Reconciliation and Homecoming

By Seth Naicker 6-02-2009

Homecoming is on my mind in this day and this hour. My family and I will leave the twin cities, our Bethel University, our Sanctuary Covenant Church, and the host of family and friends to return home to the land of our birth, South Africa. For almost five years we have studied, worked, and lived our lives in the context of the twin cities, USA.

The notion of homecoming is wonderfully discussed by my mentor and friend Rev. Dr. Curtiss Paul DeYoung. In " Homecoming: A 'white' man's journey from 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-person audience of youth leaders from across South Africa and Southern Africa, he was blessed with an overwhelming sense of homecoming. In South Africa, where Curtiss was not born, he came into this faith-inspired sense of homecoming that allows him to be at home amongst God's people.

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 -- 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 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.

Homecoming is physical, but it is 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 ethnicities. Mother Teresa experienced homecoming in and 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 -- through her dialogue with the 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 to lay down his life as a symbolic sacrifice, for people to be assured of a homecoming. In saying, "Father, not my will, but your will be done", Jesus signified that he 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 making homecoming 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 to move beyond political freedom and include 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!

Seth Naicker is an activist, advocate, speaker, writer and contributor, artist, trainer and consultant for inclusivity and diversity, justice and reconciliation.

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