Monday, January 9, 2017

Where Is Home?

We live two lives. 
We are not hypocritical. 
We are not phonies. 

We actually do live two lives. It is difficult to explain, and hard to adjust to the reality of it. We are not different people. We just have different lives. 

When we sold our house in Virginia, upon the advice of good friends and the book "Third Culture Kids", we purchased a home in Florida. The Florida house is for renting out and to have a place when we return to the States. It is a weekly vacation rental property for people who are taking a holiday in Orlando. The house is beautiful. Since it is in Florida and a vacation rental, it has a swimming pool and a hot tub. It is in a landscaped community with water fountains and a private pond. When we are in Florida, we stay there. In Florida we have a swimming pool. In Bolivia there is a drought. People do not have water. The lakes have dried. People are dying. The city only sends water to our house once a month for an hour. People line up behind water trucks that have imported water to buy enough for a five gallon bucket in La Paz. We have to purchase water from a company that has a well that has not yet dried up. They bring it to our house in a truck once a week. 

In Florida we swim. In Bolivia we do not flush the toilets until someone goes number two. 

In Florida it is green and landscaped. In Bolivia it is brown and wild. 

In the States, I am a church member who faithfully attends and supports the staff. In Bolivia I am the pastor of the church. 

In Florida, no one knows who I am. In Bolivia I am well known. 

In the States, almost everyone that I know is wealthier and makes more money than I do. In Bolivia people think that I am super rich because I have a washing machine, a refrigerator and two cars (1991 Toyota and 2001 Toyota). 

In the States, I am an average pastor, average speaker, with an average education. In Bolivia I am more highly educated than anyone other than medical doctors., and I am considered an incredible speaker. 

In the States, I am the ethnic majority. In Bolivia I am such a minority that people stare when we go places. 

The children have the same issues. They belong but do not belong to either culture. They are Bolivians. They are not Bolivians. They are Americans. They are not Americans. It is confusing at times. This is because we all want to belong to a group. 

Which group am I in?
Am I in the wealthy class or the lower middle class?
Am I in the ethnic majority or minority?
Am I considered highly educated or not?
Am I an influencer or invisible?

Our children have the same problems. Imagine asking a homeschool kid who was born in Virginia, lives in Bolivia and has a home in Florida..."Where are you from and what grade are you in?" In Florida, we were at Walt Disney World and one of my daughters was called up out of the audience to participate. The cast member started off with the same question that they ask everyone. "What is your name and where are you from?" After saying her name...she went silent. He asked her again where she was from. She looked at us for the answer. She is a teenager! How can the question where are you from be so difficult? 

In the Staes, no one can imagine what our lives in Bolivia are like, Actually, no one is even that interested to hear about it. In Bolivia, no one can imagine what our lives in the States are like, and to be honest, we have never even been asked about it. 

In the States, I am a conservative Republican. In Bolivia, I cannot talk or write about anything political, nor can I be a member of a political party. 

In the States, we can talk for hours and hours about every conceivable subject. I have a PHD level vocabulary. In Bolivia, we have the equivalent of a junior high school vocabulary.

This has presented an identity crisis to us and to our children. We always say that we should find our identity in Christ alone. The truth is, we all belong to other groups that help us identify ourselves. We don't. Our identity group in the States is not the same as our identity group in Bolivia. 

This is a struggle, but it has resulted in something awesome. Our family has found their identity in two things. We are Christians. We are Holmans. That is pretty much the extent of the labeling we not only use, but see. For example, Mercy was trying to tell us about a friend that she had made. She described her clothes. She described her actions and age. She said that her mom was pretty and her dad was really tall. It wasn't until we met them that we discovered that they were African Americans. It never entered into Mercy's mind to use their skin color to describe them. My daughter Hope asked me the other day if we were Republicans or Democrats or Neither. She did not know what political label to put on us. We do not put people into categories so we know who to hate. We don't see Calvinist or Arminians. We don't see Republican or Democrat. We don't see rich or poor. We don't see liberal or conservative. We don't see Socialist or Capitalist. We don't see the labels that much of the world uses to classify and categorize others. That is because we don't fit any labels other than Christian and Holman. The labels put on us in the States do not apply in Bolivia and vice/versa. Whenever our kids point out something that other families do/do not do, we simply say, "We are the Holmans, and this is what we do." There is no judgment on culture. There is no harshness of attitude. We Holmans are a strange lot and this is what we do. 

We see the world as two groups. There are people who need to know and love Jesus. There are people that do know and love Jesus. What else really maters? 

Life is so much greater than our presuppositions and opinions. Being bi-cultural has opened our eyes up to so much. Yes, it is at times a definite struggle. However, the blessings that come from it are so great. I now understand what I was told 12 years ago by more missionaries. I asked them if they had any regrets taking their children to the mission field. EVERY missionary that I asked said it was the best parenting decision that they had ever made.


. . .all for the glory of God said...

Fascinating story, Joe. I can't imagine trying to negotiate that path for your lives. I am a Christian blogger living in Atlanta, with previous addresses in Iowa, Texas, Alabama and now Georgia. I have been blogging at for eight years. It is a Christ-centered, family-friendly blog i try to publish posts Monday-through-Friday. I am interested in hearing, and reading, more about the Holman's and Christian life in Bolivia. If swapping blogs and getting to know each other a little better, would you send me an email at or a tweet at #stevesaw?
That would be cool.
Thanks for reading.