Homesickness: Where Is My True Home?

By Boram Lee
Wycliffe Oct23 146 of 180

Seventeen years ago, I embarked on a life-altering journey. I departed from my homeland, leaving behind my family and friends in South Korea, where I was born, raised, and spent the most significant portion of my life. This move was in response to Christ’s call to ordained ministry in the pastoral care of those in suffering and pain. My destination was New York, where I undertook an MDiv programme.

My plan back then was very clear: after completing the MDiv programme in New York, I would go back home. Little did I know that God had different plans for my ministry: He was calling me to further study and field training for my specialization in Theology and Pastoral Care. This call led me to pursue additional advanced degree programmes, all while filling positions in pastoral care and counseling in various locations. My journey unfolded in diverse cities: Nyack and Manhattan in New York, Madison, Edison and New Brunswick in New Jersey, and Toronto in Canada. For over fifteen years I found myself living in a foreign land, having to relocate and adjust numerous times. I did not anticipate that for such an extended period I would be unable to return to my homeland.

Adapting to new cultures, people, and social norms became an integral part of my life. The differences in food, lifestyle, and social etiquette were undeniable. The most challenging aspect of my life as an expatriate was the profound feeling of homesickness. Clinical psychologists note that homesickness and the challenges of adjustment often go hand in hand. They can trigger and exacerbate one another, leading to incrementally escalating difficulties.

Homesickness is not exclusive to international students or foreigners: it affects many who leave their hometowns for various reasons, such as work or education. Homesickness, a yearning for a place to call home, is a universal experience. Whether temporary or permanent, the act of leaving home evokes longing for the comfort, people, and surroundings to which one is accustomed. Those who struggle with homesickness experience a deep need for a place that provides a strong sense of security and belonging.

During my journey through my PhD studies at Emmanuel College, my husband and I frequently imagined a permanent return to our homeland after completing my dissertation. Surprisingly, such an opportunity presented itself sooner than expected with the arrival of a global pandemic. With daycares and schools closed due to the lockdowns in Canada, it was nearly impossible for me to concentrate on my dissertation while taking care of our child. Since we had already planned to return permanently to our beloved homeland after completing our studies, we promptly embraced the chance to go back.

Filled with excitement, after fifteen years abroad I finally returned to my homeland of Korea. Yet, an unexpected feeling washed over me—I could not feel like I was truly home. This was not because Korea had changed during my long absence. Over many years of living abroad, I had yearned to return my homeland to engage in pastoral care ministry and teach as a professor in Korea. Now, doubts began to creep in. I began to question whether this was truly God’s plan or instead merely my own desire. I realized that, due to my strong longing to return home, I had not fully sought God’s guidance about where He wanted me to serve after completing my doctoral studies. So, I made a decision. I began to surrender all my thoughts, hopes, and desires to God. I prayed earnestly that He would guide me after completing my doctoral studies. I promised the Lord that I would go wherever He called me – regardless of the country, region, school, or church. It was a sincere act of surrender. Strangely enough, after committing to obey God’s call, my heart was flooded with an overwhelming sense of peace: I finally felt at home.

On the day I gave the oral defense of my PhD dissertation, I came across an opportunity to apply for an open faculty position at Wycliffe College. I prayed, asking the Lord for guidance on where I could best serve His people and the community. I humbly awaited His response, surrendering myself to His will. And even though the thought of again leaving my longed-for homeland of Korea for Canada had never crossed my mind, by God’s providence I have now embarked on a new ministry as professor of pastoral care at Wycliffe College.

Despite being far from my homeland, I have discovered a profound sense of security and completeness here at Wycliffe College – as if I have found my true home. This feeling arises from being precisely where God has called me to serve, and so the assurance that I am exactly where God intends for me to be.

We all long for home, we all desire that sense of belonging and security often linked to a physical residence. I have come to understand that true security and completeness come when we obediently stand where God has called us to be, and that we feel most at home when we answer His call.

So, where is my true home? I can confidently say that neither Korea nor Canada represents my true home. My true home is right where God has called me to be for His kingdom and His mission. Ultimately, I believe my ultimate home is in my Father’s house, where I will return for eternity.

We yearn for home, yet our true home is not found on Earth but in the Heavenly Kingdom where our Father resides. Scripture teaches us that our earthly existence resembles that of “foreigners and strangers” (Hebrews 11:13), as 1 Peter 2:11 states, “Dear friends, you are like foreigners and strangers in this world.” Our lives are akin to those of strangers and foreigners preparing to leave for home. We are running the race of faith in this world. Paul mentions in Philippians 3:14 that believers are running the race “toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” This race of faith has a destination. Upon completing this journey of faith, when we reach our eternal home in the heavenly kingdom, our Father will welcome us with open arms and bestow upon us the ultimate reward.

2 Timothy 4:7–8, “I have fought the good fight,I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there islaid up for methe crown of righteousness, which the Lord,the righteous judge, will award to me onthat day, and not only to me but also to allwho have loved his appearing.” 

[1] Stroebe, M., Schut, H., & Nauta, M. H. (2016). Is Homesickness a Mini-Grief? Development of a Dual Process Model. Clinical Psychological Science, 4(2), 344-358.




Dr. Boram Lee is Professor of Pastoral Care and Practice at Wycliffe College.