“Home is where the heart is.” As cliché as this saying has become in our society, its meaning is beyond measure. It means that home is not bound by walls or defined by familial ties. Home is not a stagnant place where you simply eat, sleep and breathe. Rather, home is wherever you love and laugh. Home is where you feel welcomed, free and supported. Home is safety; home is the most beautiful place on Earth.

For the past 21 years of my life, my home has always been the same. It has been the same house, on the same street, in the same neighborhood, in small town, northern Indiana. My home has been defined by the walls that encapsulate the love of my parents and the laughter of my closest friends. It has been the place where I have celebrated my greatest accomplishments and suffered through my life’s toughest trials. It has been where I have felt most free to be myself and is where I can always count on others for support.

When I decided to travel 1,887 miles from my home this past May, I did not know what to expect. I hoped to find a welcoming community at Maggie’s Place, one that would make my summer memorable and enjoyable. I hoped to impact the lives of others and feel like I was making a difference. Lastly, I hoped to learn about myself, and discover my hidden strengths and weaknesses. However, with all these hopes in mind, I was ultimately open to whatever God had planned for me. Little did I know that I would encounter something I never expected – I would find another place to call home.

With a heart full of emotions – worry, excitement, nervousness and anticipation – I opened the door to The Elizabeth House and walked into something I couldn’t have imagined, a new family. Immediately, corps members greeted me with huge hugs, homemade signs to welcome me home, and our moms graciously opened their arms and lives to me. I felt like I was made for this community and from that moment onward, I felt like a member of a family. We were a family stitched together by love, welded by joy and defined by sisterhood.

After these past few weeks, I can say that The Elizabeth House is now a home for me. Here I have come to love some of the most amazing, hilarious, courageous and beautiful women in the world. I have seen exemplarily examples of selflessness and strength from our mothers that have challenged me to grow as a person. I have shared others’ joys and suffered alongside others’ trials. Here I have found sisters, friends and companions in those that I pray with, eat with and laugh with daily. Here I have come to join a second family that I would not trade for the world.

As my days at The Elizabeth House come to a close, I am comforted by these new words of home spoken by Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” Although I will be leaving my new Maggie’s Place family, I will forever cherish the compassion shared, the memories made and the lessons learned this summer. These are by far the greatest gifts imaginable and for this, I am immensely grateful.

By Aleshia Faulstich, MissionCorps Member at The Elizabeth House