This little kitchen appliance has become so strangely symbolic.
Two years ago, Globalscope Spain team leaders told us how they had finally managed to cross the bridge from Mentality A: “I’m just a visitor in this country” to Mentality B: “I live here” by purchasing a toaster. Up until this point, Globalscopers had for the most part led Spartan existences in the interest of being good stewards of the financial support they had been given by donors and supporters in the States. This smallest, most specific of household devices symbolized, to the Spain team leaders who had bought it, the acceptance of the idea that it was okay to invest a little in yourself and make yourself at home in the interest of being a better, healthier campus minister.
And so we did in kind, coming back to Tübingen and buying some odds and ends in an effort to make ourselves feel more at home: a television, a nicer bike, a swivel chair, an IKEA pillow, a garlic press.
A visit to Boston last November further drove home the idea that, perhaps, buying the toaster isn’t an idea nuanced enough to make an international campus minister feel at home in the foreign culture he or she may be working. As I wrote in my summary of the Boston trip…
Another staff member at Sojourn had moved to Boston a year before the ministry ever started, got a job, and ended up meeting his future wife at a church there. He has made an effort to make the city and culture of Boston his home, and as such, it is not work for him every time he exits the apartment door – it’s life.
There is a lot to be said for spending a lot of time and energy developing that mentality – or rather, fending off the mentality that every time you are outside your home, every time you are speaking a foreign language, you are at work.
Just a few days ago, the symbolism of the toaster came full circle when several of our students, who wanted to express their thankfulness for all that Unterwegs had provided for them, brought us as a gift a hand-decorated, MioStar Chroma Deluxe Swiss toaster. Said one of the students: “We thought, what is the one thing that the Unterwegs house doesn’t have?” It’s surprisingly poetic. Call it serendipity.
As team leader Beth says, that which makes you at home in a place does not come from the things you may have at home or in your apartment, but from the community. Our loving, Christian community of non-Christians unknowingly preached us a sermon about what it is that truly anchors people.
And it’s delicious.