Today I became a British citizen. In one sense, it’s not a big deal. I’ve been a permanent resident of the UK for many years. So what’s changed? Well, first of all, I now have the right to vote. Peter has always teased me about what our MP (member of Parliament) would think about all my letters to her if she knew I couldn’t vote! Now, more than ever before, I feel strongly that we need to be exercising our right to vote and I intend to do that. Secondly, I will be able to finally join the rest of my family and apply to become a British passport holder. These are nice benefits, but they don’t change too much about my daily life.
However, I feel today marks a significant moment in my life. Let me explain why.
When Peter and I moved permanently to England nearly 17 years ago, we felt very strongly that God had led us here. After a long process of pushing many doors for ministry in multiple countries, in December 2004, we quite surprisingly found ourselves on a plane to Great Britain with our two little girls and one on the way. We had always assumed we would end up doing ministry in a country other than the UK or the USA, our home nations. After all, we wanted to be missionaries! However, our dear friend George Verwer challenged us to consider the vast spiritual needs here in the UK and proposed that we also use the UK as a base in order to travel to do ministry elsewhere on the globe.
God has certainly blessed this plan – it’s worked! Peter has been able to serve and teach in many countries. Over the years, however, the Lord has opened more and more doors for ministry for right here in the UK. Although we still have a massive heart for serving internationally and Peter continues to travel (hopefully this will resume post- Covid 19), our focus has narrowed as we’ve poured ourselves into church planting and leadership training right here in the UK. Looking back, we see God’s amazing grace and faithfulness in taking our desires from 17 years ago and allowing them to be fulfilled. He’s also given us work to do that we never could have imagined we’d be doing. He’s has given us the UK as our earthly home, a place to serve him, and a place to grow and raise our family.
Becoming a citizen feels significant for me today because I truly feel the UK is my home. Today made that feeling official, something that over time has gradually become true in my heart.
I remember my early years of living in the UK . . . I was frequently homesick for the USA and its familiar culture. British culture/terminology/people often felt foreign to me. I felt like I was always the outsider in the room. I would still refer to the USA as my home country, the place where my heart was, where I was really “from.”
Gradually, something shifted. I’ve put down roots, not only practically but emotionally. I will always be an American and I will continue to hold an American passport. And I’ll probably never lose my American accent! I love America – its culture and people will always be precious to me. But the UK is my home now. Sometime during the process of the last 17 years, this became true. Today it’s been recognised officially.
My heart has made a home in the UK and the UK has made a home in my heart.
The citizenship ceremony today for me was a moment to recognise God’s kindness. He’s brought me here, brought me through the process of cultural adaptation and integration. He’s given us a purpose here. He’s given us treasured relationships with friends, neighbours, church family and many others. Although the United Kingdom has its flaws – like every other nation – it is a beautiful place to live, with beautiful people and many opportunities to which to serve.
Today, my heart is full of gratitude. I’m thankful to be a citizen of a (mostly) free and democratic country. (Please God may our freedoms continue.) I’m thankful to now have a real voice in elections. I’m thankful to be joined by one more thread to my precious husband and children who are already British by birth. I’m thankful for my wonderful friends, who in large part are the reason that this country is my emotional home.
However, though I count the United Kingdom my earthly home now, in another sense, no place on this planet will ever be my real home. My citizenship is in heaven and this life is just a breath compared to the amazing future I have ahead of me. I’m a child of the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Saviour of the world. One day, I’ll worship before his throne along with countless millions from every nation, tribe and people group. And His Kingdom shall reign forever and ever.
Hebrews 12:28 – Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.
Acts 17:26-27 – From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
Philippians 3:20 – But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In case you are interested, the citizenship ceremony included this oath and pledge:
I, Melanie Mead, swear by Almighty God that, on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors, according to law.
I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.