As you probably know, a few weeks back our family was privileged to serve for a week on a mission trip at a children’s home, Esperanza de Ana, in Chilca, Peru. It was a wonderful experience and I’m sure I’ll be telling you about various aspects of that adventure for months and years to come.
While in Chilca, every morning our team from the States would gather with the staff from Peru and the missionaries would lead a time of devotion and worship. It was such a rich time as we circled up on the terrace, opened Scripture and prayed together!
On one such morning, Jim, one of the missionaries, shared some thoughts about the Israelites when they were taken into exile. You may or may not know that the people of Israel, back in the day, had a tough time living for God and finally were overcome by the Babylonians and taken into captivity. They prayed that God would rescue them, and many of the prophets who were with them predicted that God would come through for them soon.
The Prophet Jeremiah had a different word from the Lord, however. In chapter 29 we have the text of a letter this “Weeping Prophet” wrote to the people who were exiled in Babylon:
Jeremiah 29:4-7 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
God told these people to settle in. It was going to be awhile – they should build houses, plant things, live life… And they were to be a blessing to this foreign land for the time they and their descendants would be there.
After recounting all of that, Jim then defined the concept of ‘exile’ something like this: Living in exile is when we know we’re not at home, but we’re there to help.
And as I sat on that high terrace, overlooking a shanty-town made up of dirt-floor huts with tarped roofs… As I overheard the faint sounds of Spanish being spoken by construction workers across the courtyard… As I braced myself against the cool breeze off the Pacific Ocean less than a mile away and breathed the salt air… I knew that I was not at home! This was a foreign place, certainly nothing I was used to. I was in exile for a week – I was not at home, but I was there to help.
And maybe on that first Christmas, Jesus was beginning His exile as He came to earth. It was about as different from heaven as you could get! Throughout His life and ministry, this earth was not Jesus’ home… In a very real sense, Jesus was in exile. He wasn’t at home, but He was here to help.
And then, as I sat in that circle, on that terrace, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, it hit me even deeper, more personally. Because I think that exile is my life, or it should be. I’m living in exile. Whether I’m in Medina, Ohio or Chilca, Peru, this world is not my home. I’m in exile.
Now, I know that I’ve certainly settled down. I’ve been on the planet just shy of 50 years. I have a home and a yard. I enjoy life and relationships. At times it feels an awful lot like home. But not completely…because it’s not quite home. The good times give me a glimpse of heaven. The tough times remind me that I’m not there yet.
So right now, I’m in exile. I’m not at home…but I’m here to help…
To help the lost find their way…
To help the broken be restored…
To help the blind to see…
To love people to life.