We grew up on them, on the storybooks, the cassette tapes, the legends, of heroes who served tirelessly, who counted nothing too costly--not even life itself-- if only they could relieve one suffering child, enlighten one ignorant seeker, feed one hungry mouth, stop one blow of an oppressor ...they were our role models. The daily companions to six starry eyed and energetic children on 30 acres of Illinois farmland.
Surrounded by waving fields; corn on one side, soybeans on the other, we lived and breathed these mission stories. And we each had our own favorite heroes--but they all had one thing in common. They had served the least of the least.
And some things, if learned in childhood, are never forgotten. And we had learned. Learned that someone, somewhere, had no love. No hope. And we had learned that to have "seeing eyes and willing hands" as our mom would gently sing it to us, to live out the gospel, meant to serve those that had less, that had nothing. We had learned that to love Christ meant to love those that had never heard of Him--and that love acts, it fills the need.
And as the years passed, the cassette tapes wore out and the books fell apart; but not my hopes, my dreams, to one day spend my days in a distant land.
I have longed. For so long.
But although these hopes, these dreams, this longing, it only grows, I am learning some new lessons.
No longer am I surrounded by 5 raven-haired siblings, cornfields high and soybeans low. No longer do cassette tapes lull me quiet on cold winter nights under blankets wool. But I am learning new lessons that make those early lessons all the sweeter, all the more dear.
Andrea, the sister I followed overseas 5 years ago, on the last night before she flies back to school, unable to contain herself any longer as we sit quietly on the sofa, brought up that word. Unreached. The unreached. For days there had been a building tension in the air between us both. This expectancy of something important needing to be shared, but we each waited for the other to initiate, us both knowing how deep this longing is, and how hard it is to keep it in check, both sensitive to the reality that to bring up the impossible is painful, and maybe it's best to leave it unsaid, seeing that the other has seemingly found some temporary relief from the near constant restlessness. But she dares, and within minutes we're in tears and talking eager, both in awe at how at the same time, unknown to the other, that longing that we had for a brief time effectively buried just a little deeper out of sight, had again resurfaced with greater and stronger force than ever before. Both in tears of relief that we hadn't caused the other undue pain in bringing up that unfulfilled desire, that instead the other heart too, ached like never before-- the other hadn't forgotten those dreams instilled as stories were read under bunk-bed and tree-house alike those many years past.
And we talk late into the night.
She flies to California.
And still, two weeks later we talk, cry, pray, over the phone day after day, needing each other, needing someone who understands the singular longing, needing to keep fresh that rekindled resolve to not give up on old dreams.
And it helps.
What we at first feared might create more restlessness, instead, in our renewed commitment, although still painful, although we long like never before to just go, together we're learning in a deeper way what it means to be content.
We are learning that the more we love those far away, the more of a burden He gives us for those who have never known His love: the more we see opportunities to serve Him here.
He truly has us in the States for a reason. Her in college, me here. Although in our minds we don't understand why He still says not yet,we are finding it easier and easier to trust. It's on Him. He's placed the burden on our hearts. He's stirred the embers of longing into a flame. Not us. So we can trust His timing. And whether He ever leads us overseas again or not, our love for those who don't know Him? We are finding that it helps us love those right in front of us even more, it helps us serve them more tenderly.
Overseas the needs are more visible. But here, it takes a keener eye. A more sensitive heart. At least for her and I...And He is sharpening our eyesight. Softening our hearts. And suddenly there is so much more. So many more needs to fill. So many more hearts to minister to here, in the moment. And each moment is gold.
I could write for hours. But of the many lessons being learned He's distilling them into one main theme.
That life is short. That each moment counts. That He never makes mistakes on time, and so there's no need to live for tomorrow, to long for something He hasn't given. Instead, to best honor those in far away lands, means to serve those He has placed right in front of us,today. And if we can learn to serve faithfully here, we free Him to better care for those far away, Him so much better able to care for them than us.
And although going overseas anytime soon is more impossible for us right now than it ever has been, we have never been so at peace about it. We have never been so content to serve Him here, right now, and fully--not out of a divided heart, robbing those nearest of our full attention. No. They too deserve our kindest words, our deepest compassion and God has called us to serve them; Him, today.
Today only is ours to minister to His people. Tomorrow isn't. If I truly lived as if today were my last day, it wouldn't matter if I were here or overseas. It would only matter if I loved much the souls He placed in my path for today.