Home Is Where the Heart Abides

I love my home and life in Conshohocken, just fifteen minutes removed from Center City Philadelphia.  I have been here for over 24 years.  I joke with my congregation that I will, if ever called elsewhere, make the place and people famous by way of sermon fodder.

They laugh knowingly, because I have drawn upon my first 27 years of existence in Boston, a locale that I have dearly loved.  I always considered that God had richly blessed me in a myriad of ways in what has been affectionately called the “hub of the universe.”

It was in Boston that I was raised by my beautiful parents and grew up with my excellent brother and befriended some very fine fellows; notably, one who has honorably served several tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and who has been promoted to the illustrious rank of Lt. Colonel, and another who brightened the days of those who knew him and who has since ascended to the heavenly home, where He has finally found the rest that he so badly needed.

It was there, too, that I was surrounded and nurtured by my Welsh family.  My mother was the baby of the lot, being born in Boston, but all of her siblings were born and bred in our mother country of Wales.  My Welsh grandparents, though I knew not my grandfather, and have only distant recollections of my grandmother, were and are and ever will be luminous icons, the memory of whom continue to inspire me.

“God made the world,” it has been said (or so it has been said by the Welsh), “and then He made Wales to show what He could truly do!”  Not even the Greeks or the Sicilians can out-class or out-school us in the sentiments of ethnic pride.  I was given to know, in no uncertain terms but with all affection and affability, how blessed I was to have Welsh blood running through my veins.  

They may have taken the coal from our mines, but never the heart from our souls.  It was a good heart, one sanctified with great power at the beginning of the 20th Century, when God moved mightily over the land and brought forth a revival from which the reverberations were felt all over the world for many decades thereafter.  I speak with reverent and affectionate humor:  God knew then and there what he was doing!  

I first visited the land of my ancestors in 1982.  I returned in 2006 with my wife, and again with her in 2011.  I now go back by myself to visit with another luminary of my heart, one in whom the Welsh blood commingles with the shed blood of our Savior; thankfully, because he is awaiting his promotion from Wales to Heaven.

I have known John Poole since 1982.  We aren’t even related by familial blood-lines, but we have been brothers.  We haven’t even spent a great deal of time together, as a huge pond has separated us, but not even so large a body of water can sever men of similar soul.  We bonded over 30 years ago, indelibly and irrevocably.  I am going to Wales before John goes to Heaven.  He will precede me there, but I fully expect him to assist in the preparations for my arrival one day.  I am going home, but he is going Home!
It is fitting that I travel to that place from which my family came.  It is fitting, too, that I return to visit with a man who has became a brother to me (and to my Boston-born and Boston-based twin, Brian), but also (as God gives me opportunity) to bear witness to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Spiritual revival, sadly, has been replaced by spiritual ruination.  But with God, all things are possible.

My Welsh grandfather had been an active lay-preacher over there.  He loved the Lord and he loved to share the Gospel.  I have often felt that I was given every opportunity in preparation for Christian service as a direct result of the depth of my grandfather’s godly desire.  God (so I believe) has honored Him by calling me, though I am blissfully dwarfed by his long and luminous shadow.

I will minister to my brother while there.  I hope to bear witness before the rest of my family, none of whom know Jesus, other than John.  It will be my intent to find a fellowship with which I can share God’s worship.  Many a Celt has immigrated to the United States.  I am grateful for the opportunity to return, if only for nine days; perhaps I can be a light, however flickering and flickeringly brief, for my Welsh kin, if no more.

God has provided the means for me to get there; providentially, my schedule, which has been oppressive for the last year-and-a-half, has a nine-day window in which I have the luxury to actually go – And all in immediate response to John’s personal plea for me to come so that he can yet enjoy our relationship before his malady gets the best of him.

I have been around often enough to read the signs and to know that God has had a hand in these arrangements.  I know, too, that He often has something more in mind than merely what is in my mind, though I haven’t the foggiest notion as to what may be so entailed; I leave those details and objectives to Him, trusting that He will make them known as He deems appropriate.

He deemed it appropriate for a Welshman to become the patron saint of Ireland; Patrick was, according to many scholars, a Welshman who ministered to the Irish, faithfully loving them with the love of Christ, making Ireland his home.

Patrick became the patron saint of Ireland, honored with mirth and merriment and parades every 17th of March; what is lesser known, however, is that Saint David’s Day is March 1, in honor of the patron saint of Wales.  I jest with my Irish friends that our Celtic cousins from the Emerald Isle merely had better public relations, but we magnificently gave them reason to have such publicity!

David is said to have lived for over 100 years, and to have died on March 1, probably in A.D. 589.  Legend has it that once, when he was preaching, the ground under his feet rose up to form a small hill, with a white dove settling on his shoulder.  Historian John Davies comments that one would be hard-pressed to “conceive of any miracle more superfluous,” given the abundance of Welsh hills; still, why not one more, especially of such prestigious origin!  We Welsh believe that Wales itself is a miracle.

Many evangelistic missions went forth at David’s direction to such places as (along with Wales) Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany.  Those monks were brave souls who gave Christianity a home in a world awash in paganism.  It warms my heart to consider the Welsh crowns that will be thrown at the feet of Jesus in the glories of our eternal home!

The fruit of David’s leadership was no small accomplishment, yet it was David who is attributed with the famous Welsh adage that says, “Do ye the little things in life.”  The Welsh somehow managed both little and great things over time.  Such largesse of spirit contained within such a small but captivating land mass!

It has changed, as has all of Europe.  Little remains Christianized, though there are pockets of renewal.  I will have nine days; perhaps I can do a little something while there.  

It may be that ministering to my dear friend will be sufficient to the Spirit of God’s purpose.  John is worth the expenditure of far more than nine days of my time.  He is a precious child of God, and God looks after His own.

It may also be that my brief visit will, known or unbeknownst to me, directly or indirectly, allow for great and fresh advance in a land in which and from which He has done marvelous things.  One never knows, but God does.  I will prepare to do the little things, and will leave it to His grace to bring forth big things for His sake.

I am leaving my home wherein my fine wife, my dear daughter and my lovely little grand-daughter (not to mention my three fabulous felines!) will carry on without me, but I will return, by God’s grace, and will assume my place in the beautiful home and amongst the beautiful fellowship that my Lord has given me.  

But I also go home, to the land that has overhung my life like a refreshing yet sober bower for 51 years.  It is the land where my grandparents entered into the love of Jesus, and where my grandfather preached the Gospel and where my grandmother studied the Word of God and sang, with all the lyricism of the land, to the glory of God.  

I go home, rife with remembrance of the home I knew in Boston, surrounded as I was with my Welsh aunts and uncles, almost all of whom were born-and-bred Welsh.  They came over one at a time, as money allowed.  My uncles went back to Europe to fight Hitler, and then returned to settle into lives that I will not be forgotten by me; not ever.

Home is where the heart is.  I have known three such homes, with a fourth pending, one that is still being prepared for me by my Lord, one to which my Welsh forebears have already gone, and to which my Irish father joins ranks with his Welsh wife and in-laws to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple” (Psalm 27:4).

There really is no place like home!

Bradley E. Lacey
March 1, 2013