I see our Heavenly Parent waiting to welcome us home.

When you come home
No matter the distance
Run through the door and into My arms
This is where you are loved
This is where you belong
And I’ll be there when you get home.