One of the things I like most about גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב as a blog name is that it gets at my experience as a child of missionary parents: In a small way I know what it means to be "an alien and a stranger." Before graduating from high school, I lived in a dozen or so different places in Ethiopia, Kenya, the USA and Canada. I have always found it hard to say where I am from.
In a surprising twist I now live not far from the land along the South Saskatchewan River that my great-grandfather homesteaded in 1905. My grandfather farmed the same property until his retirement, at the age of 72, in 1962. He sold the farm shortly before his only son departed for Africa. I never saw the place.
This afternoon we drove out to see the homestead with my daughter and visiting parents. We stopped first at the old farmhouse which was sold and moved a few miles down the road in 1973:
The house had obviously been kept up well...until it was sealed and abandoned several years ago:
Next, we stopped at the site of my dad's old one-room school house:
We eventually located the homestead too, though there is nothing to show for the barn, the shed, the trees my grandfather planted, and the carefully tended yard, except a ploughed field and my dad resting his cane on the soil saying "This is where I was born."Craig Bartholemew gave a paper earlier this year at one of our Bible-Theology colloquiums on "The Theology of Place in the Gospels." Craig was speaking out of the Christian Reformed tradition and, I suspect, reacting (rightly) to evangelical neglect of this world in anticipation of the next. Still, I think there is more to be said for a Christian theology of exile. To be sure, we are to "build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their fruit" (Jer 29:5), but we remain aliens and strangers.