The moon was bright. It sat low in the sky and reflected off the still water of the lake, but the moon was not the source of light. A fire crackled and tiny embers danced away into the night sky. There was just enough light to make out the faces of the crowd gathered around the small bonfire.
It was a crowd of people just like me.
We sat around the fire that night participating in a moment that few could ever understand. Each one of us had just returned from two years overseas sharing the gospel. We had sat in huts telling stories about Jesus or had worked on foreign university campuses. We were teachers, farmers, pastors, or students. We all had different roles on field, but our purpose was singular, to share Christ with the nations.
As we sang songs and shared stories, my mind wandered back to memories of my last two months in the States prior to leaving for Africa. I was sent to a training center tucked away in the woods. It was where I first met these people. We learned about Great Commission work and adjusting to life in a completely new culture.
During that two months, my mind raced with the thoughts of leaving home and going to some place totally foreign. It was an emotional roller coaster, my heart constantly torn between competing ideas. I wanted to go, but i was scared to death. I was excited about the new life I was to live, but I was filled with apprehension and anxiety. I felt as though I was walking off into the uncertain, stepping off into darkness.
But I was not doing it alone. My time at that center produced the closest friendships I have ever possessed. Dozens of likeminded men and women being sent to the same task. Many others thought I was crazy for going or wasting my time when I should be planning for my future. Not these people. To the contrary, they had the same strong voice welling up inside them, sending them to the unfamiliar, to the foreign. We walked, hand-in-hand, through the storm of emotions as we prepared.
Now, I was back at that very same center, ending the whole experience with a training on how to come back to the States. My experience had come full circle and I was once again staring at the faces that had walked through this process with me from the beginning. We had been united by our common kingdom task. It was a reunion of laborers returned from the field.
Staring across that fire, listening to stories of experiences had and wisdom gained, I learned a new lesson that night. I was taught about the importance of oneness in Christ. These people were more than friends, they were even more than family. They were the very body of Christ, each member serving their important task. And like a body, they shared one heart and one mind. They were united together for a singular mission, that God would receive the honor and glory he deserved, and they all worked toward that end. I found a joy in that moment that was unique to any I had experienced before.
I would even say it was a taste of what heaven will be like.
My hope, now that I have returned to the States and our church culture here, is to help people understand and even experience that oneness. So many sitting in our pews in America have never tasted the joy of real life in the body of Christ. They may attend church, and they may even be involved in a few programs, but their life’s purpose is not congruent with Christ’s call to abandon everything for the kingdom. It is a scary idea at first, but when an old life is abandoned, and the call to Christ is completely embraced, one will be introduced to a new life and a new hope. They will find far more than they ever gave up, and they will be united with those who have done the same.