Home Sweet Home

By Leah Swank, Partnership Coordinator

Home. A four letter word that looks vastly different depending on who you ask. According to Pinterest, home is: where your heart is, where the wifi works, where your mom is, where the fridge is full, and where makeup is optional. If you were to ask Hollywood, the movies would tell you that “there is no place like home”. If you were to ask me, I would tell you that home looks nothing like I imagined…it’s better.

In 2014, I had the opportunity to serve on a team of interns in Oklahoma after the 2013 tornado. I’ll admit that I came into that community guns blazing–fully expecting for my team and I to make a huge impact in the community. However, the truth is that despite all our efforts, it was the community that impacted me. I watched a community that had been stripped bare after the tornado, rally together with such strength and gratitude, and in turn served one another unlike anything I had ever seen. They loved their neighbors well. They loved our team, who started out as strangers, well.

After returning home, I found myself coming back to Oklahoma every chance I could. It wasn’t until I drove back to school in tears that I began to wonder if God was calling me to Oklahoma to stay.

Many of you who have served in Oklahoma during the spring and summer have met a rather remarkable guy named Devin Swank. Devin and I served together our first summer in Oklahoma and both had a love for the communities of Moore and Oklahoma City that grew deeper and deeper after that summer. While I would continue to visit, Devin had the opportunity to continue to serve. I’ve watched his passion for Jesus and the community collide with each year and the result has been incredible. Lives have been changed and Jesus has been proclaimed.

Depending on who you ask, people will tell you it was obvious that we should date from the very beginning, but if you ask us we will tell you differently. It was anything but obvious. All that to say, we took our friends’ advice and gave dating a shot. He had just moved to Oklahoma City and was beginning to serve as the Partnership Coordinator, and I had been serving in a church in Tulsa as a Girls Minister. After doing long distance for long enough, I made the move down to Oklahoma City. Shortly thereafter we were engaged.

I was finally home.

While Devin organized construction projects for the upcoming summer, I got to help support the community members and eventually the summer staff. It was just like old times serving with him. When the summer had finally wrapped up, he had been given an incredible opportunity to work with a local up and coming construction company. This left the Partnership Coordinator position available. After doing a lot of praying and talking with the Next Step office, I was given the opportunity to pick up where Devin left off.

So many exciting things have taken place since then in Oklahoma! Last month, the planning process for the upcoming summer took off! Meetings with community members and partnerships have begun and I can honestly say that while it is only November, this summer has me already pumped for what the Lord is going to do. Among the exciting developments going on in the community, the most exciting event was that Devin and I finally tied the knot…in the community we have come to call our home, Oklahoma City.

As mentioned earlier, home is a little word that looks different depending on who you ask. If you were to ask me, I would tell you that home goes beyond four walls. It is where you plant your roots. It is where you invest. It is where you serve. Home is where you see Jesus and your community meet face to face. If you were to ask me, I would tell you there is no place like okla:HOME:a.