Like a coal, glowing, it rests just there in my chest. Days later, I feel its warmth whenever my thoughts go back…
From far-flung states, they’d come. From a far-off country, too, just over the great, big pond, they’d journeyed, drawn, each one, with that imperceptible pull toward home, toward family, toward their roots.
They’d been teens when they’d last been together, faces shining, hopes fresh and dreams alive with the big, wide world stretching just past those double doors. Twenty-six years, eleven souls. Now, on a crisp December night, they’d gathered again, minus two.
It was the Pilgrim Christian High School class of 1985, my graduating group of seniors. Having moved away as a young woman, I’d not seen most of them for years. Now, at long last, I would get the chance to sit down around a table, see their faces, hug their necks, and hear their stories of what life had held since we were teens.
It was surreal, really, to gather in the Learning Center where we’d sat through chapel talks, given speeches, taken tests, labored through PACEs, and shot the occasional paper wad across the dividers. Now we were back again, many with spouses, some with children, telling our stories.
It’s the stories that grab me; pull me in; undo me. For the class of 1985 has accomplished much.
Some of us went on to college. We are nurses, teachers, and a doctor. We are (and have been) secretaries, bookkeepers, mothers, fathers, missionaries, writers, and chaplains.
We’ve spoken, written, traveled, and telecommuted in a world that has changed, shifting like quicksand since that day in May. Who could’ve guessed all this?
Who could’ve known – could’ve dreamt – that we’d all grow up to be missionaries? Who would’ve thought that a mission field isn’t always far away where the sun beats hot and the skin is dark? That it can look like a schoolhouse, an office, a prison cell, a crib? We didn’t know it then.
We didn’t know, back in the days of tests and homework, that keeping books with integrity was a high and holy calling. Or that answering phones, administrating well, giving shots, wiping noses, reading books, and saying prayers over tousled heads was ministry, too.
Naïve youth that we were, we didn’t know that everything counts when it’s done with love. That simply carrying His presence into the mundane, the mean, and the lowly routines of a daily walk can change a life, can change the world.
Yes, the class of 1985 has accomplished much. But we’ve suffered much, too. There were no warnings of hard things to come that graduation night. There was no “heads up, it’s gonna get choppy” to steel us for what was ahead. Nothing, really, to prepare us for life in the wild; life in the real world. All those stories…
How one of us, a father and nurse, cannot revive his tiny daughter. How he and his wife stand beside a hospital bed, hearts in pieces, and make a decision no parent wants to make.
A mother and teacher escapes the flames with her family, carrying only the clothes on their backs. Then, as shovel is set to touch soil, rebuilding their home, an awful diagnosis – cancer.
Another one, a mother and secretary, delivers prematurely. He’s a fighter, her tiny boy in his bassinet. And then. A human error, and she’s standing by his grave in her husband’s arms.
Such suffering. But such strength, for every single one of the class of 1985 is walking with Jesus. Through fire and sickness, through great loss and devastation, their testimony is strong. I’ve listened to their words, giving thanks. I’ve seen peace on their faces, giving witness. I’ve watched their lives, giving glory to the Lord Christ.
Oh, there was so much we didn’t know, we 11, the day we left childhood behind. But there’s a lot that we know now.
We know that in all things, in everything that comes, He is faithful. We’ve learned that He never leaves and He never forsakes, and that wherever He guides, He provides.
We know now that we are the hands and feet of Christ in all our far-flung places. That using what’s in our hands, whether mops or stethoscopes or keyboards, receives His bright smile of blessing and favor. We know that in all things, we are “more than conquerors.”
How happy and proud I am to know that these classmates of mine are using (thank God) their unique talents, gifts, and abilities as world changers in Kansas. In Ohio. In California. In South Carolina. In Indiana, Albania, and Alabama.
What a wonderful Christmas gift it was to find that these old friends, so firmly rooted next to me in the Kansas soil, are still brothers and sisters, walking well, walking strong, walking true.