This summer, I did something radical. I moved from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, where I have lived all 22 years of my life (except during my college years), to Memphis, Tennessee. I moved to join Memphis Teacher Residency, a Christian graduate program that trains teachers to provide quality and equal education in Memphis, which I heard about through a friend. I applied my senior semester of college, was admitted, accepted my spot, and moved to Memphis all within about a month. It quickly hit me that for the first time in my life, I was a sojourner.
The hebrew word for sojourner is “ger” which refers to one living in place where they do not own land and that is not their native or home land. The Old Testament describes that for centuries, the people of God were sojourners, slaves, nomads, and strangers; as my pastor recently reminded me. Abraham was called out of Ur, Joseph out of Canaan, the Israelites out of Egypt, the Apostle Paul out of Tarsus, and many more. Included in these accounts are many commands from God regarding how the “ger,” are to be treated; mainly with charity, compassion, and welcome because God knew the struggles facing the “ger.” Now, I certainly cannot claim all of those struggles, I have never been uncertain of where I will sleep at night or whether I will be able to find food for my next meal. I am not facing persecution because of how I look or the people/place that I come from. I did, however, move to a new city where I didn’t know a soul, and one that is approximately 1,088 miles from my home- not that anyone’s counting.
Being a “ger” in a sea of proud (and rightfully so) Memphians has sometimes left me feeling out of place, misunderstood, and lonely. There have been prayers, phone calls home, and a few tears along the way as I grieve the loss of my home and the nearness of my family; but there has also been joy, new friendships, and great adventure.
Since moving to Memphis I have learned what true community means, what it looks, sounds, and feels like. I have come to understand that being a Memphian means entering into a community of people who love their city and are working together to make it even better. I have learned about honoring God in my work, and how my work as a teacher is a valid response to my personal faith in Christ. I have learned that Memphis drivers don’t use their turn signals (just kidding, but not really). I have learned that it takes many small pieces moving together to make a lasting change, and I have learned how to embrace my small part in a greater mission.
Being a sojourner isn’t easy, but I as I learn about and participate more in the Memphis community, as I meet more Memphians who also are seeking to love, honor, and serve Christ, I am reminded of Ephesians 2:19; “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” I am reminded that Memphis may not be my home, but neither is Mechanicsburg. My home is a place I am always, and yet am going, a place where I am eternally in the presence of God, and Dorothy Gale was right, there’s no place like it.
– Olivia Habacivch, Class of 2020