Last night I returned from one week of ministry in South Korea. My heart is full, my mind alert, and my body is still 13 hours ahead of everything else on this side of the planet. Here are some things I appreciate more having been away.
I have a greater appreciation for my family. About a week away is all I’m good for and then my heart turns towards home. Every 6 year old that runs past me in the airport brings a smile to my lips as I remember the toothless grin of my own. Young adults talking or texting cause me to miss my own teenagers, and wonder what’s going on in the heart of my kids. And each couple that passes by, young or old causes me to miss my wife, to be thankful for what we’ve had, and to imagine what the future holds. Truth be told, as I get closer to the end of the week, I look at those pictures more, and my heart gets ready to return to my family.
C.S. Lewis was fond of imagining that this world is the far country, and heaven is our real home. What if we actually began to think that way about the temporal and the eternal? Maybe we wouldn’t think of all the things we want to do on the earth-side. Perhaps we would look more longingly towards heaven. The apostle Paul communicates that yearning when he reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).
I have a greater appreciation for God’s work in other people’s lives.
When I fill out my customs declaration, they always ask questions of the value of what I’m bringing back to the states. I’m tempted to write invaluable, priceless, or million-dollar-memories. How do you put a price tag on the new friends you have made, and the old friendships you’ve renewed. There are real names and real faces of real people locked in my memory.
The part I love the most is bringing back the stories. The first-hand accounts of an 8 year old running for the protection of the Americans while bombs are going off all around him. How the same child, now in his 70’s, learned his English from the American GI’s, while he polished shoes for chocolates and cigarettes. He would pocket them and bring them home. His mother would in turn sell them at the market so this family of five brothers and two sisters would have a handful of rice for dinner.
I shake my head in disbelief when I see the sacrifice of missionaries and their wives who spend more of their life on the foreign field then they do stateside as they seek to make a difference for eternity.
I love the passion of students who have just met Jesus, and want to know him more. I keep thinking: is this what eternity is going to be like, as we live and relive the sovereign hand of God in each of our lives?
Samurai swords for my sons: 8 dollars. Tea cups for my girls: 12 dollars. One week on the mission field: Priceless.