A house is not always a home. How have you made your house overseas a home? One global working mom, living in Central Asia, asked her daughter what made their apartment feel like home to her. She replied, “it just fits, we fit perfectly here.” And they are a family of nine, living in a four- room flat. Creating a home looks different to each person, but the feelings created are universal…one of love, belonging, and peace.

on creating a home…

The close quarters and the simplicity of our lifestyle contribute to our family’s closeness. We spend a lot of time together playing and reading and talking and laughing. One very special ritual which we began when we arrived in Central Asia is a regular worship time. This is the highlight of our week for singing together and having fellowship around God’s Word.” C.S., Central Asia

A friend recently told me that she thought the aromatic smells I created in the kitchen for my family said ‘home’ for us. Previous to her comment, I thought ‘home’ was created for me by my few little trinkets I had brought. Yes, I think the things I decorate with (pictures, knick-knacks, candles, color schemes) help make our dwelling feel like home. But I think my friend was right…I enjoy creating in my kitchen and I have noticed when I am feeling low or missing home, I long to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies or some other treat that smells like home for me.” D.N., Central Asia

I determined the first time out to take a few things which were special for each person to use to decorate their area. My mom is a quilter and has given us some lovely quilts. I have them displayed in the house; they are a constant reminder of her love for us and give me a lot of pleasure. I have begun to do the quilting on some of her pieced tops, so soon a large quilt will be on the dining room wall and I’ll be busy on another. Working on something she has also worked on helps me feel united to her and not so far away.” M.N., England

I needed to have my kitchen arranged in such a way that says ‘This is me’; I can walk in here and feel very comfortable about making coffee, cooking, talking with my family, and when friends come to visit. I brought a few familiar things with us on the plane, like cooking utensils, our French coffee press, and my recipe box. The one other thing that really makes all the difference is having snapshots and magnets on the refrigerator—this is the finishing touch!” S.E., SE Asia

“As a single, what was important to me in creating a home was having a few familiar things. The most important were pictures of my family and friends. I house-sat for other global workers who were on furlough, that made it easier for me because I was working outside the home at the hospital. I didn’t have to worry about furnishing a home. What made home for me were the friends I made. It didn’t matter what dwelling I was in as long as I had a friend to talk with and spend time with.” D.G., South America

home: refuge or place of ministry

“I think our home is both a haven for us and also a place to minister. Sometimes, we just don’t answer the door or phone….we need time alone from the culture, with just our family. I love our home and these walls are security and safety to me. But God has given me a great gift in that our home is also my ministry base…mine more than my husband’s. My husband goes off to an office or meetings. I have three small children and I do not get out a fraction of the time he does. God has given me the privilege of ministering in my home. Hospitality is one of my gifts. We are so fortunate to work with college students who always are stopping by, needing a place to hang out or food to fill their ever empty stomachs. That is a gift to me…I can’t be out with them that often, but they come to me.” D.N., Central Asia

Our Brazilian friends just make themselves at home in our house and muck in with our family, so I suppose that is a comment in a way , wouldn’t you say?” M.N., England

Although we do have people in our home often, more than anything it is a place of refuge. Because we are foreigners, we are stared at whenever we go out. Coming home and closing the door is a wonderful feeling. This is our sanctuary.” S.E., SE Asia


“I was surprised that even after we sold 90% of our lives at a garage sale and brought only 10% along with us,that this place could still really feel like home…that is simply the Lord! He did that in my heart…not immediately…but He did it!” D.N., Central Asia

“The biggest adjustment was having a house helper that does all the cleaning, laundry, and most of the cooking so I could focus on language learning. Because of this, I have struggled with who I am as a wife and mother. Those tasks were a part of who I was in the US. I am in the process of finding what is normal for me in this new country.” S.E., SE Asia

“As a single woman, I had to be aware of the nationals and what they thought of my living arrangements. Single women don’t live alone. Living alone was viewed as promiscuous in my host culture. The nationals I worked with learned, with time and conversation, that my situation was different. We all learned a lot as we talked and shared our beliefs and customs.” D.G., South America


“Take a few small treasures with you that say ‘home’ to you…certain tea cups, favorite candles, beloved cookbooks. You will be thankful a hundred times over for some of these small treasures. Find a place of retreat in your new country…a place that renews you. For me, it is a cafe with somewhat western standards in service and food. I go there and drink iced coffee for an hour and my spirits are lifted.” D.N., Central Asia

Bring what you think is indispensable for holidays and some treasures for each person of the family: a name plaque for a bedroom door, photos of family and friends, videos of the kids in America doing things with Americans, a special scarf or cloth to cover a box or barrel which might have to become a bedside table for a year or two. Bring a creative spirit and your lateral thinking cap. You will need it your first year.” M.N., England

“I brought some of the things that went on my dresser in my bedroom. I also brought a few pieces of Spanish pottery from a friend who lived overseas her whole childhood. We have a few family pictures in the frames from home and some quilt wall hangings. Bring familiar music that feeds your spirit—put all your CD’s in one case/holder to cut down on weight. A few familiar things like this can make a big difference when all the adjustments of living and serving in a new place seem monumental and incredibly difficult. I think this is very important for children.” S.E., SE Asia


©2001 Thrive

View the original print magazine where this article was first published.