Reflections on Nomadland – by Leona Bergstrom

Since winning the 2021 Academy Award for Best Picture, actress, and director, there has been much interest in the movie Nomadland. Based on the non-fiction book written by Jessica Bruder (whom we heard speak at Seattle University in 2018), the story is about a widowed woman who loses her job and her home and joins the growing number of Americans living out of vans as they search for work – and meaning.

Remarkably, we (Richard and I) have been a part of the Nomadland experience for almost six years now. Like the story’s main character, Fern, claims, “We are not homeless, we are houseless.” We do not live in a van, but we have freed ourselves intentionally from the burdens of mortgages, housing expenses, debts, and traditional tethers. We now have the liberty to pursue our calling in creative ways.

The grand escape plan surfaced when we started listening to ourselves. For over a decade, we had been teaching seminars and leading retreats designed to help Boomers refocus and discover their calling in a new season of life. We even developed a new division of our ministry, calling it “Re-Ignite.” Tagline: Live with passion and purpose in a new season of life. Our goal was to challenge participants to examine their values; identify their unique personalities, strengths, motivations, and giftings; think creatively, and design a strategy for the future. It was exhilarating to observe lives changed and dreams become a reality.

Increasingly, however, we realized we were hypocrites. We were not living according to our own values, motivations, and calling. So, Richard left his church staff position, we sold our house, and we enthusiastically dived back into working full-time in our non-profit organization. We even wrote a book, titling it: Third Calling: What are you doing the rest of your life? And a self-directed journal called My Life After Work.

Since then, while technically houseless, we have lodged in beautiful homes overlooking a serene lake, a desert water fountain, and now the Puget Sound. God has not only provided shelter, but he has also fulfilled dreams. We’ve traveled the world teaching the concepts of Re-Ignite, fulfilling our aspirations to challenge our peers to change their worlds.

It is curious, then, that we’ve begun to entertain feelings of envy, restlessness, and uncertainty. Trying to accomplish ministry activity during a global pandemic hasn’t helped our sense of productivity. We confess we covet our friends’ expanding equities and security.  And, we are not sure how to answer our kids’ inquiries about our retirement “plan.” Surprisingly, however, Nomadland reminds us of our unusual pursuit to follow our calling wherever it may lead; help our fellow pilgrims along the way to define and pursue their dreams; catch a glimpse of a big, diverse, wonderful world. And, ultimately, rely on God to provide, direct and bless.

Who knows? Perhaps we live and breathe and minister for “such as time as this?”

And while we love and savor our current abode, we possibly are genuine nomads! So, in the future, we might “see you down the road.”*

*A familiar salutation among those in Nomadland
written by Leona Bergstrom © 2021 Re-Ignite