Sunday, October 16, 2011

Different Worlds, Same Heaven

From the time I pulled into the parking lot on this bright, beautiful day, I knew it was going to be hard for me to get through.  Leaving Guatemala is never easy for me.  When the next day is Sunday and I have no time separating church there and here, it makes it a little more difficult.  Without early arrivals and long layovers it takes only 4 hours to get to Guatemala from here.  It’s just 1601 miles away.  I often wonder how so many different worlds can exist on one planet.  Different cultures I understand, but it seems as if we live in totally different worlds.  Just 4 hours from each other.

I get out of my car and walk into the church that I love so very much.  One of the first things I see is one of our team members surrounded by people intently listening to her.  She is talking about the trip and is already on the verge of tears as she was much of last week.  What a new experience this is for me.  What a wonderful one it is.  I never get to see team members right after a trip because they usually live in other parts of the U.S.  This was the first trip our church has joined with us to take.  She is so deep in conversation that I ignore the urge to move everyone out of the way to hug her and simply pat her on the back and keep walking to my class.

I’m late, but that’s OK.  Stopping to chat with people along the way wanting to know all about the trip is exciting.  Once in my class I sit next to another team member and open my Bible to what is already being discussed.  And that’s when I begin to get a little shaky.

The size of our ABF room is almost the size of the entire church in Pueblo Nuevo.  We have carpet and padded seats and tables covered with table cloths.  There are enough chairs for everyone.  No one is dirty because we all had access to warm showers this morning.  Our clothes are clean and are not torn.  There are purses hanging from the chair backs and wallets sticking out of men’s pockets and even if someone in the room was considered “poor” by U.S. standards there would really be no comparison to that which we just came from.  Everyone has a Bible or a Bible app and we can all read and write.

We are discussing Luke 19:11-27, the parable of the ten minas.  Rarely does my focus wander during class, but today it was in and out.  Our teacher happens to a friend and the missions pastor of our church and his wife is a dear friend that had just returned from Guatemala with me.  I paid no attention to the reading or to much of the discussion because my mind was 1601 miles away, but I did hear some of the comments made by our teacher.  He’s made so many comments over the last few years that have stuck with me and yesterday was one of those days when his comments pulled my wandering mind back to the present, where it should have been.

“Where is our sense of urgency?  Why are we acting like we have plenty of time.”

“Do we walk the aisle, get baptized and that’s it?”

“Christians are rewarded for the things they do for the Kingdom so why are we not doing more good?”

We walk out of class and more people want to hear about the trip.  I speak to the pastor’s wife for a few minutes and make my way into our super comfy sanctuary.  Padded pews, carpeted floors, a big screen in front, an incredible baptismal, the perfect lighting, a top of the line sound system.  I take my normal seat in the front and wait for it to begin.  I know it’s coming.  The music starts and though I open my mouth to sing, nothing comes out.  Tears fall and my hands shake as I hear everyone singing, “You make beautiful things, beautiful things out of the dust…”  A child is baptized then we greet each other before more singing.  I walk around openly crying as I find each person that spent last week in Guatemala to check on them.  As if Revelation Song is brand new, it gets me again.  “Jesus, your name is power, breath of living water, such a marvelous mystery…”

I know that not so far away a tiny church is packed.  The pastor and his family either walked or rode what I affectionately call a chicken bus a few miles to get there.  It is raining and everyone else made their way through dirt and mud in the best clothes they have to get there.  They have no instruments other than a single guitar and no sound system.  They do not have enough room for the number of chairs they need so it was likely standing room only.  But I’ve seen the worship and it is so real and dare I say more genuine than so many of our churches here.  The words they sing do not just come out of their mouths.  It comes from deep within and is poured out as a true offering of praise.

Both pastors begin their message at close to the same time.  I am moved, as usual.  My mind and my heart is torn between two places.  I am so thankful for where I am and where I’ve been and I long to be in both places at once, knowing it will never happen.  But then I realize that I could not be more wrong.  I will never be able to be everywhere that I feel connected to while on Earth, but Heaven is a different story.

We all get the same Heaven.  I’ve said for as long as I can remember that we aren’t different than anyone else in the world.  We may have a lot of differences which usually boils down to money and what we spend it on, but we aren’t all that different.  I spent my morning learning more about and worshipping the same Lord our friends in Guatemala learned more about and worshipped.  Depending on what is at the core of our hearts, people all over the world are more the same than we are different.   

I cannot even scratch the surface of imaging what Heaven will be like, but I do know that for the first time ever I won’t feel torn and for the first time ever all those that I love in the world, no matter where they are right now, will all be in the same place at once if they have given their hearts to Jesus.  With all of my doubts and uncertainties in this thing called life, that is the one thing  I am certain about.

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