The following guest post is from Jenny Pan, who until moving recently was a core volunteer at The Well.
Why does belonging mean so much to me? For the last two years, I was in a rotational leadership program for my company so I was moving to a completely new location every 8 months. I would move, get settled and then move again. While I grew immensely from moving around for work, it was painfully lonely. With much difficulty I opened myself up to coworkers, friends and church community at each location only to feel the inevitable feeling of loss when I had to say goodbye. Even during my first rotation in Raleigh, NC, I was telling everyone that I had an expiration date to make sure that the expectations were clear. I set those expectations because I wanted to be honest about my situation but also, I didn’t want to get too close to people because saying goodbye and letting go is one of the hardest things for me to do.
Tampa was the third stop on my journey. I was used to the moving part by this point; however, my heart was weary from always being on the move. Nowhere felt like home and I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. Not even the gorgeous sunset vistas and abundant palm trees could convince me to forget my deep sense of loneliness. But God has something planned for me that I couldn’t fathom because He knows the innermost longings of my soul and He loves me like no one else can.
Through some incredible measures, He led me to the Tampa Underground and subsequently the Well. Immediately, I knew this was the sense of belonging God wanted me to have. What a sweet embrace the community gave me too! Regardless of my expiration date, the Well community freely welcomed me like family without expectations of me returning the hospitality. Serving the guests at the Well was life-giving as well. I needed the guests and the community’s perspective because it revealed to me a more complete view of the world that God was trying to show me. It helped me step out of myself and the narrow perspective I had. Hearing the stories of our guests and the Well community strengthen my faith that God works tangibly in the lives of the people He loves. It inspired me to love this rare and beautiful community more not only because of the lives it was changing, but because the Well gave me a place of belonging that my soul desperately desired. A realization that hit me hard was that I didn’t call the Well home, but the Well was calling me home because belonging is acceptance by someone or somewhere. And acceptance can't be self-declared because it is an act of grace outside of oneself.
So where am I now? God knew that Tampa wasn’t the last stop on my journey. My 8 months on the west coast of Florida ended as quickly as it started but I can confidently call the sanctuary that is the Tampa Underground and the Well home. I moved to Durham, NC in mid-July and started a new job here and I have taken the lessons I have learned about being called home to heart. Though it took me 2 years to return here after graduating Duke University in 2012, God ultimately knew that it was Durham that was calling me home. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from T.S. Eliot,
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
It did feel like I was knowing Durham for the first time because it was finally my home. I recognized the sense of belonging I have here because it is the same feeling of belonging that I felt at the Well. Though saying goodbye to all of you was hard, I know that when a place is home, goodbyes are temporary and insignificant. I will forever be grateful to the Well for calling me home. Thank you!