I wasn’t expecting to see Mr. T when we walked in to church (side note: what a blessing to say we walked in), but he was standing near the door and greeted us as we arrived. He recently visited the J family in Africa and was kept busy by all the health and education ministries going on there. He and Mrs. T spent several years in a neighboring country and J&J are commended from this church so it must have been familiar but exciting, too, as there is so much to see. Mrs. T is the one who first mentioned the notion of bleaching produce on the mission field so it wasn’t so horrifying to me when I saw it done. Mr. T called me while I stood in line with my boxes at Dulles as I prepared to fly to that beautiful continent for the first time – I think Mrs. T was with him – they were just wishing me a good trip and he prayed with me, too.
We saw a couple of video clips in the morning – one was the passenger-side view as JJ was driving. (It’s kind of scary there – you have to be aggressive, so obviously I was a little concerned and concluded I’d need to hire somebody to drive me around.) The second clip was Mr. T teaching one of the choirs a song in Swahili. They have 3ish choirs at the church a stone’s throw from Chez J – one of my favorite memories is waking up on Sunday morning to the sound of singing coming from next door. The culture seemed to be extremely musical with a strong melody supported and enhanced by many imaginative harmonies. This was another cause for concern – since I am by no means a singer, would I ever fit in? I took the picture above on my first Sunday there – it’s one of the choirs in a practice session. The video link has a song from a meeting on my second Sunday there at a different church.
Watching Mr. T’s videos on Sunday morning was wonderful but excruciating, too, because I wasn’t thinking and was surprised by them. You might think I’m being melodramatic by using the word “excruciating,” but I’m just trying to communicate just how fixated I was on moving to Africa. The Mission’s Executive Committee invited me back in a formal meeting in which I told them I was honored and delighted to be asked but I needed to go home and consult my parents and church Elders before I gave a real answer. I never got to ask my Elders. Well, I got to ask my Maryland Elders (who have known me since birth and I wanted them to be involved in my decision) and I had a meeting scheduled with my Oregon Elders on Monday, April 11. My brain bled on Thursday, April 7.
When I woke up and eventually came home, my goals were still missions-oriented. My priorities were simple: (1) Learn to walk, (2) Move to Africa. I wrote down my physical therapy goals before I went to The Place – they were geared at exercises I could do in my new home:
a. Jump on a trampoline (assuming I could get a mini one)
b. Jump rope
c. Run on bumpy terrain
So, yeah – we’re still working on those. But I understand now that there will be no moving to Africa for me. I get it. I’m not protesting, I’m just saying I wanted to go really badly.
The first time I met with my Oregon Elders was to tell them I felt exercised to go and visit the J family and see what they and the believers were up to (Answer: a whole lot). I prayed about going for about 10 months before meeting with the Elders. 6 of them were spent in a strict silence – I was waiting to see if this Africa idea was going to turn out to be a passing fancy with me before I asked my family for prayer support. Well, the desire to go did not fade, and when my Daddy finally said I could ask the J’s to host me on a short visit he said I needed to talk to my Elders ASAP. It was full steam ahead! I was not backing down on this proposal and as painful as it was for my parents to let the ball start rolling, they did it. When we talked about it one morning after I took the red-eye home so we could go to the Labor Day Conference, they told me the knew no greater honor than that one of their children would want to do this…that said, they had some concerns 🙂 [begin debate].
As I walked in to meet with the Elders in Oregon one night, Mr. P (A’s Dad, half of D&N) tried to put me at ease and said something like, You’re among friends here. And I was. Talking to them was great – I got to say all the things I had wanted to say for so long, and since all of them are fathers, some with children serving overseas, they knew the angst my parentals were feeling.
A few days later I got a letter from Uncle B(C), since I had written to my Maryland Elders, too. It was type-written in unmistakable Uncle B(C) style, and one of the lines that made me bawl was the simple observation that “The Lord has been preparing you for this for your whole life.” (Sob.) Well “this” turned out to be different from what we all thought.
After I watched the videos this morning I had to go pull it together for a few minutes near a window, and I wondered how I was going to calm down enough to go back inside. But then I remembered Mr. P (sorry, I never called him Mr. P in real life, but I guess I’ve always referred to him mentally as that) saying, You’re among friends here – and I thought to myself that it’s true – no matter where I go I meet new people who are kind and loving and ready to offer their friendship in practical ways, whether it’s a meal prepared or an umbrella shared.
This is what it means to be a member of the body of Christ. When I look at what happened when I got sick I consider it to be an excellent example of the body of Christ functioning in top-form. I’ve said before that my family did not have to worry about logistics when they arrived in Oregon, starting with how P (I had been at P&F’s house the night before for care group) met them at PDX with their name on a sign so they could find each other. We came home to a well-stocked kitchen thanks to my adopted Aunts. And as I travel around (in my limited way), I meet people who are also travelling and are from places I’ve never been and who tell me they remember me and are so pleased to meet the girl they only knew as in dire need a couple of years ago. Last week a gentleman came up to me after evening meeting and told me he prays for me daily. (Sob – again.) Boo Boo told me he and his wife faithfully ask after me (<3).
And before I got sick I loved making new friends in my adventures around the world. After I snapped the picture above the lady leading the singing took my by the arm and asked if she could pray for me. I’m like hey, you want to pray for me? Please do! Because I need it!! (Now more than ever).
I knew then that I was among friends. I am now, too – yeah, this is hard, but lots of people are rooting for me (thanks xoxo). But the point of this is that in order to be the beneficiary of the body of Christ functioning in top-form you have to be a known member. You have to show up, make friends, do unto others, etc. I highly advocate this type of behavior since it’s what kept me from being lonely when I moved to Oregon. It’s what gave me the confidence to move to another country. And it’s what’s paving the way for my recovery.
P.S. By the time evening meeting rolled around I was sufficiently in the mindset to thoroughly enjoy the video of the kids at the School for the Blind singing the song that I dreamed about in the ICU. I ran out of memory on the day I visited and had been unable to record their performance, but I could still remember how well they sang and played. I was hoping this might be included in the clips and it was!
A friend loves at all times…Proverbs 17.17