Voices from the Field Kristi TenClay Get to know Kristi

The Liminal Space of Home Assignment

Published on February 20, 2022

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Sorry, no exciting ministry-related pictures lately, but Fuzzy and I have enjoyed getting some work done on a couple of quilts lately. 😊

My home assignment year is more than half way over, so my attention is slowly shifting more and more back to Cameroon. My plan at this point is to pack up my life in Kansas by sometime in April, head up to my parents’ place by the beginning of May, and be back in Cameroon by the beginning of June. At the moment I have lots of room in my March and April calendar for church visits, so if you still want to connect, please contact me as soon as possible so we can make a plan!

I love the opportunity to rest and to visit with family, friends, and so many supporters while I am in North America, but there is always a sense of being stuck in between, in limbo – not really a part of either world. A term I have been introduced to lately for this is ‘liminal space.’ We talk a lot about transition in the missionary community, and it has definitely been a year of that, but I have really connected to this idea of liminality as a much more accurate description of the strange reality that is ‘home assignment.’

I often feel the need to justify or defend (to others as well as myself) the fact that missionary lives tend to be organized around years of home assignment (generally 3–4 years on the field followed by a year in their ‘home’ country). Really, who else gets such a luxury, right?! In some ways it really does look like a year ‘off.’ I am not going to get into that right now because it is a much longer discussion, but I do want to share a bit about what it is like to be in this time and place that we don’t generally talk much about.

If you google ‘liminal space’ or ‘liminality’ you will find many different definitions from a wide variety of fields, from architecture to psychology. It is about being on the threshold, being somewhere in time or space that between two destinations. It is something people generally pass through rather than exist in. To our friends and family in North America, we have come ‘home’ for a year. But to us, let’s be honest, this isn’t completely home anymore. And though our hearts long for it, we know it is temporary. No matter how much time and energy we invest in putting down roots, reconnecting, settling in, there is a part of ourselves that stays packed and hidden away, knowing that we are just ‘between,’ on some level protecting ourselves from the pain of the inevitable goodbyes. Sometimes we even carry a sense of guilt that if we allow ourselves to get too settled here that we are somehow betraying our friends and calling there.

I know this is lot more philosophical than newsy, but so often I am asked, ‘What is it like to be a missionary?’ And as I process this idea myself, I realize it is also something to be shared.

Please know that you are appreciated. Thank you for lifting me up in prayer and the ways so many of you have encouraged me! I would love to hear from you and look forward to watching all the details of my return to Cameroon fall into place so that I can share them with you in my next newsletter.

Blessings to you all!

Kristi TenClay

412 Colorado Ave NW, Orange City, IA 51041, United States