Last weekend at Wartburg College, Pastor Ramona Bouzard delivered the Homecoming sermon. She told the story of Naomi and her daughter-in-laws, Ruth and Orpah. All three women were widowed after the deaths of their husbands. Naomi made the decision to leave Moab and return to her home in Bethlehem and insisted Ruth and Orpah return to their homes where they originated from. Orpah went home, but Ruth refused to return home. When Naomi asked why she would not leave, Ruth said “Don’t ask me to leave. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.”
The lesson that Pastor Ramona offered was that “home is anywhere you are at.” It isn’t always a city, building, or a place where you have grown up, or lived in. You make your home where you are at.
At the same time Ramona gave this sermon in the stately quaint Neumann Auditorium on the Wartburg campus, the ESPN program “Outside the Lines” aired the story of the Joplin, Missouri High School football team. Over the past few months, college friend and ESPN producer Scott Harves and his team has been following the Joplin High Eagles as they begin their season, after the deadly May tornadoes that ripped through the southwestern Missouri city.
For many in Joplin, there is no home to go to. Everything they had, house to car, backyard to front lawn…gone. Sixty seconds, give or take a few seconds, was all it took to demolish any sense of home.
But as I listened to Ramona, just because you don’t have a home, in a physical presence, you are still “home”. Players with no home staying with teammates, for several nights or for an indefinite period of time. Students shuffling from the stadium to workout and practice to the temporary high school in a former big box retail store.
Where ever you go, home is with you, mentally and emotionally. Ruth admired Naomi so much that she was willing not to go back “home”, but to go with Naomi back to Bethlehem to make it her “home”. The residents of Joplin are at “home” as they rebuild their lives and the buildings they’ve called home for their families.
I have four “homes”: Waterloo, Waverly, Des Moines, and the Quad Cities. My immediate family lives in the QCA, the rest of my family in Waterloo, my college family in Waverly at Wartburg, and my current home here in Central Iowa. When I visit my mom, I’m at “home”. My grandparents will always make room for their grandkids at their “home”.
The term homecoming means “coming home” to your college to reconnect with former teachers, classmates, and others. As I write this, I’m at home…in Des Moines.
A part of you and your life goes with you everywhere you go. You are always “at home.” At home with family, friends, people in your support system, and others you meet everyday.