Watering Our Roots in the Right Places

Amber O'Neal Johnston

Last fall, I grew weary of the racial and political turmoil in the U.S., and I longed for time to rest and reflect. I needed to put distance between my family and the constant national chatter that often left us feeling hurt and confused. After researching, I packed up my four homeschooled children and headed for an extended stay in Ghana, a country in West Africa. We didn’t know a soul there, but as African Americans, I felt confident that our shared ancestry would provide an overwhelming sense of connection and belonging.  

I thought that a country filled to the brim with Black families would be a home away from home, and in some ways, it was. But much to my surprise, the local people didn’t see my family as one of them. They were hospitable and kind beyond measure, but they made it clear that we were not African. Though they acknowledged the origins of our ancestry, they considered us entirely foreign and separate. The (non-derogatory) word they used to refer to us is the same word used for white people, and I found this shocking. 

We’d left America to get a break from feeling alienated due to our African heritage, only to arrive in Africa and find that we were too American to be fully embraced. At home, our darker skin is seen as polluted and “less than” to some, and in Ghana, our lighter skin is seen as diluted, marking us as outsiders. Where, then, does my family belong? 

1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV) points us to the answer: Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. There we find that each one of us is part of the body of Christ. And in 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV), we see that we are God’s special possession. 

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 

We are his and his alone. When our identity is rooted in Jesus and watered with the Word, it is steadfast and unmovable.  

The answer to “Who am I?” remains the same no matter which nation’s soil you stand upon, regardless of your ethnicity, race, or culture. Whether you’re battling infertility, have a house full of children, or experience both – whether you adopt or give birth to your little loves – whether you work outside the home, stay at home, or do a little of each – whether you bottle or breastfeed – whether your marriage is the strongest it’s ever been, you’re divorced, or you’re in a season of hanging on by faith alone – the world’s labels and buckets aren’t the sources of your value.  

The next time you find yourself as an outsider for any reason (it happens to all of us at one time or another), avoid despair. Try not to grasp or clamor for validation. Don’t rest your identity upon the sinking sand of human whims. Turn to the Lord and ask Him to open your eyes to his promises because, Dear Sister, you already belong. 


  1. When or where do you feel most excluded, unheard, or alone? What will remind you to take your feelings of being cast out to Jesus in prayer? 
  2. When you encounter a woman who may feel like an outsider in your safe spaces, what can you do to draw her in? How can you demonstrate that you see her as a true sister in Christ?

Amber O’Neal Johnston / heritagemom.com