Voices mingled throughout the room. Dear faces chatting, talking, sharing memories. As I glanced around the mezzanine, I wondered when or if I’d ever see these people again. A year of my life filled these halls, these friends. The bittersweet emotions looking forward to returning home, yet sad about leaving waged war inside me.
Anyone who has been on exchange, lived in another country, or moved from one place to another has experienced these pangs. Today, eighteen years after leaving Cuenca, Ecuador, for the last time, I felt the familiar tug on my heart. Where are those people I once knew? What are they doing today? It is amazing what can bring the memories. Little things, a look, a smell, a word, a song, all can cause the nostalgia to return. Today, a song sung in church made me remember the services in Cuenca.
To keep the feelings in check, I keep in contact with some of those friends from years gone by. Facebook is a great source for this. We can see each other’s photos, catch up on kids, and read about each other’s lives. For some of those friends, I’ll never know. I’ll not know if Señora María ever made a profit from her tourist shop on Gran Colombia. I have no way of finding out about street vendors who sold jewelry in Parque Calderon. It brings sadness to me to know I didn’t have a way to keep in contact with these people I’d visit on a regular basis for a year.
As I think through my friends, they’re spread out all over the world from Japan to Cameroon, from Peru to Brazil. Ecuador, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, Philippines, India, and Mexico all have a little piece of my heart. I often long for everyone to come home for one big reunion. I’d love for all my friends to meet each other and share their stories. Unfortunately, half of my friends couldn’t understand the other half due to language barriers. I’d have to be the translator.
As I consider gathering everyone together, I am reminded of a passage from the Bible. John chapter fourteen and verse two is a beloved verse. There’s even an old gospel song written based on the King James Version of the Bible.
I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop, in that bright land where we’ll never grow old.
However, my pastor has explained that in essence the word mansion isn’t in the original Greek. It’s actually a word for many rooms. Now doesn’t that sound great? I’ve got many rooms over the hill top? It just doesn’t cut it. However, my pastor goes on to give this scenario. Family reunion time rolls around. Everyone’s coming in from far and wide. Where are you going to put them up? Do you have room in your house? Will someone have to get a motel? What if heaven was like a giant family reunion with room for everyone?
What if heaven was like a giant family reunion with room for everyone?
Think about it. My friends from Ecuador would have a place to stay right alongside my friends from Japan or Washington state. No one would have to give up a room for someone else, but you could bunk together if you wanted to. Imagine the late night conversations as Kantharao from India explains his struggles in keeping the orphanage a float, and Ruth tells about her grandkids learning about Jesus. In another corner, a conversation plays out between my missionary friends in Cameroon and my friend from Michigan. No one has to say good-bye, and everyone can meet each other. While this family reunion happens, I’m then invited down the hall for someone else’s reunion. Maybe to meet Kantharao’s family and friends from around the world, or to meet my daughter’s exchange family from Finland.
As you continue to make friends, think through this idea of heaven. Are those friends going to be a part of the huge family reunion? Can you relate to my longing? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment.